How to spot and stop manipulative clients

The sales process is sometimes described as a battle between persuasion and manipulation, and both techniques are usually ascribed to sales professional. But what if it is the client that is trying to manipulate the salesperson? How can he or she manage the manipulative behavior?

The first thing to consider is what manipulation really is. Psychologists define it as behavior designed to manage and control another person or a situation for one’s own purposes or profit. It is similar to persuasion in that it uses similar mechanisms, but with a different result. While persuasion is used to secure the interests of both parties involved, manipulation focuses only on one person’s individual gain.

What are the ways clients manipulate sales professionals?

In his classic book ”Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”, Dr Robert Cialdni describes the 6 principles of persuasion which people use to influence one another. They are the same rules clients use to manipulate sales professionals.

1. Reciprocity

People have a natural tendency to reciprocate favors. It means that if they are offered something with no expectation of a return favor, they feel obliged to return it anyway.


Coming to a sales meeting, customers often bring some company gimmicks and offer them to salespeople as  free gifts a minute before the meeting starts. This is supposed to soften the salesperson so that when it comes to the negotiating process, the salesperson feels obliged to return the favor and, for example, agree to sell a product or a service at a discounted price.

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