Is Selling Products from the Platform Sleazy?

November 6th, 2006 by Bob Bly

Whenever I attend an Internet marketing conference or marketing boot camp, the speakers increasingly end their presentations with a 10-minute (or longer) sales pitch for their products.

These products are usually a combination of reports, e-books, CDs, DVDs, and coaching, ranging in price from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

The speakers invariably hand out a one-page sheet with different product offers and pricing.

They then deliver a smoothly delivered sales pitch designed to convince you to buy the higher-priced options.

You are also given a special “discount price” which is good at the event only: if you take the order form home to “think about it” and order later, you will be charged more.

The problem is, they are making these offers during presentations at conferences where the attendees have already paid thousand of dollars to attend.

Many attendees at these events have reactions ranging from annoyance to outrage when they have to sit through these sales pitches.

“I registered at this program to have the guru teach me, and instead, his presentation is a commercial for another program!” one attendee complained to me recently.

So what do you think?

Is it perfectly OK for speakers to sell product from the platform?

Or should their talks be pure content, with selling relegated to a product table at the back of the room?

Share

This entry was posted on Monday, November 6th, 2006 at 11:57 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

50 responses about “Is Selling Products from the Platform Sleazy?”

  1. Kelly Robbins said:

    It’s an interesting question. I used to get ticked off when I had to sit and listen to a sales pitch. And I knew I got annoyed and it made me shy to talk about me and what I had to offer people as I started my business. But someone once explained this to me. If someone came over to your house, you would offer them some tea or coffee. If they liked it and drank it all you would offer them more. You wouldn’t be rude and say “there you go now get out”.

    If the product is something I’m interested in and want desperately, I may not be as offended at the sales pitch if it’s done tactfully (key term there). Odds are if I didn’t like the speaker or “had enough of their tea” I am going to be annoyed at them trying to sell me.

    The same is true for your copywriting services or for a chiropractor giving an initial adjustment. If your client likes what they are getting, they don’t mind learning about how they can get more.

    Kelly Robbins
    http://www.KellyRobbinsLLC.com

  2. Michel Fortin said:

    I agree with Kelly.

    John Childers, who trains platform speakers, says it this way: “Can you teach everything you know on the subject in your speech? Can you contract 25 years of experience (or whichever is the case) in just 1 hour?”

    The pitch at the end is therefore (and should be) an opportunity for people to continue their education. And the keyword here is, as Kelly said, “education.” Meaning, they got content during the speech.

  3. Steve Slaunwhite said:

    Speakers should sell on their dime, not the audience’s. Period. If they want to sell from the platform, they should do what the time-share real estate folks do. Offer the seminar for free, or at least at a deep discount.

    That being said, there is nothing sleazy about making products available for sale at a seminar. It’s a service to the attendees.

    But when people sign up for — and pay for — a seminar or similar event, they expect education, not promotion.

  4. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:

    I guess we’re all agreeable today!

    I don’t see anything wrong with plugging a book or other information product…. as long as it’s a plug.

    That is, that the pitch for the book (or whatever) is an add-on to the speech. But if the speech itself comes off as a sales pitch, then it really is sleazy. Nobody wants to pay for the privilege of being sold to!

  5. Bob Bly said:

    Morty: But the way it is done today, it is NOT an add on to the speech. If the speech I am paying to attend takes 60 minuts, I will get 50 minutes of content and 10 minutes of hard sell product pitching for which — short of getting up and walking out on a speaker, which I never do — I am a captive audience, forced to listen against my will.

  6. Joel Heffner said:

    Bob: Perhaps more folks (who are not interested) should get up and walk out. Judging by the response of many who I’ve seen at such seminars, they want to find out more and are willing to take advantage of the offers. It’s getting to be like television…you get the program and the commercial. Unlike television, however, the commercial is at the end where you can leave if you want to.

  7. Bob Bly said:

    Joel: yes, many DO take advantage. But at every seminar I attend where there is product pitching, MANY attendees complain about it to me privately, and a large number are highly offended.

  8. SpongeBob Fan said:

    Selling books or whatever — having a table of materials available – that’s fine. People seem to like that … I know I will often buy a book (or a bunch) if I liked the speaker.

    No one expects a worthy speaker to tell everything they know in one hour.
    However, way too many have drunk the “vertical integration” Kool-Aid, and they’re “true believers” in trying to force people to have more relationship right now. Always hits me odd … like someone who wants to get married at the first g-l-a-n-c-e. What’s their hurry? Why the pressure?

    (I had to stop attending one individual’s free teleseminars after I realized it was 3% information and 97% pitch. People aren’t dumb!)

    (Good question, Bob. Now if only you had the power to make the over-ardent pitch-sters change!)

  9. Andrew Palmer said:

    Let the speakers sell. If they are good, they will have given so much value in the presentation that the pitch is a fair trade off. The problem is many speakers don’t give enough away. That is what angers attendees. Don’t be afraid to give way as much value as you can. It builds credibility.

    Cheers Bob – love the site/blog.

  10. E. Jones said:

    Bob,

    I saw you speak at a seminar in Chicago in April. You were one of the first speakers. You lectured for about an hour and at the end of your presentation, you announced that you were releasing a new book. The cost was less than $50, if memory serves me correctly. Your offer was not offensive.

    The problem is that the rest of the speakers, including the seminar host, pitched offers averaging $4000 or more. I stopped listening after the offers totaled $20,000!

    I was so turned off by the pitchfest that I decided I had just attended my last multi-speaker seminar. If it were not for the “Free” Macbook Pro, I would have asked for a refund.

  11. Frank Catalano said:

    It’s sleazy. Period. Unless the seminar/session was free to attendees.

    If I paid to attend, I paid for information, not advertising. It’s one thing to mention a new book, or another product, in a brief introduction or brief close — sometimes, that can actually add to a speaker’s credibility. It’s fully another thing to make the sales pitch part of the presentation.

    Pitching hard to make an immediate sale goes against every guideline of building a long-term relationship with a customer so you get many sales, not just one sale.

  12. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:

    Bob–I see what you mean. That does smell bad.

    I think it’s a sign of the times. I know I’ve been unsubscribing from a lot of newsletters that used to be informative, but have turned into just one pitch after another. Instead of marketing tips, I get lapeled for some book or webinar. I don’t mind being offered something from a writer I like. But I do mind subscribing to sales brochures!

  13. Harri K said:

    Hi Bob,

    Well, it seems to me we have few folks here who sort feel like taking the advantage of the situation is ok, once they are on the podium, albeit with tactful manners. I can not agree with that, and I strongly feel that these two issues are totally separate from each other, and should be dealt that way as well. Really, I am there to hear their expertise on the subject matter, and I have paid for that, so getting a sales pitch thrown in, is just not the way to do it. Really cheap. I can think of a bunch of ways to do it, but not at the end of their speech.

  14. Bob Bly said:

    Morty: I understand what you are saying, but there is one difference. At the seminar, I have paid a large fee to get educated. When I subscribe to a free e-newsletter, I pay no money for it. Instead, the subscription “fee” is my agreeing to get e-mails from the publisher promoting his products (or products he recommends)in exchange for his free content.

  15. Sean Woodruff said:

    Everyone who said they are there to get educated, and didn’t like the pitch, was educated. They were educated in the fact that they don’t like that type of seminar. I think SpongeBob Fan says it best when he/she says “I had to stop attending.” That has also been my education, and conclusion, on most of the teleseminars.

    I like the way Ken McCarthy hosts an event. He has a special time set aside for the speakers to be at a trade show type of set up and all the attendees can pick and choose who they want to continue speaking with.

  16. Michael Stelzner said:

    Bob;

    It is fine to end your presentation with a call to action. So mentioning a product for about a minute I think is more than acceptable.

    If folks were not allowed to pitch, they would NEVER present at these seminars. There always needs to be something in it for both parties – attendee and presenter.

    Mike

  17. Brendon said:

    It’s a good question Bob.

    I used to manage a high profile speaker who would aggressively flog his products at the end of his speech for 6-7 minutes (he was paid $6-8,000 per speech as well).

    I mentioned that it wasn’t doing his brand any favors, but he didn’t care because he was generating so much in sales – $60,000+ on occasions.

    My time is valuable – I’m not there to listen to a pitch. More conference organizers should make it clear that it (making a sales pitch) is not to be part of the presentation.

    Brendon

  18. Brandon Hull said:

    I don’t like overly aggressive pitches, either, but that is the seminar marketing industry today. You’ve got to be realistic going IN to any event (especially an internet marketing conference).

    And SpongeBob Fan, you’re talking about FREE teleseminars — not conferences. I think it’s unrealistic to expect that freely given content from a for-profit person won’t come with strings attached.

    I completely agree with Andrew. Let them sell. If the content is solid, and it’s a “smoothly delivered sales pitch,” I’m trying too hard if I’m still offended. And if they only constantly promote product, I’ll remember that the next time I have the chance to learn from them.

  19. Michael Roach said:

    Bob, what a great question. I’m willing to bet it doesn’t sit well with the hardcore marketers subscribed to your blog. But it is a point worth raising.

    I agree completely with everything that Steve mentioned above. There’s nothing sleazy about making products available for sale at a PAID seminar… BUT taking a chunk of your presentation to pitch the audience for more is sleazy and nauseating.

    Personally, I feel it reeks to have to sit through a sales pitch during a conference that I paid to attend. Last week, I sat through many great presentations at the AWAI Copywriting Bootcamp. However, I didn’t spend a penny on presenters who made me sit through their pitches and handed out order forms. I hate that. I spent my money on presenters who gave me great content without the follow-on pitch. Herschell Gordon Lewis being a prime example.

  20. Derrick Daye said:

    Bob,

    I think I know the root of this problem. Many speakers on the circuit today are not paid by the conference companies. They are offered a chance to get in front of key prospects and are ‘sold’ on the possibility of generating new business. With a best-selling book we are on the speaking circuit. Fortunately, we are paid for our time and do not feel we have to smother the audience with a sales pitch. We believe a meaningful presentation will resonate with our audiences and move them to say hello at the end of the keynote speech or seminar. I agree with everyone that is turned off by the P.T. Barnum sales approach that seems to be all too common.

  21. SpongeBob Fan said:

    To clarify – I absolutely expect some selling at a “free” teleconference – I didn’t fall off the turnip truck just yesterday. When it’s almost 100% selling, that’s a problem for me. They never advertise it that way – 3% info, 97% buy-my-stuff. ‘Cause then no one would waste their time attending.

    Is there anyone else out there who’s also sick of the “valuable” freebie add-ons that turn out to be re-purposed info that’s posted right on the speaker’s web site?! I’ve started ignoring all freebie offers when I evaluate whether or not to buy a resource. Too often, they turn out to be worthless.

    (I’m a she, btw.)

  22. Sean Woodruff said:

    Ms. SpongeBob Fan,

    I am with you on ignoring the bonus vomit in most marketing hack offers. The fact that it means so much for them to be #1 on Amazon on a given day doesn’t offer ME anything in the value proposition. And, if they feel the need to vomit bonuses all over the offer, how much faith do they have in the value of the material? I read the offer and reach for the Pepto.

  23. Bob Bly said:

    I understand why promoters do “make me #1 on Amazon offers,” but as a consumer and affiliate, I have little interest in responding to them for the reason you cite: making them #1 on Amazon has no value to me. Also annoying: the “celebrate my birthday” offers. Why do I care that it’s your birthday?

  24. Frank Catalano said:

    Perhaps it’s because I used to be a journalist, but I think there has to be a clear distinction between the content of a presentation and advertising for a follow-on sale. If I’ve paid for something (and that’s the key distinction here), I want to get my money’s worth … not be pitched to be separated from more of my money. Keep them clearly separated, and don’t co-mingle them in the presentation.

    A presentation someone has paid to attend is not an infomercial. It’s a great way to alienate your customers — telling them what they paid for isn’t good enough.

  25. Sean Woodruff said:

    How about this one, Bob? Just received the e-mail.

    Apparently, the listowner is very concerned about me and called from a cruise ship headed for Rome, during the Captain’s dinner, because I haven’t ordered yet and there is a strict limit on the quantity available.

    And, the P.S. says he has never offered this for under $5500 so he must really LOVE me to offer it all with all the bonuses for under $500.

    Yes, the copy says “he must really love me.”

    PLEASE PASS THE MALOX.

    What is your opinion of how this hinders good copy? Does it make it harder for good copy to get the attention of readers? Or, does each marketing piece stand on its own merits without the reader thinking “here we go again?” Since people are washed out with bad copy does it make good copy less effective?

  26. Lisa Taylor Huff said:

    Not sleazy if the speaker is speaking for free. Often at these conferences, the speakers are unpaid (except the high-priced keynote speakers) and they do it for exposure and a chance to sell their products or services. As long as the whole presentation isn’t a sales pitch I think it’s a very fair tradeoff to allow the speaker 5-10 minutes at the end to talk about their offerings after they just spend 30-60 minutes providing the benefit of their experience and wisdom for free.

    Also not sleazy even for a paid speaker to do it, as long as it’s NOT woven throughout the presentation. Mentioning the products/services at the end may not be of interest to everyone but if those resources are in some way related to the subject of the presentation, someone in the audience might benefit, so there’s value in making the audience aware that those resources are available.

    Having said that, both as a speaker and an audience member, I prefer a MENTION of a product or service to anything too “salesy”. I think there’s definitely a way to do it with class.

  27. Bob Bly said:

    Sean: Whether it works or not, it makes me toss my cookies. It is also insincere — never a good copy technique.
    Lisa: If I pay a large fee to attend a seminar, whether the speaker is paid a fee or not is none of my concern. I want the value I paid for, not an infommercial. Many speakers speak for free, not to sell products, but for visibility and to build their reputation as a guru in the field.

  28. Dianna Huff said:

    None of you touched on another annoying trait I see: speakers who give two or three slides worth of “why we’re a leading company” information at the BEGINNING of a talk. This is in addition to the bio. And, speakers will even say, “Our PR department is making us give this pitch.” I hate it.

    I don’t mind speakers giving a soft pitch at the end of a presentation. I usually end my talks with a “free stuff” slide where I post my web site address and the URL where they can sign up for my newsletter or sometimes a free report. But that is it. If a speaker is good and the content top-shelf, then attendees will approach the speaker at the end of the presentation to talk about possibly working together.

  29. Tera said:

    I’m surprised that no one’s mentioned the value of the brand as it relates to the conference/seminar/meeting organizer. Once a webinar sponsor has over-promised (content) and under-delivered their announcements and offers are redirected to my junk mail. If an organizer/sponsor offers good content and continues to provide a reason for me to attend, the obligatory — for more information . . . message is expected and welcome.

    Whether a speaker is paid or not, is not and should not be my concern as an attendee. Did I receive value for my investment in the seminar? whether that investment takes the form of $$ or time. That’s how I evaluate the organizer. They get one shot a building or destroying thier brand. What they do with it is certainly up to them.

  30. Jonathan Kantor said:

    In true Clintonian fashion, it depends on what the meaning of the word “sell” is.

    Let’s face it we are all selling. This blog is a indirect sales pitch. It depends on whether you like being hit over the head with a sledge hammer, or you prefer a soft, seductive sell. It sounds like your seminar presenter decided to use the hammer.

    If a presenter has done an effective job in educating, informing, and providing value in their content, I think the audience would be receptive to a subtle (emphasis on subtle here) sales pitch for a product, book, or service. In fact a discount offer could be received very positively.

    It’s all in your approach. I guess that’s what separates a good salesman from a bad one.

  31. Gary Courtenay (UK) said:

    Hi Bob, my understanding is that most speakers who are accomplished platform sellers speak for free and do a straight 50/50 revenue split with the organisers on what they sell at the end of their pitch. Indeed the organiser probably won’t book them unless they have a reputation for selling a lot. In this way the speaker not only speaks for free but becomes a profit centre for the organiser instead of a cost – a very nifty manouvre if you think about it! I have been loyally attending the events of one oragnisation that specialises in information marketing. They have so bombarded me with one platform seller after another I simply found myself deserting as soon as their was an alterntative. Consequently I too attended the Agora event at Delray Beach last week (which clashed with the other organisation’s event)only to discover that they too have recently begun employing the same tactics and even shared some these same selling speakers with the other group. I have studied the techniques of these sellers and observe that they are dropping in all sorts of subtle items in to their talks right from the start all aimed at supporting the sale. The biggest problem for me is trusting the content and I find myself constantly evaluating what they’re saying to determine if it’s content or if it’s pitch. There’s a great USP avialable for the organiser who stands up and attacks platform sellng and promises and delivers a content rich event and leaves people to buy what they want from the back of the room or even outside of the room. However we live in a capatalist society and this practice is so lucrative sadly I will be suprised if it goes away despite the obvious distain of the veteran marketers writing here in your blog.

  32. Andrew Johnson said:

    Tera is right — this is an issue for the conference organizer. Its their brand. If they want attendees to leave happy, tell their friends, and come back next year they will make it clearly against the rules to have sales pitches.

    I’ll be on my first discussion panel at a conference in January. The organizer sends out a contract you have to sign that says you won’t sell or overtly promote your product/service/company. Yes, the attendees will know who I am and where I am from. No, I won’t spend ten minutes trying to sell them some ebook I wrote.

    If the organizer is just pushing some fly by night seminar, no problem. The more you sell the marrier. If they want some long term brand value, its suicide.

    The real question for the speaker is, does selling from the platform work? Do people buy more of my products when I push them for 10 minutes or mention them for 30 seconds? Does it help me short term? Could it hurt me long term? Does long term even matter?

    One thing I have learned from marketing is that the things that make money don’t always make the whole world feel warm inside. But, if you don’t make your true customer feel warm then you may be in for a one hit wonder.

  33. leslie ungar said:

    how ’bout sleazy, selfish, and short-sighted?

    here’s the problem, if they are well trained speakers–
    they should know that the art is in hiding the art.
    It’s not that they are selling, it’s that these people are
    not hiding the art.
    Well done, it would not be noticed nor would it be stuffed into
    the last ten minutes.
    Well done it would be well appreciated. It would be crafted in stories and points made. It would not be “selling”. Even the amateur knows that the best way to sell is to tell. Not to sell.

  34. Chui said:

    Seminar-only discount makes no sense, and only serves to push up resistance. After all if what you said makes sense, invite them to your blog. Not everyone is rolling around in cash and time to absorb everything.

  35. Tom Justin said:

    As a long time speaker, I’ve sold a lot of products from the front of the room. However, there’s no excuse for either the speaker or the producer (who sometimes gets a cut) to ever say, “I don’t have time, but you can find it in my (book, audio, DVD).

    The value expected is a full and focused training on the subject at hand. If the speaker is any good, their products are likely pretty good too. The best values for these products are often found by attending a live program. However, those who just pitch instead of teach should not be invited back and the promoters should get an ear full from you as an attendee and don’t buy from them and tell them why.

  36. Alec said:

    It’s fascinating to hear that two of the conferences I considered going to – Perry Marshall in Chicago last year and the Agora one in Florida – ended up being pitchfests.

    The bar for marketers now has fallen so low, I don’t know what can be done to pick it up. All of these AV big box sets are absurdly overpriced.

    Ninety per cent of marketing or other information is better communicated in a well-written book.

    Frankly most of these people speak so poorly that having to listen to them drone on or blather or gush about their system is next to unbearable.

    Our host’s books are wonderful and can be bought in stores. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The quantity of marketing wisdom that can be bought in books for the price of just one of these so-called special courses is enormous ($297, $497, $897, $1997).

    The whole online marketing industry is rotten at the core at this point. It is a grotesque MLM circle jerk, a classic Emperor’s New Clothes scenario.

  37. Jerret Hammons said:

    I believe the product references should be no more than two minutes. This should achieve two things. 1) Make people aware that investing in their favorite presenter is an option. 2) The presenter should offer ultra discounts, free product, or a mailing list to enable access to leads. Both of these are pretty much deal closers at my bootcamps. P.S. To sell more product, mention you would love to meet the attendees at your table. If you present your table well and have a few beautiful people working the tables, you will bring in tons more in revenue!

  38. Mark Harrison said:

    In an hour slot, I tend to do about 40 minutes content, 5 minutes “sales pitch”, and 15 minutes Q&A.

    I’m amazed at how much more US audiences will put up with selling from the stage than UK ones. I suspect it has something to do with your television – you pay a monthly fee for your channels, and still get 15 minutes of advertising per 45 minutes of programming.

  39. goole said:

    The information I found here was rather helpful. Thank you for this.

  40. gogle earth said:

    i’am really impressed!!

  41. Gierling said:

    I leave a response when I enjoy reading an article on a website or if I have got something of value to chip in to the debate. And on this post I was essentially moved enough to leave a remark ;) I do have a number of basic questions for you if it’s allright?. Could it be simply me or do some of these comments come across as coming from brain dead folks? :-P And, if you are posting on additional sites, I would like to keep up with anything fresh you have to post. Could you list every one of your community pages like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile? Thanks!

  42. moving companies seattle to san francisco said:

    The car moving company should have niche experience in providing car shipping to Europe or West Africa.
    Make that business plan impressive with an executive summary, description of
    your product, your goals and expected revenue, which your Canadian business can generate.
    Another reason to choose a major moving company is that they usually have affiliates located throughout the
    country and even around the world, which makes a van line service an even more desirable option if you are moving long distance.

  43. hcg homeopathic diet said:

    Many people will say it’s genetics, but that is not the case.

    Regular intake of these drops doesn’t make a lot of change in your lifestyle.
    Some people claim that HCG itself does not produce any significant weight loss.

  44. virus under armour compression pants said:

    If you are giving the door a fresh coat of paint in a new color, you can paint the molding after it is attached along with the remainder of the door.
    If you work it out, it can become extremely strong, but if you don’t, it will not
    only be weak, but you may develop incontinence,
    among other things. Make sure you stand, lie or sit still whilst you are doing pelvic floor exercises.

  45. nose job reviews said:

    The major difference between having a face lift vs. These types of surgeons
    are often targeting patients with big budgets who are
    ready to shell out the big sum of money just for looking better.

    Due to this scaring many people avoided plastic surgery unless it
    was necessary as in war injury cases.

  46. moving companies 30269 said:

    Check out Movers review, it’ll assist you simply slim down the alternatives then choose many sensible movers.
    The above talked about three methods to move Favorites in Internet Explorer 9.
    Providing assistance to customers who are trying to relocate is the responsibility of the customer service reps.

  47. natural gas storage companies said:

    Therefore, renting is one of the best solutions for their housing needs.
    Some of the heavy stuffs like piano create real problem for the
    removers. Using a yacht delivery service is a simple decision for sea-crossings, but what about moving a motor yacht interstate from say Sydney to Brisbane
    or San Francisco to Los Angeles.

  48. marine refrigerator god's doorkeepers said:

    Polar kebbits are located north of Keldagrim, and west of Trollweiss mountain.
    Always buy fresh, shelled cockles from a
    fish market. I remember being very careful never to
    rub my paddle against the gunwale for fear of disturbing the stillness of the cathedral.

  49. Laser hair restoration Side effects said:

    Much less pleasant but equally essential is understanding expertise these kinds of as cleansing dentures, feeding
    individuals, having temperatures and measuring catheter output, all of which totally get ready students for the expertise evaluation test.
    Eventually this can cause hair thinning or patches of bald spots.

    Remember, the foaming action of regular shampoos and detergents is for looks only.

  50. facial plastic surgeon dallas said:

    If it makes you feel better about yourself, then I say do it,” she said of her rhinoplasty. They may be able to work with you to find an arrangement that you are happy with. Their training and experience make them better qualified to perform plastic surgery procedures.

Leave a Reply