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How to Keep Cash from Wrecking Your Relationships

'You don't have to be pushy to be successful,' says one expert about sales pitches to pals, partners and neighbors

Jamie Valentine is an assertive saleswoman, and she’s good at what she does. Whether she’s selling whitening toothpaste or women’s dresses, she’s careful not to cross the fine line that would lead to lost friendships.

“I don’t get my feelings hurt at all if someone says they’re not interested in buying my products,” she says. Based in Winter Haven, Florida, Valentine has been in direct sales for more than 15 years and has learned valuable lessons along the way.

“We strive to instill confidence in our youth, not hard-sell tactics.”

“I share whatever I’m doing with my friends, and if they say they’re not interested, I leave them alone. You don’t have to be pushy to be successful,” Valentine told LifeZette.

The internet has opened up a world of opportunity for Valentine and millions of others, including the Girl Scouts, Rodan & Fields reps, LuLaRoe consultants, Matilda Jane trunk keepers, Nu Skin consultants and other independent direct sales businesses.

On the one hand, the greatly expanded market has  given stay-at-home parents and overworked career people ways to create positive cash flow and the chance to reach many more customers than they would by going door-to-door in a neighborhood. On the other hand, when you go too far and tag, spam, and put pressure on people to purchase your goods, you run the risk of making them feel uncomfortable or, worse, alienating them.

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Russell Dishman, a Boy Scout leader in Orlando, Florida, tries to be as authentic and appreciative as possible during sales campaigns. “Fundraising is an integral part of supporting the troop’s activities. If a customer says, ‘No, thank you,’ we thank that person and wish them a great day,” said Dishman. “We strive to instill confidence in our youth, not hard-sell tactics.”

As a result, friends don’t feel any pressure to make a purchase, nor do they feel bad or guilty if they decide not to buy something, he said.

Karen Carlson Hughes of Auburn, Alabama, supports the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and similar organizations by making donations. “In most cases, I’d rather give a few dollars and forgo the cookies or the popcorn, as I know a significant portion of the cost of the goods is funding their project.”

For years, friends, family ,and even strangers have had to navigate tricky etiquette situations at home and at work when asked to support these and other business endeavors. So what’s a person to do when your third cousin once removed asks you to buy popcorn for his brother’s kid?

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There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to buying from friends or family, but one thing is for sure: It’s perfectly OK to say no.

Namie Bimba of Tulsa, Oklahoma, said it’s important to be firm yet polite. “I just say, ‘No, thank you. But thank you for thinking of me.’ Then I let the person know the product isn’t for me at this time. If I know someone who is interested, I will be quick to recommend him or her.”

Deliver a thank-you note with your product.

Torrey Shannon of Westcliffe, Colorado, keeps her response short and sweet. “I’ll say, ‘Thank you for thinking of me. I’m afraid I need to decline, but I’ll keep you in mind if anything changes.'”

“If I’ve tried the product and don’t like it, I don’t beat around the bush,” said Mindy Keen of Haines City, Florida. “I say, ‘I don’t care for this particular product, but I’m sure there are a lot of people who do.’ The person usually understands and doesn’t get upset with me.” She says most salespeople appreciate the honesty.

Here are some simple tips for selling your product without being a pest.

  • If someone doesn’t want your product, say “thank you” and move on. Don’t be pushy and ask for an explanation. Otherwise, you may run the risk of losing the friendship.
  • No one likes to be bombarded with multiple requests. If you sell a variety of products, don’t try to sell to the same people over and over again.
  • Go the extra mile and deliver a thank-you note with your product. It takes extra effort, but your gratitude will go a long way and be remembered.
  • Keep in touch. The secret to a good salesperson is follow-up. Check back from time to time to see if the customer is satisfied with the product.
  • If your child has a product to sell, avoid the temptation to sell it for her. The goal is to instill sales skills, such as being approachable and friendly. It’s equally important to teach your child how to deal with rejection graciously.
  • “If you (or your child) sells something and the customer doesn’t like it, do your best to make it right. Offer an apology, take the product back or replace it immediately. A happy customer is a repeat customer.

Jacqueline Whitmore is an international etiquette expert, a best-selling author, and the founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach.

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