Developing Sales Resistance, Part 3

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Developing Sales Resistance, Part 1
Developing Sales Resistance, Part 2

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Developing Sales Resistance, Part 4
Developing Sales Resistance, Part 5


One of the dangers that Christians face is to divide between Christianity and a portion of their life. They might think that devotions and evangelism is spiritual, but we ought not to talk about business and politics. But Christ claims every square inch of life, and He ordinarily wants us to prosper in every area of life. That means that Satan is going to try to attack us and take us off track in every area. And we need to be on guard.

Now recently we have been looking at a major hindrance to spiritual prosperity, emotional prosperity, economic, political or any other kind of prosperity. I have called it lack of sales resistance. Satan was selling a product, and because of her lack of experience and lack of knowledge, Eve was taken in and deceived according to the Bible. Paul said that we are not ignorant of Satan’s devises. Eve was. Perhaps you have been as well. And so we have been trying to look not only at Satan’s devises in this chapter, but apply them to other situations of life where we can be taken in – especially sales.

As I review today, I thought I would do so in a different way. We are going to race through the first five verses and summarize the first thirteen tactics1 that we have looked at so far in one or two words. And hopefully, by condensing these points down to their essence, it will help you to remember the tactics and the associated materials. Let’s start with verse 1

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made… Key point: association. Satan is not dumb. He tries to wrap up his deception in a package that looks good. Ezekiel says that he presented himself in the Garden of Eden not only as the most wise, but the most beautiful creature. Tactic 1 is to associate their product with something great.

Verse 1 goes on – And he said to the woman… The second key point here is direct appeal. Satan’s not interested in going through Adam or anyone else who might reinterpret his words, dilute them or take some of the punch out. He bypasses authority structures by direct appeal. 2) The third key point is in that same phrase: Isolation: Just like some high pressure sales teams will use tactics to keep husband and wife from being alone together and being able to talk through what the sales person has been saying, Satan tries to isolate Adam and Eve from each other in terms of decision making. Adam may have been with her the whole time, but they weren’t given time to discuss things alone together. Isolation. So we have seen association, direct appeal, and third, isolation.

Next clause: Has God indeed said, The fourth key feature is baiting. Those four words “Has God indeed said?” were not asked to gain information, but were asked to bait Eve into conversation in order to find weak areas. The fifth key point is challenging loyalties. Whether to switch from Coca Cola to Pepsi or to switch teachers, as here, this tactic is to find a way to challenge loyalties.

Next clause: ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden.’ The key point here is negative advertising. What he says is tecnically true, but it is phrased in a negative way to put the competition in a bad light.

Verse 2 – And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the trees of the garden [She makes the mistake of arguing with him. We may eat 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 of it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Two key points: One has already been mentioned. This shows the result, that she was baited into a conversation she shouldn’t be having, Seventh key point is exploiting vulnerability. With Eve it was lack of knowledge. Her speech shows she did not know God’s conversation first hand, and her lack of knowledge is a weapon Satan uses against her to deceive. Your weakness may not be lack of knowledge of naivete. It may be anger, lust, curiosity or something else. But Satan seeks to exploit vulnerability.

Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.” There are three key points here. The eighth one is Downplaying danger. Whether it is the tobacco industry or a doctor who prescribes medicine, it is unlikely they will tell you all the dangers in the small print. It’s incredible the dangers in some of the medicines freely prescribed. So downplaying danger. Satan will always downplay the risk of sin.

But the same phrase also highlights another key point: inflated promises or making fantastic claims.

The word “die” also brings up the 10^th^ key point: exploiting ambiguities in words. Exploiting ambiguities.

Verse 5 highlights two more key tactics used by high pressure sales people: The 11^th^ is to win trust by being the consumer advocate. Winning trust. The 12^th^ is to claim insider information. Insider information is used all the time by telemarketers. It is to claim to know something about the competition, the market, health or the political scene that missed your inspection. It’s a hot tip that you can’t pass up, if you will. In verse 5 he says, 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 here’s a hot tip. Insider information.

The 13^th^ tactic is create discontent. Satan in effect says, “You’ve been denied. You deserve better. I can get you something important that you don’t presently have.” So creating discontent.

14. Perseverance: High pressure sales people don’t take no for an answer.

And that brings us up the 14^th^ tactic. Perseverance. Verse 4: Then the serpent said to the woman… The serpent said, then the woman said, then the serpent said. He didn’t taken her no of verse 2 for an answer. Now when doors are slammed in the face of a sales man, it is good to chalk it up as a statistic and to keep persevering; to go down the street and try at the next door, and the next door. Sales people have to do that. But this goes a step beyond that and is used by high pressure sales people. They keep trying at the same door after you have said “No” several times and as clearly as you can. And I think most of you have experienced it at one time in your life. They just can’t take a no for an answer. And they will keep you in the conversation until you hang up on them or exasperate them. I just had another example of this on Monday. And I’m still amazed at how good he was at cheerfully continuing his conversation and his questions of what stocks I own, what kind of risk levels I enjoy in investing so that he can tailor make his recommendations, and how well my stocks are doing, etc., etc., as if I had said “Yes” each time. Now I think I still need to learn better sales resistance. I think the “not-wanting-to-be-rude” syndrome still gets me in trouble.

But how should we react to this kind of intrusion? Probably not the way I do it. I usually wait till there is a natural way to hang up after saying “No” two or three times. You should probably follow Kathy’s lead and say “No, I’m not interested thank you” and hang up, even though they still haven’t taken a breath and are still talking. And the reason that is probably better is that it’s much nicer for the sales person because you have not wasted a minute of their time by giving them false hope, and its much better stewardship of your time. For the telemarketer you are just a statistic anyway. And I should explain that in all of these, I am assuming the high pressure sales person who is rude. I am not talking about an honest sales person who uses etiquette. I’ve got a soft place in my heart for honest salesmen who are trying to make a living. I’ve been there. It’s hard to be a sales person and I don’t ever want to be rude to one of those. I am talking about a person who has a Machiavellian, manipulative bent. And the question is, “Is it OK to be rude with them and to hang up when they won’t take No for an answer?”

Well, let me give you a Biblical rationale for rudeness. There is such a thing as Biblical rudeness. Turn with me first of all to 2 John. That is the third from the last book of the Bible. 2 John, and let’s start in context in verse 7. For many deceivers have gone out into the world… [OK, we are already dealing with somebody who is unethical in their sales of doctrine. They are deliberately trying to deceive you.] who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we have worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. Just as sales people are trying to get some of your hard earned cash, these deceivers are robbing you of your eternal rewards if you give in to them. All of life is economics, and this loss of scarce blessings is just as much an issue of economics as losing something at a store. Verse 9. Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. [Now, in verses 10-11 we have the rudeness displayed.] If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. Now those would have been shocking words to a first century person. Unbelievable rudeness. John is saying that when this first century JW comes to your house wanting to come in and talk with you, John says that you don’t give him the time of day. You don’t greet him or put him up for the night or even invite him into your house. And the reason that he gives is economic. Every encouragement that you give to him contributes to his teaching and you will therefore be guilty of his evil. You will therefore be robbed of spiritual prosperity. You will lose some blessings. You must think of your time as being a scarce resource that you must economically steward. Can you really justify spending an hour talking to the sales person about something you know you don’t want to buy.

Let me quickly read you some other samples of rudeness in similar situations. In Jeremiah 27 there were prophets, diviners and soothsayers who were all selling their goods as it were. And God said to Israel, “Therefore do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your soothsayers,” He is saying, “Don’t feel like you need to be polite. Walk on by and ignore them when they talk.” There is a place for ignoring rudeness. Now in reality it is not rude to ignore rudeness. They are the ones who have imposed. But the point is, that just as those false prophets would try to make you feel like you are rude because they can use guilt to their own ends, these high pressure sales people will often do the same. You’ll have to get Matt Bennett’s story of how incredibly rude this one sales group was when he wouldn’t buy. Quickly, let me give you some more passages. Proverbs 20:19 says, “Therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips.” It’s OK to walk away. That’s Proverbs 20:19.

On the back table is (or at least should be) a list of 15 commands for believers to leave apostate denominations and to not be devoting their time, money, energies and life to something opposed to Christ. Here are a few of those commands:

  1. “avoid them” (Rom. 16:17)2

  2. “from such withdraw yourself” (1 Tim. 6:3-5)3

  3. “and from such people turn away” (2 Tim. 3:5)4

  4. “watch out for them” (Rom. 16:17-18)5

  5. “expose them” (Eph. 5:11)6

  6. Identify them by name (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 1:15; 4:14)7

  7. “Note that person and do not keep company with him” (2 Thes. 3:14)8

  8. We are “not to keep company with” them (1 Cor. 5:9,11)9

Not all of those verses apply to resisting sales. But they do indicate that when people are pressing you to do something that you ought not to do in a high pressure way, it is OK to buck social custom and hang up, walk away, ignore them. Now like I say, “I’m not good at this, and it has gotten me into trouble, wasted time, sharing of information I didn’t want to share, etc, many a time. I can tell you from personal experience that you need to be more like Kathy than like me. Now I’m getting better. At least I know what to work on. But Eve should have just walked on rather than trying to convince this guy that she was right. So remember the tactic of perseverance. If you don’t hang up, they will take your staying on the line as an open invitation to persevere in selling you.

15. Exposure: Getting people to window shop (through catalogues, special loss leaders, gifts, “you’ve won” notices, etc.)

Tactic 15 can be summarized in the word exposure. Basically this is getting people to window shop. Satan didn’t bother tempting Eve on the other side of the Garden. He tempts her as she hangs around the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He will be most successful if he can get her to window shop his product. Now we just hinted at this tactic last week when I pointed out that God’s antidote to tactic 13 was the opposite of this - to not window shop. So Tactic 13 and 15 are tied together. But what are some of the ways that people will seek to give you exposure to your product? Sending you catalogues, brochures, fliers and advertising inserts would be one way. Another way is for a store to have a special loss leader. These stores will actually lose money to get you into the store in the hopes that they can get you to buy a lot of other stuff while you are picking up the deal. Another way is to send you a notice that you have won a gift, and all you have to do is to pick it up at their sales office. Or, you get a free gift for test driving their car. You’ve probably all received notices that you have already won a trip to Hawaii and a weekend stay at a resort or some such thing. Some of you told me two weeks ago that you have friends who have such strong sales resistance that they pick up on all these deals without buying. But it would be good to evaluate whether the case of pop is really worth the hour of time that was chewed up.

If you have made money picking up on these deals, the more power to you. But if you are one of those people who keeps buying things that they shouldn’t buy because of their exposure to the product, then my advice is threefold.

First, flee from unecessary exposure. Know your weakness and flee from the temptation. Catalogues serve a wonderful purpose, but they are not good for light reading. And unfortunately many a housewife who is bored loves to flip through the catalogues and daydream. Don’t stand under the tree of your particular temptation. Don’t window shop or browse. Failing to immediately flee has gotten many men into temptation with pornography in motel rooms. The rationalization may be that they just want to watch the news, or see what’s on. But as they start surfing the channels they get exposed, and because of their weakness, as soon as they are exposed they are hooked. So flee. The Bible says, Flee also useful lusts (2 Timothy 2:2). If Pastor Timothy had to be told to flee, don’t think you are stronger.

Second, make a plan when you go shopping and stick to the plan. This is something Kathy has had to teach me actually because I was the one who was notorious for being sent to the grocery store to pick up one item and coming back with twenty items that were good deals. Right? I think a lot of us men have that problem. Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans [Get that? The plans] of the diligent lead surely to plenty, But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty” Spontaneous shopping and spontaneous purchases are being hasty. Failing to have a budget is to fail to plan. It’s to guarantee being hasty. Which means some of you are vulnerable to bad economic decisions, because some of you don’t have budgets. You say, “Oh, it’s up here.” I think I could ask you a series of questions to show you that it’s not up here. Unless you have a photographic mind with numbers like my brother does, it’s not up there. General guidelines yes, but not a budget. You see, without a budget it is easy to go by feelings. You feel hungry on the way back from some place and you spontaneously decide to go out to eat. “Why not? I’m too tired to fix something.” Or we see a TV at Walmart on an incredible clearance sale and it is a deal too good to pass up. You don’t need the TV, but the urgency of the sale dictates that you be hasty. Even if it is a good deal, we shouldn’t buy it if it doesn’t fit our budget or you had not plans for that TV. Someone says, “What about emergenies where an appliance breaks down?” You need to have an emergency savings account as part of your plans. Now Scripture does give limited situations where there are exceptions, but this should be the general rule. Those are God’s Words, and He says they apply to everyone. If you want to prosper, plan and diligently stick to the plan. If you want to stay poor, be hasty in your purchases. The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty. (Prov. 21:5) In fact, if this is a struggle for you, that would be a great verse for you to memorize. Proverbs 21:5.

Now there are other things that you could do. But if you use those two antidotes together with the other antidotes we have been looking at, you should have no problem.

16. Feeding pride: Promoting independent thinking “knowing good and evil” (v. 5) Distrust your judgment and ask others for advice.

The sixteenth tactic is to feed pride. The book of first John summarizes what I believe to be the three temptations that Satan gave to Eve: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. (1 John 2:16). We will look at the other two in a moment, but this one deals with the pride of life. Satan tells her, you will be like God, knowing good and evil. And you might think, “No advertising is going to pump you up that much!” But any amount of pride amounts to the same problem – independent thinking and actions. You can decide for yourself. Or it makes you think better of yourself than you ought to think. Or, they will flatter you to the point where you feel like you can’t admit your ignorance. That’s just another form of pride that high pressure sales people can take advantage of. Jude 16 speaks of them saying, “they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.” It may be a stock broker who flatters you into thinking that you are much more savvy at investments than you really are. Some ads are much more subtle. I think some of the luxury car ads are subtle appeals to pride. Some just stroke people with soothing compliments – like you are a valued customer,” etc. Here are a couple that are bit more bold. “You get the credit. We do the work.” Or this one: “The WCI Penthouse Collection… everything else is beneath you.” So you will find a wide spectrum of creativity on this tactic in ads. Some are so crassly stated that it makes you wonder if the ad is effective at all. Take for example this ad in the Wall Street Journal. “Test Your Market IQ. [And then after the question comes this statement] If you chose false, congratulations! You’re savvy enough to invest in _____ [and then comes their company name].” Or here’s another one that’s pretty unsubtle. “Direct Oceanfront Lots. Were you smart enough to have bought an oceanfront lot on Hilton Head, Kiawah or Amelia Islands? Well, here’s another opportunity to be very smart!” And then comes the ad for oceanside property for sale.

What are the antidotes? First, recognizing pride and its dangers and developing humility. The problem is, pride is like bad breath. Everyone else can tell that you’ve got it, but you can be utterly oblivious to its existence in your heart. And that is why this is such an effective strategy. We tend to be blind to our own pride. And if we are blind to our pride, we can be sucked in. That’s why we need to cry out to God, the exposer of pride and the giver of humility. Remind yourself as Jude 16 does that flattery is for the purpose of taking advantage of you. Why is this guy flattering me? He wants to take advantage of me. Recognize pride in yourself and how to spot the appeals to pride in sales. And then develop humility by God’s grace. If you are humble, these kinds of ads won’t affect you at all. In fact, they will seem silly. You will see right through them. So recognize pride and develop humility.

Second, write down on a piece of paper what the specific reasons are why you want this product. Sometimes the very act of writing things down will expose the true reasons for desiring the product.

Or run the idea past someone else. Sometimes you won’t even have to do that. The very thought of running it past someone will make you realize that he will think you are prideful, and that very exercise may expose pride you didn’t realize was there. Why are you buying that particular house, car, computer, etc? Is it for prideful reasons or stewardship reasons. But realize that pride is a powerful lure in advertising products just as it was a lure to sin in Satan and Eve.

17. Redefining need: making you think that this product is a real need and is essential. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food.” (v. 6) Put it into perspective by analyzing how well you can get along without it.

Tactic seventeen can be summarized in two words: redefine need. Take a look at verse 6. We will look at another tactic next week from this sentence, but I want to emphasize the word “food.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food...” We tend to think of food as being a basic essential and need of life. But Eve already had all the food that she could possibly need in the rest of the Garden, and she already admitted that in verse 2. But its amazing how advertising can make a person feel such a strong desire for something that he now speaks of needing it. A need is an essential of life like food. Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:8, “and having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” Scripture does list out a few other needs, but very few things that we call needs are truly needs. They may be desirable economic tradeoffs, but that’s a different issue. Here’s a cigarette ad: “Everyone needs a little comfort.” Or you have seen ads that use the words “essential,” indispensable, or you have a right to something. If you were to substitute the word “desire” for 90% of the things you call a need, it would be interesting to see if it would change your perspective.

There are three antidotes to this tactic: 1) distinguish in your own mind between a need and a want. 2) Ask if this need can be met in other ways. Eve could easily have met the need for food from another tree. 3) If it is a want, analyze whether your stewardship would be improved or hindered by this acquisition.

18. Exploit hungers: Appealing to your hungers “good for food” (v. 6) Don’t shop when hungry. Be on guard when sexually fasting.

The last tactic that I want to look at today is #18: exploiting hungers. Verse 6 says that the woman saw that the tree was good for food… God made man to have basic hungers, hunger for food being one of them. And I don’t think that I need to elaborate on this too much. There is a rationale for when the food ladies are out in the stores. There is a statistical relationship between what time of day people shop and how much they buy. There is a statistical relationship between adultery and men and women being presented with a temptation when they have a deficiency emotionally or physically.

And God gives the antidotes. 1 Corinthians 7 says, Do not deprive one another except for consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. That advice can transfer into other areas. Financial counselors commonly advise people not to do their grocery shopping when they are hungry. Unwittingly their hunger will predispose them to buy far more than they otherwise would. Everything looks good. The candy bars and twinkies all go into the basket. Their hunger will easily be associated with most anything that is advertised or packaged well in the grocery store. Be on guard whenever you fast, whether it is an emotional fasting because your husband or wife has been gone for a month or whether it is a physical fast. Your hungers can be much more easily exploited when fasting.

But the ultimate antidote is to 1) find contentment in God, and 2) have a constant awareness of and joy in His presence. When God’s presence grips your heart it will be much harder for anything else to displace Him. When the joy of the Lord is the strength of your life, you will be much less likely to seek happiness elsewhere. We are going to be singing a new hymn which speaks of this desire for God’s presence in everything and everything related to God in a stewardship trust. But before we sing that, let’s pray.


  1. The idea for 12 of the tactics came from Bill Gothard, Men’s Manual, vol. II, pp. 106-109. I have either changed or dropped some of his twelve, expanded on these and given ideas on how to resist.

  2. “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” (Rom. 16:17-18)

  3. “If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. From such withdraw yourself.” (1 Tim. 6:3-5)

  4. “having a form of godliness, but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Tim. 3:5)

  5. “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” (Rom. 16:17-18)

  6. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” (Eph. 5:11)

  7. Examples: “Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.” (1 Tim. 1:20); “You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes.” (2Tim. 1:15); “Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done.” (2Tim. 4:14)

  8. “And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.” (2 Thes. 3:14)

  9. “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolators, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner - not even to eat with such a person.” (1 Cor. 5:9-11)

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