Are you being served or hard sold?

In a cutting-edge world controlled by social media, who is not marketing something? Whether it is some stuff for bucks or our own selves for public acceptance, we are all in a way selling something. At times, even our souls.

By Asha Iyer Kumar

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Published: Sun 1 Oct 2023, 11:15 PM

Last updated: Thu 16 Nov 2023, 1:21 PM

Aspirations are like sunrise. It makes the dawn of our lives alluring. It is what makes us want to wake up in the morning and smell the coffee before we make a dash to our cubicles where we beef up our dreams and build plans to translate our aspirations into reality. Like a compass, our needle always faces north, and we spend a lifetime trying to acquire things that will give our personal brand equity a fillip; things that will make us respected and accepted. It is part of a process to redefine ourselves continuously.

Nothing wrong with it, except that heightened hankerings have made us suckers. It has made us easy prey to marketers to whom we are either good catches that will earn them commissions or bad prospects with whom they have wasted precious time.

I have a choice today — to play the devil’s advocate and speak in favour of clever marketeers to whom selling is a science that involves studying human psychology, or from this side of the fence as a consumer, whose inanity and craving for good life exposes him to all kinds of scams. I choose to speak for the latter today because I belong there.

There is a surfeit of material, researched and validated, about the most charming ways to make money change hands in return for a service or product that one may or may not need. This is where I have my reservations. While I appreciate the theory that a good salesman sells a solution and not a product, I have grievances about making us unsuspecting preys to a ‘fabricated need’ which is what many a sales spiel aims to achieve.

Walking into a showroom looking for a product or a service is different from being bombarded by sales pitches or being subjected to sweet talk and cajoling. Remember those instances when you were accosted by sales agents luring you with a free holiday if you consented to meet their representative, wherein they rope you in for a membership offer, and once you are in, they prevail upon you to upgrade?

I have been an unwitting victim to it and a few other crafty business pitches which I now reconcile as hard life lessons learnt from bitter experiences. Why did I bite the baits? Because they played to my assorted aspirations. I have no one to blame but my ambitions for walking into a trap that was diligently laid for nincompoops like me. As years passed and I began to notice how people who wanted to sell something actually played with my sentiments, I got a clear understanding of how the people who wanted to sell did not just satisfy my desires, but they manipulated me into imagining that not having a certain desire and the craving to fulfil it made me a lesser human being. It made me look like a ne’er-do-well or an incompetent pushover in a world of super achievers.

“When you have to sell, tell your prospect what not having it would mean to him; how it would deprive him of the happiness other people have – something which he too so deserved,” I was told by a marketing expert when I stepped into the pitiless world of entrepreneurship from a life of quiet creativity and coaching. I was rattled by the approach that I was being taught to take, for it wasn’t my kind of thing. To give people a sense of deprivation that they may never have felt in their lives, create a sense of inadequacy and then, offer them solutions to a problem that didn’t exist in the first place – how meaner can I get?

I am especially irked by the fact that we, the common people, consider us so unequal with others, and undermine our individual worth to the extent that all it takes for a smart, salesy person who by his acumen has known our pulse is to press that aspirational button to make us swipe the card.

They make it sound as if they care; they hobnob in the most bewitching ways to make us believe that they are the agents of joy in our life. They simplify things that we never thought was complicated in the first place, convert our remote desires into indispensable requirements and by the time we realise it, we are sold. As a lay person, it offends me that all the while someone was offering me coffee or lavish smiles, he was considering a clever ploy to rope me into his game of thorns. I would call it soft extortion.

But then again, in a cutting-edge world controlled by social media, who is not marketing something? Whether it is some stuff for bucks or our own selves for public acceptance, we are all in a way selling something. At times, even our souls.

Asha Iyer Kumar is a Dubai-based author and an award-winning children’s writing coach.

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