5 Old School Sales Techniques that You Should Avoid

John Rydell

April 25, 2024

11 min

Table of Contents

If you've ever flipped through old school photos and giggled (or squirmed) at your outfits or hairstyles, you know how dramatically times can change.

I'd welcome some "old school" styles coming back. Pocket watches anyone? Neon colors?

Of course, other things are better off not being resurrected. Old school sales techniques are one of them.

Many old school tactics don't work on modern-day prospects. Or they're just plain objectionable. If your goal is to sell more and to build your business one happy customer at a time, here are 5 old school sales tactics to avoid.

1. The product pitch

It slices! It dices! It juliennes!

Back in the day, people weren't exposed to as many novel products and services. Today we're absolutely bombarded. As a result, we've become blind to a lot of product-based marketing messages.

People care less and less about you, and what you offer. Today, customers are far too busy trying to solve their own problems.

That's why savvy salespeople have stopped pitching products, and pitch solutions instead. That might seem like a semantic difference, but it's very important.

Solutions-based selling is much more about the customer's unique needs, fears, pain points and goals. It positions you as an expert looking to help, rather than a salesperson looking to make a sale.


So don't pitch. Identify problems and offer solutions.

2. Selling ice to Eskimos

People used to wear the ability to "sell ice to an Eskimo" like a badge. And it wasn't too long ago that selling for profit sake alone - regardless of need - was much more common. And frankly, easy to get away with.

While some companies (and salespeople) continue to sell however and to whoever they can, selling with integrity is more important than ever.

Why? The internet and social media have given everyone a voice. A company's reputation is available for all to see. Brand loyalty is a major driver of success.

Today, no salesperson worth their talent is selling ice to Eskimos. Sell your contacts what they need, not more of what they have. If they don't need anything you have to sell, find someone who does.

3. Being a smooth operator

Being a smooth operator worked for Sade. It won't work for you. Today's sales landscape could be described as "be yourself, or begone."

Customers are responsive to people who are genuine and relatable, not slick. So adjust your selling style accordingly, or prepare to watch your sales go to your competition.

4. Doing the hard sell

How do you react when your back is up against the wall? Is it a pleasant experience? Do you ever want to see the party doing the pushing ever again?

Didn't think so. This one boils down to "do unto others," aka the Golden Rule.  If you're over-promising, using fear, or employing other high-pressure sales tactics to sell, you're doing something wrong.

5. Playing the lone (sales) wolf

Old school methods would often pit one salesperson against another. It was all about competition and who came out on top.

Today, sales is a team sport. Managers should promote cooperation and unity across their team. Resources should be shared. Training should be collaborative. Individuals should be encouraged to help others and request help when they need it.

Competition is a great way to motivate your team, as long as it's friendly, not cutthroat.

Wrapping up 5 old school sales tactics to avoid:

In today's more personal, relationship-based sales atmosphere some of the less savory and shortsighted sales techniques have fallen by the wayside. And we're all better for it. Here are 5 old school sales tactics to avoid:

  1. The product pitch
  2. Selling ice to eskimos 
  3. Being a smooth operator
  4. Doing the hard sell
  5. Playing the lone sales wolf

What other sales tactics from years past no longer work?

The Ultimate Guide to Cold Calls and Outbound

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