Developing Sales Resistance, Part 1
Last week I described one of the times when I got taken in by a sales ploy big time, and asked for a show of hands for how many people had a similar experience. Well, to my astonishment and delight I discovered that I had a perfect church that had already perfected sales resistance. Not a hand went up. I was the only sucker in the crowd. So it definitely made my work easier. I knew that I wouldn’t have to preach on sales resistance this Sunday. But a strange thing happened. After dinner I had one person after another confessing their sins, and that they should have raised their hands. In fact, I had so many confessions I began to wonder if I was in a Roman Catholic church. Our house had become a little confessional.
Actually, it was kind of fun to hear all the stories people gave not only of being taken in, but of successful strategies they have used to resist high pressure sales people. It sounds like we do have a lot of wisdom in this congregation. And I think it is great when those kinds of things are shared within the body. I think we learn from each other that way. I think I mentioned last week that Eve’s biggest weakness was lack of experience.
But anyway, we are back to talking about developing sales resistance. Satan is masterful at using these advertising techniques. And I pointed out that these techniques are not just used by business. They are used in every walk of life from politicians convincing you of how good their policies are to your children who present their case to Mom or Dad. Now I am primarily using this in an economic application because of the nature of our series, but I think you can see how mastering these issues will keep us from getting taken in by Satan quite so easily. Eve, though perfect, did not have any experience. That was her weakness. So she was susceptible to the powerful advertising techniques of Satan.
And the reason I decided to preach from this passage rather than Proverbs 7 and some of the other passages that beautifully outline the same principles, is that this passage shows in starker relief that susceptibility to the power of advertising is not just a result of the fall. If Eve could be taken in, these are pretty powerful techniques. In other words, “Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.” We are all susceptible. In fact, we have many more things that Satan can appeal to than she did. She just lacked experience. That was her one weakness. But she didn’t have the weaknesses that we face. She did not have a sin nature. She did not need to worry about poverty, old age or sickness which are fears that advertisers constantly prey upon, and weaknesses that Satan takes advantage of. She had a perfect environment, no in-laws, no stress, no ungodly boss. She was the crowning achievement of God’s creative power. So we need to take these tactics seriously.
And I should say that some of these tactics can be used for good. Take tactic number one – association. While it is true that Satan and many ungodly advertisers will seek to arouse lust and associate that lust with a product, there is no reason why the strong principle of association can’t be used for good. If it is a hot summer day and everywhere you go you see a soda pop can sticking up out of ice with water condensation and coolness all over the picture, I think that is a perfectly legitimate way to associate an already existing desire – thirst, with a product that can satisfy that desire. So don’t get the idea that just because I am using these tactics as warnings, that all of them are therefore tactics that we cannot use. No, some of them can be used. In fact in the New Testament the Gospel often appeals to the felt needs of people in showing that God’s blueprints have the answers. In Romans 11 God says that He intends to stir up the nations to jealousy – desiring to have this Gospel because they see the blessings that are associated with it.
But we should not use these tactics the way Satan did. We should not deliberately undermine authority and bypass parents in marketing a product. That’s tactic number 2. We should not pressure a woman into buying something we know her husband would disapprove of. But even that tactic (of appealing to those who are under authority) does have its place. For example, in time of war your government does not have to ask permission of the enemy government to drop leaflets from a airplane disseminating true propaganda designed to undermine the evil government. There are times and places for even a principle like tactic number 1. But ordinarily we should hate such a tactic. It goes against our covenantalism even though churches sometimes use this tactic in Sunday Schools in an ungodly way to undermine parental authority. So think through these principles. Don’t automatically be opposed to every useage of these principles. I’m coming at them negatively because I want you to develop sales resistance and to be wise stewards of God’s money. When you buy liabilities or assets I want those to be bought or money spent for Godly, thought out reasons.
But let’s just quickly review where we have been so far. Tactic number one is the issue of association. Satan associated his product with beauty and wisdom. In fact, in Ezekiel 28:12-13 God said that in Eden he presented himself as the wisest and most beautiful of creatures. If he had come with leathery black wings and horns, the association may not have been the greatest. But at that time the snake had legs and arms and was the most beautiful creature. Association. Advertisers will tie their product as closely as they can with gorgeous or successful people, or with attractive things or places. They will try to arouse a feeling or desire for something that is appealing and over time make it so constantly tied with the product that the free floating emotion becomes permanently associated with the product. Just an awareness of their strategy will help you to keep from making that strong emotional association from happening. And I won’t take the time this morning to review the points of how to develop the sales resistance. You will have to listen to the sermon to do that. But tactic 1 is in the first half of verse 1.
Tactic number 2 is seen in the second sentence of verse 1: and he said to the woman. Seeking to undermine authority, or directly appeal to subordinates.
Tactic number 3 is to hurry the spending decision so that you don’t talk it over with anyone else until after the purchase is made. Eve fails to talk to Adam until it is too late in verse 6. Don’t make decisions that impact the family without getting input from those whom it will impact.
Tactic number 4 is to put the competition into the worst possible light and to put your own proposal or product into the best possible light. God had said in 2:16 Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat except for one. Satan rewords it in such a way that he isn’t technically lying, but it could be interpreted as the exact opposite of what God had said. Verse 1: Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Just how its worded puts God in the worst possible light, even though Satan’s words are technically accurate. Use the techniques we looked at to resist that.
Tactic number 5 is to pit one generation against a previous one, to place doubts about established wisdom. Now that is not always bad. In this case it was because God is the previous generation and He is the one who gave the established wisdom that it was son wrong.
Tactic 6 is to try to engage people in conversation irrespective of their interest. The more they can engage you in conversation, the easier it will be to eventually find a weak point. And that is exactly what happened with Eve. She perhaps doesn’t want to be rude, tries to convince him he is wrong. She doesn’t need to do that. He knows he’s wrong. But the process of engaging her in conversation gives him the opportunity to find out her weak points and exploit them. And some sales people are experts at this. Again, this can be used for good as well as for evil. But be on guard and if you want to buy, control the conversation, and if you don’t want to buy, don’t engage the person in conversation. Rudeness deserves to be ignored, and he who controls the conversation has the upper hand. Now Eve may have thought that she controlled the conversation since she did the talking. That was not the case. Satan had baited her into exposing her weakness.
The seventh tactic is to reject or to minimize warnings or things that might be distasteful to the potential customer. They will do it in different ways. We looked at the masterful use of this tactic in Proverbs 7 as the harlot sells her wares. Sometimes people do it in so much small print that it either intimidates or makes a person not want to read the warnings. Don’t take their word for what the small print means. Read it. Don’t minimize warnings. If they have to have that much small print, it’s a danger signal that you better know what it is. But learn to see the downside of any product. Don’t let your desires undermine your reason.
The eighth and last tactic that we looked at last week was to make fantastic claims that people wish were true (and I think that is the critical caveat – they wish the claims were true), and it will be believed by some if you make it boldly enough and confidently enough. Satan of course makes the bold claim that you will not surely die. Marketers of cancer cures, debt cures, political cures, etc also make bold claims that everyone wishes were true. And if the sales people can be bold and confident enough, there will be someone to believe it. Why? Because they want to believe it. You can count on it. Well, let’s move on to some more tactics today.
9. Discovering the weak point in the customer - “nor shall you touch it” (v. 3)
Tactic 9 builds on tactic 6. Remember that tactic 6 is that they have learned how to engage you in conversation when you don’t want to converse. They capitalize on your desire to be nice, well liked and not rude. They need to converse with you to discover any weak points that you may have. And that is point 9. Discovering the weak point in the customer. And tactic nine presupposes that if you aren’t God, you have a weak point. Now if you are walking close to God you can be on guard in those areas, but to be ignorant of your weak points is disastrous. You open your mouth enough to a highly skilled salesman and you can bet your bottom dollar that he or she will discover some weak points that they can exploit. What was the weak point exposed in Eve’s conversation? Let’s read it. Verses 2-3. And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ What has Eve unwittingly let this salesman know? She has let Satan know that she is ignorant. And you might say, “Now wait a shake. How did you get that?” Commentators point out that Eve added the words “nor shall you touch it.” You won’t find it in chapter 2:17. Whether Adam told her wrong or whether she adds this detail on her own, we aren’t told. But when a salesman hears a person who is confident in his or her own knowledge his product and yet shows ignorance of what they are talking about, dollar signs start flashing in his eyes.
Think about it. You are the salesperson trying to get rid of a computer and this customer comes along trying to be confident, but ignorance is written all across him. The customer points to a monitor and wants to know how much memory it has. Well, the monitor doesn’t have memory and it becomes obvious she can’t tell the difference between the monitor and the computer. And the sales person may throw out a few sample questions to test his theory of this customer’s ignorance. And sure enough, he doesn’t know the difference between hard disk memory, ROM or RAM. And he knows he can sell the customer just about anything if he effectively uses some of the other tactics Just about anything you say will be equally dazzling and bewildering. You are the expert in control of the conversation. And Satan immediately jumps into control of this conversation.
How do you develop sales resistance in this situation. Well, there’s only two ways that I know of. Educate yourself sufficiently so that you can’t be hoodwinked. There is no substitute for knowledge. And if you have no intention of developing knowledge in a given area because there is no ROI or return on investment that is worth it, then have someone else that you trust do the shopping for you. It’s as simple as that. Either read up and gain knowledge or trust someone else to shop for you.
10. Redefining terms so that they will be misinterpreted - “die” (verse 4)
Tactic 10 is redefining terms so that they will be misinterpreted. This is a form of deception even while it is completely telling the truth (just not the whole truth). He says in verse 4 “You will not surely die.” Everything of course hinges on the definition of die, right? God had said in 2:17 for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. Did Adam and Eve die on the day they ate of the tree? It depends on how you define die. If you define it as physical death (which Biblically is the least significant definition of death that there is), then the answer is no. He may have started dying physically, but he didn’t die physically. If you define it in its most important theological sense of separation from God, body and soul, then they did indeed die. Body and soul they were separated from God and from his grace. And they not only noticed this in their spirit – fear, but they noticed it in their body – nakedness. No longer clothed in God’s glory. They were separated from God body and spirit. But the point I am making is that language is subject to different meanings at times, and advertisers are notorious at taking advantage of this fact. Analyze the language and make sure it is really saying something objectively meaningful. Too many times Christians are naïve and ignorant and of the ambiguities of speech.
I have a Christian catalogue in my office that uses this tactic masterfully. And it actually sells some great products. But it uses this tactic. It redefines terms. For example, take the word “class.” On one machine it says, “the quietest board in its class.” Are there quieter boards in the same price range? This is not denying that. It all depends on what you mean by class. Within the same catalogue, the word “class” could at one time mean in the same price range of a few dollars, another time could mean with certain features, or from a certain manufacturer. Or it could even mean that it is the quietest within a group of boards that are just as quiet. Keith was telling me that advertisers are taught that you can claim that your product is the best in a given area even if there are numerous products that are equal in quality. They are all best if there is nothing better. You can also make claims if it is your opinion. But this point is dealing with different meanings that are attributed to words and phrases. The same catalogue says about another product that it brings “depth and clarity to your worship service unlike anything you’ve ever heard before!” If you examine the phrase, it is meaningless. Any product can make that claim because you’ve never had that competing product in your service before. Right? It’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard before.
So that’s the tactic. How do we develop sales resistance to it? First, ask questions. Eve shouldn’t have been talking with this salesperson in the first place. But let’s just assume that it was OK for her to talk to him. She could have asked him, “Interesting. What evidence do you have for this claim?” “What do you mean by this claim specifically?” With the Web there are so many resources by which you can check claims. There are side by side comparisons of every feature of a product with other similar products. There are reviews, consumer reports, Better Business Bureau reports, etc., etc. So first of all, ask questions.
Second, learn to be cautious about any claims made. I have found that Christian catalogues are just as full of these things as non-Christian catalogues are. This just seems to come naturally any time we try to convince people of things. Even Gary North is good at this. Every book he has published was the best book ever written on the subject, a book you just can’t live without; a book that will turn the world upside down, or the best book that he has written. He knows how to market things. So just learn to be cautious about any claims that are made.
Third, learn to analyze words. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. Learn to analyze words. Be a student of words and the ambiguities that they communicate. The more you realize the variety of meanings you can extract from phrases that are deliberately ambiguous, the more cautious you will be. And actually, America has gotten a couple of lessons on this with politicians caught in fornication. Recently it is “What is meant by the word ‘contact’?” With President Clinton it was the definition of the word “is.” If you have studied logic you will realize that the word “is” really can have several different connotations. Most people treat the word “is” as if it were an equal sign. But in logic you are taught that the word “is” is very ambiguous. And if it is taken to court you will be able to defend that ambiguity. Let me just give you four sentences where the word “is” is used in quite different ways. But if “is” were treated like an equal sign, then it would be a logically valid argument. It follows that form of
Therefore A=C. You are all familiar with that argument, right?
OK? Here’s the four sentences:
God is love.
Love is blind.
Ray Charles is blind.
Therefore Ray Charles is God.
That’s taken out of a logic book. Now obviously as Christians we would question the premise that love is blind. But you get the point. We must learn to analyze the ambiguities of words. Learn logic and you won’t be taken in. The Bible says, The simple believes every word, but the prudent considers well his steps. (Proverbs 14:15)
11. Play the good guy or hero by making a plausible claim that the competition is deliberately concealing information. “For God knows…” (v. 5)
Tactic eleven of advertisers and sales people is to take advantage of how bewildering the choices in life are to some people and use this complexity to play the good guy or the consumer advocate by bringing to your attention how you have been taken in by the competition, and to do it in a plausible way by drawing out very selective features of the competition’s product. This serves several purposes. First and foremost it makes the salesman look like he is looking out for your best interests. He’s on your side helping you. Second, it puts the competition in a bad light, because it makes the competition look like they tried to take advantage of you. Third, it gives the illusion of giving a satisfactory side by side comparison of the two products. But its not objective. You’ve only heard from one guy. That is exactly what Satan does in verse 5. Satan basically says in verse 5: “Think about it. Why is He keeping you from this tree?” For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. So Satan is trying to position himself as the good guy who is looking out for Eve’s best interests.
I’ve had car salesmen do this with me sometimes boldly and sometimes in very subtle ways. One salesperson said, “I don’t like to ever speak bad of the competition but” and then proceeded to tell me safety features on the car that weren’t present on the other car. It sounded tremendous. I asked Larry Nolte if what he said was true and he said no. So you look at a stripped down version of the competition, and sure enough, he was fibbing. Well, you talk to this other guy and he has the same song and dance about looking to your best interests and shows you statistics of how the Ford vans have by far the most roll overs. And you go to the Ford guy and ask him about that and he laughs and says, “Of course, that’s because 90% of the 15 passenger vans out there are Fords. And so forth.
Now I said that it needs to be plausible for this to work. And what makes Satan’s claims in Genesis 3 plausible is the name of the tree. After all, it is called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And God had been keeping them from that tree. It’s not a far stretch for Satan to suggest that God’s not interested in them having knowledge, or knowing either good or evil. Isn’t it a good thing to not be naïve – to know what’s good and what’s not good? A very effective tactic. Now it can backfire if the customer happens to like someone in the competition, but it’s a risk worth taking for many.
I think the way to develop sales resistance is obvious. You need to know something by doing research. Ask questions. Find out the reason for the negative statistics, etc. I hope as we go through these tactics that you are beginning to realize that we need to be cautious – even about your own understanding. Life is more complex than many people realize. That’s why Proverbs 11:12 says in the multitude of counselors there is safety and there is understanding. Scripture says that the first to plead his cause seems right till his neighbor comes and examines him.
12. Claiming to know the competition’s motives and heart (v. 5)
Tactic 12 takes advantage of the propensity of humans to impute motives to others (even Christians do this). And you will see that presupposition in column 4. Fight it as we might, we seem to fall into that habit. And it goes one step beyond the previous point. Not only are they setting themselves up as your consumer advocate, but this tactic is to claim insight into the competition’s motives and heart. Isn’t that exactly what Satan does in verse 5? How does He know what God’s motives are? How does he have the inside scoop on the wheelings and dealings going on in the secret smoke filled rooms? This is at the heart of conspiracy books. And we need to ask if these conspiracies are so all-fired powerful and secret, how does the author know such intimate details? How come the secret organizations haven’t made more progress in 300 years. Now I do believe there are conspiracies. Psalm 2 says they are always around. But it also indicates that God frustrates their purposes. But I’m rambling. Let’s get back to the point.
We need to distinguish gossip from objective evidence. Too many times we take hearsay for evidence. Ask him if he has worked for them in the past. Maybe he does have an inside track. But more often than not they are gossiping and wanting to cover up their own bad motives. Whether the gossip is in the church or in the sales room, we need to ignore it or nip it in the bud. If there are no objective evidences they can give, discount the info about the competition. Let them sell their product on its own merits.
Secondly, ask for things in writing – things concrete enough that they could be sued if it was slander.
But even that is not enough. Keep the ambiguities of language that we have already looked at in mind.
Fourth, make sure that you find quotations of the competition in context. We all know how easy it is to make people say things that they didn’t say by selective quoting. I’ve seen it on TV where I have attended the pro-life rally and saw the interview and can’t believe the distortion on TV by selective quoting. Actually I wasn’t surprised because I went to school many years ago for broadcasting and did work as Rock DJ as part of my training (believe it or not – Phil Kayser the Rock DJ). I also learned to made radio advertisements and selective news reports. But I had the most fun in the splicing room. This was before computers did the work for you. We took an hour of a person’s speech and through creative splicing, mixing, selective tone editing and speeding up or slowing down, we could make an entire new speech that said something totally different than what the person had said. That semester of schooling made me utterly cynical of the broadcast news networks. Don’t believe everything you see on a video. Even conspiracy videos of John F Kennedy’s assassination. I saw it with my eyes means nothing. Well, I’m getting off the track of this tactic, but I think you get the point.
13. Seeking to create discontent - “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (v. 5)
Let’s move on to tactic thirteen. And we will end with this one. As of this week, we have twenty-four tactics all together that I want to go through in Genesis 3. And as I keep reading and rereading this passage, that may increase.
Tactic thirteen is to seek to create discontentment. Satan said, For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened … This is Bill Gothard’s fifth point from Genesis 3. I mentioned last week that I got the idea to do this sermon from him. I found at least half of his twelve points very helpful, and want to give him credit. But here is his comment on this verse.
Satan convinced Eve that she was missing a vital ingredient to a happy and successful life. In reality, God had already given her everything that she needed for her happiness, security, and fulfillment.
Alluring advertising promotes attitudes of self-rejection [I’m not sure where he gets that from. I question that. But anyway, he goes on] and discontentment. [Well, I definitely agree that it gives discontentment. And here are the rest of his comments] It focuses on what we do not have, and it encourages instant gratification.
Along with the "you owe it to yourself philosophy, there is the encouragement to gratify your wants now and make payments in the future.
And I think that is a helpful insight. By creating discontent it makes us present oriented instead of future oriented and oreinted to the creature rather than to the Creator. And I can testify first hand to this powerful pull. Advertisements have the uncanny ability to make you feel that you need something that you didn’t even know existed a few moments before. It still may be OK to get it, but distinguish between need and desire.
How do you resist this? Number 1, I list some put offs. We need to put off anything that would create discontentment with God. As long as idols grip our hearts we cannot say, “I would be content with everything being taken from me if God is glorified and I have His presence and love. As stewards we need to be able to get to that place and be able to treat finances, health and other things as tools to glorify God, not as an end in themselves. If we seek wealth as an end in itself, then money has become an idol. We are serving money rather than having money serve us and serve God’s kingdom. So start destroying idols and stay away from things that promote discontentment. For example, don’t go window shopping just for fun. You’re tempting yourself. Don’t just blindly browse the internet for fun. Have something in mind that you are searching for, restrict yourself to that, and set a time limit. Otherwise the internet can chew up enormous amounts of kingdom time and can lead to temptation. Some people are tempted to materialism by reading catalogues, or car magazines, or other magazines that sell the things they love to collect. If you can’t control your spending habits, then it is best not to read catalogues, window shop on the web or at the mall. I don’t know how many times some of my relatives have said, “We’re just looking” and they come back with a purchase.
The same is true of your besetting sins. If pornography is a weakness, don’t wander close to places you can be tempted. Don’t stand right under the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and say, “I’ll just look for awhile out of curiosity sake. That can’t hurt. I’m just admiring God’s creation as I gaze at this fruit. I’m just window shopping to see what this fruit looks like.” You will get stung. If Eve got stung window shopping, you will be stung much more. Why? Because you have a sin nature that is easier prey. You have pressures she didn’t have, the aging process, health issues, and a hundred other weakness that can be appealed to. David made the mistake of standing under the tree like Eve when he didn’t immediately walk away when he saw Bathsheba. Don’t stand under the tree.
Second, learn to find total satisfaction in God. Learn to be able to say with Job, “The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Or to say with Paul, …I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Phil. 4:11-12). In other words, the world did not grip him. He did not find his satisfaction in money or lack of money. He had learned it. Now I can’t give you all the things that can help you learn this, but here are a few steps you can take. Fast and pray. Fasting helps to kill the body’s grip on your life. Tithe and give to gain a trust in God rather than your finances. Do everything you can to transfer your affections to God and treasures in heaven.
We are going to be singing an old Lutheran hymn that Jeff introduced me to that says “I want the world to have so little hold upon my life that Jesus is my all in all.” This is not a contradiction to our call to conquer the world for Christ. In fact it is the prerequisite to conquering the world. 1 John 2:15 says, Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. So I want us to sing this hymn as a commitment to the Lord as stewards. Let’s ask God to tear down our idols and help us come to the place where the world no longer means anything to us apart from Jesus. Unless Jesus is our all in all; unless we are stewards who relinquish everything we own to God, God cannot trust us with more blessings to be used in conquering the world for Him. Total relinquishment of all to God is the pre-requisite to Paul’s statement that all things are ours. Let’s pray, and then sing this hymn of commitment to God.