As one of the world’s most gullible people I have the sales resistance of a compulsive hoarder at an after-Christmas sale. The fact that I routinely fall prey to the lamest of sales pitches is particularly ironic when you consider that I’ve spent the last 10+ years of my career as a training designer trapped in the cut-throat world of sales & service in the financial industry.

Thus one might conclude that I’m wise to the ways of the sales force, or at the very least, smart enough to have adopted some basic sales resistance & redirection techniques.  But alas, my apathy in the face of potential conflict with others (especially those unfortunate enough to make their living on commission) makes me the perfect mark for a sneaky conversational dead-end.


I had only stepped into the store to buy some new eye shadow but the next thing I knew I was sitting down in a make-up chair about to have my eyes “done”.  The make-up artist was a petite, buxom girl in her early twenties with gigantic, perfectly lined green eyes and wearing a tight-fitting goth version of a Catholic school girl’s uniform.  She looked like one of the Japanese anime girls from Dick’s comic books – coltish, young, fierce and overtly sexual.

As anime girl removed my faded eye make up, the pitch began; she extolled the virtues of her company’s “amazing” eye make-up remover.

“It’s, um, like, totally chemical free and all natural,” she reassured me.

“Uh-huh,” I replied dispassionately.

“I have women who come in with really sensitive skin and who use long-wearing mascara and they swear by this product.”


Anime girl never took the pitch to the next level by asking me questions. Her deliver of product features & benefits was informative, but hardly meaningful. I dismissed her.

But then I thought better of being so dismissive.  Perhaps I should use this encounter as a teaching moment for myself?  Such a young woman of her limited life experience would surely be a good place to start building my confidence – an easy mark for a trained sales professional such as moi. I’d be helping anime girl refine her technique.

Predictably, I wimped out on taking a hard stance, electing instead to get my eye shadow and get the heck out of there. Besides, withholding comment could help me score some freebie samples.

Finally sensing my complete disinterest in eye make-up remover, anime girl moved on to another approach.

“You know, you’ve got great skin.  How old are you?”

“37,” I reluctantly volunteered.

“Wow!  You look, like, totally amazing!  You must use a pretty intense sunblock to keep your skin looking like this…”

(Okay.  I admit it. I was flattered.  Everyone likes to be told they look younger than their actual age.)

“Thanks. I just use Oil of Olay with SPF30.”

I looked up and saw a faint glimmer in her eye.  Through clever questioning, I had just given her an “in” to my consumer psyche – a “sales clue” as it were.  It did not go unnoticed.

“We make an outstanding daily moisturizer with SPF45.  It has a Chinese wild mushroom extract that’s been proven to brighten the skin, increase moisture retention and fade sunspots. It’s great for Florida. I’ll put some on you so you can see what it feels like.”

She dabbed a small amount on my face and gently patted it into my forehead, chin & eye area.

“The best part about our moisturizer is that you only use a very tiny amount.  So you can get a lot more mileage out of it – unlike the store-bought brands which require a heavier application to get the benefit.  In the end, you actually spend less on our product.”

I remained silent, waiting for her to go for the kill, “Would you like me to set some of this amazing moisturizer aside for you?”

She never did.  Instead, she moved back to working on my eyes and I began to relax and let my guard down.

“Do you use a shadow primer?” she asked.


“What brand?”

Hm. Unexpected. Now she’s back in the game!  Seems she wants to up the ante and go for a more confrontational approach. Touché anime girl!  Asking me to name a specific brand is a direct challenge. She wants to engage me in a game of name dropping as a show of her superior product knowledge. If she wins, I must defer to her expertise by buying her products.  If I win, she backs off and I leave with my favorite green eye shadow (some freebies) and my self-esteem intact.  Thankfully, when it comes to make up, I’m no slacker. I knew I was up for the challenge.

“I use Laura Geller’s eye shadow primer.”

Anime girl stopped in her tracks.  Her stunned expression quickly dissolved into a smile.

“Laura Geller?  You use Laura Geller? So do I! That stuff is so good. I’ll totally give you that one…”

Check & mate!  Score one for Sam!

Newly confident, I relaxed again and enjoyed the silence as she worked on my eyes without throwing anymore pitches my way.  A few minutes later anime girl passed me a mirror. To my amazement, my finished eyes looked incredible…and I was sold.


In retrospect, anime girl wasn’t such a naive young lady after all.  While her motives and approach were appropriately transparent for a salesperson, it was a stroke of genius to agree with me on the superiority of a competitor’s product.  With my ego falsely inflated and my guard down anime girl finally uncovered the key to selling me an entire palette of 4 eye shadows, a new brush, and mascara  - all to the tune of $75 and all while making me enjoy the experience of lining her pockets.  Once she figured out how to feed my ego and keep me sitting there, she let her products and her make-up application skills do the selling for her.

While I may not be sold on all of her company’s products, I’m definitely sold on my sparkly new eye makeup.  More so I learned that, when it comes to sales training, there’s nothing I can teach my learners that they can’t learn from being customers themselves. Knowing how to read people and discern their motivations is a gift, but one that can be developed over time and with lots of practice.  Hopefully, in time, I will develop the gift to outwit clever salespeople   – but first I’m going to have to figure out how to outwit myself.

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