Each one of us decides how we want to behave in business. What ends justify the means, so to speak.

For example:

  • Do we bend the truth to make the story sound better?
  • Do we exaggerate the results to seem more impressive?
  • Do we make promises that we know can’t be achieved?

I find these easy questions to answer; others might not.

No, the things that I am conflicted about are the types of sales tactics that are used to get customers to take action. You know what I’m talking about: time sensitive offers like, “Buy now or you’ll never have the opportunity again,” or “Only the first 10 people can have this special bonus,” etc.

They work. They always have and they likely always will.

Often good people waffle about whether to buy something or join something but when it’s about to be taken away from them, they’ll take action. So, in a way, at least in the coaching/consulting field, you could argue that these tactics serve the client because it gets them to do the things they need to do.

I do put enrollment deadlines on some of my programs. For example, admissions are only open a few times a year for the Book Yourself Solid School of Coaching. This way, I can run the school the way a university would. But, there is always opportunity to join when a new term starts. I’ve also done time related discount offers on other products over the years.

On the other hand, I’ve never felt completely comfortable with these tactics in general—even when it’s a true deadline or there really are only X number of spots, etc. Maybe it’s because I hate pressuring people or making people feel obligated (not when I’m your coach though—I’ll push you relentlessly once you give me permission to do so—that’s different). Historically, I’ve found that when I had to push someone or “convince” them to join one of my programs, they often turned out to be a less than ideal client.

I guess I just want people to see the value in something and take advantage of it because they know it will be great for them. Maybe that’s naive and it’s likely I’ve missed making lots of sales as a result. I know I leave lots of money on the table because I don’t do aggressive up-selling but I just can’t get myself to push my agenda onto others. Maybe I’m a pussycat and should act more like a tiger. I don’t know.

I do know, however, that I’m conflicted about this as I don’t see it in a black and white frame. To be clear, I’m not saying these kinds of sales tactics are wrong. I’m just saying that I’m conflicted.

I’m really keen on your take. What do you think about this issue? How do you behave when marketing and selling?

Your thoughts below please… BUT… if you don’t write a comment in the next 10 seconds, this offer will be rescinded and your chance to share your opinion will be gone for ever. But, if you do post, you’ll also be given a never-before-released bonus opportunity to comment on previous posts. You must act now!



Jason Economides

Hi Michael,
Long time no speak. I hear what you are saying – that you’re conflicted. All of us in the sales coaching/training field, are passionate about training our clients to ‘ask for the order’, or to get the customer to make a decision. And sometimes as the salesperson, notwithstanding some gigantic monthly sales target completely blowing the salesperson’s integrity out of the water, it is very tempting to throw a carrot to the customer to get them to buy – so long as the salesperson genuinely believes the purchase makes sense, adds value and enhances the customer’s life.

I have seen too many websites however that create false scarcity. I’ve seen websites that have clever HTML code in them, that create a ‘this offer expires on dd/mm/yy at hh:mm” – where the date/time is a system generated date precisely 24-48 hours from time the websurfer has logged on to the page. I have also seen other websites that are selling e-copies of a book or video course, saying that there are precisely 77 copies remaining. As if it costs extra to email the link to a 78th person. No, sorry I don’t believe that – that’s just coercing people into making a decision based on scarcity not on actual need for the product or service. And if the selelr is truly commercial, with a stonkingly good product, why would they ever limit their own sales?

I have seen the same tactic used in live seminars where a particular special offer was made to the first 10 people who hit the back of the room. I personally remember being the 11th/12th person, and still negotiated the special deal – so doesn’t that mean that customers 1-10 were lied to?

I think there are better ways to get customers, authentically, by offering freebies or previews of your wider offering, and offering money-back guarantees if the product/service does not meet expectations.

Just my 2cents…

Michael Port

Hi Jason! It’s been a long time. I like your 2 cents very much. Thanks for sharing your opinion and experience.

Jason Economides

You’re welcome. When are you going to visit London so I can hold your cup of coffee?

Michael Port

That’s a great question. I’m waiting for someone to ask me to give a speech to a big audience 🙂 I am going to Australia in Nov., though.



Please send me details of when you are coming to Australia. I am currently working my way through your BYS strategies (in the workbook) which I have found helpful so far. If they win me some more business I may even turn into a raving fan!

BTW my thoughts on the above are that it depends on your business model and how you want to be seen. Artificial scarcity is of course BS that everyone sees through but you can still create real scarcity with an offer by only having ten copies of your book at the back of the conference or limited place webinars that provide real value because they provide more personal attention rather than taking all comers. So maybe the rule is just to keep it real.


Michael Port

Hi Andrew, I believe the details for my event with Matt Church in Sydney are here: http://www.mattchurch.com/masterclass2012. Hope to see you there.


Hi Michael

While I don’t think it’s necessarily a good idea to coerce people, I do think they sometimes need a little push. It’s all too easy for people to delay making a decision and as a result this decision never gets made.

Perhaps the answer would be to mitigate the issue by offering a money-back guarantee (in itself a motivator) so the subject is pushed, but not irrevocably?

When you go to London I’d be glad to carry your bags!


Ok so I will be a Certified Nutritionist in about 4 weeks. I will be a coach and weight loss expert to those who let me. In a country where we are 60% overweight, 34% obese – with childhood obesity skyrocketing as well –
And with my services as a nutritional coach / weight loss coach, I can offer a longer happier life and the following:
o Dramatically lower your risk of heart disease
o Dramatically lower your risk of all cancers
o Dramatically lower your risk of stroke
o Dramatically lower your risk of Diabetes
o Dramatically lower your LDL cholesterol
o Dramatically lower your blood pressure
o Ideal weight continuously
o Feel good continuously
o Feel energetic continuously
o Little or no arthritis pain
o Great stamina
o No bad breath
o Stronger sex drive
o No bags around eyes
o Stay cool when it’s hot / warm when it’s cool
o Little or no joint pain

So, what’s it worth? I’d say it’s priceless for the people that are serious. I do have a great service and I have only 4 weeks to make a difference.


PS and yes I bought your book, excellent by the way.

Michael Port

Thank you Chris!

Erica Glessing

Dear Michael,

So interesting, this conversation. When you are emotionally engaged with someone, that is the perfect time for them to decide if you are the right person to take them to the next level — move the needle for them.

Urgency is vital.

Authenticity, vital.

Honesty, vital.

I’ve run up against this dilemma with my book because really, what is the urgency? It’s a book! Get it when you like, use it if you like, be inspired by it if you are, or not!

What I’ve done is create quarterly “online” classes that open and close so that people who are working on that very issue at that very moment can connect in a real way.

As long as what you say is true, resonates, and is worded as such, I like it.

One way you can have fun with the whole concept is to toss in an ethical bribe. “here is an ethical bribe. If you sign up now, because we are connected now, and this is the perfect time to decide if I can help you further, I’ll give you X or Y more for playing with me.”

If not, who knows what I might be doing next year. LOL. Wait, that doesn’t work for creating a strong platform. You have to have urgency and I’ll be here forever hanging out on this platform. Sounds like conflict and waffling to me. Sorry, I guess I’m right with you on the whole topic.


Ron Smith

Michael, I think you may be asking the wrong question. Isn’t the real issue the deliverables one provides?

People’s behaviors are fairly predictable and expecting them to operate at a higher level may be admirable, but it’s just not real world.

If somewhat benign manipulations motivates someone to do something that is good for them so be it. Telling someone they are a “couch potato” and they should not be one will probably do little to change their behavior even if they want to change. If they can be manipulated into the change they want, they will thank you.

The real issues I believe is making sure your deliverables are appropriate and benefitual to the individual and ultimately not selling someone something they don’t need or really want.

Michael Port

Hi Ron, thanks for the comment. I don’t I’m asking the “wrong” question. I’m asking one question. You’re asking another. And it’s a good one. But reflection gives us the opportunity to ask lots of different questions.

Ben Robinson

Hi Michael,
Your “opening act” from SAG writing. Anyway, as to time sensitive offers etc. I have always seen that kind of marketing as over-simplified and untrue. I have seen books on as “special sale” for about 25% off and did not participate. About 3 months later I w a s able to buy same book for half of the offer. It is all about TIME management and the perception of it. The buyer is told indiscreetly, “If you do not act now or soon, you’re out.”
Now, in my biz — selling shows and lectures and my writing talents — I can’t possibly use this, but there is the paradigm, that if someone doesn’t book me on Halloween, another will.
My final opinion is this: quality cannot be faked by some sort of “made up” time referendum. If someone will part with their money, they are more than sure by the time of the purchase they will get what they are paying for.
In a society increasingly urged that “you can get what you want when you want it” I believe that these forceful tactics of “buy now!” will vanish.
Ben Robinson

Michael Port

Hi Ben! I remember you. Great to hear from you.


“Pressure Tactics” work for sure BUT . . .jeopardize Trust and Spontaneous / Genuine commitment – crucial relationship elements and so much more valuable than a “quick buck” and . . . . the choice will always be “yours”?
Have FUN!
Christo Cloete


I definitely think the outside world put pressure on us to use tactics in sales situations. You Michael are one of the people who have made me confident about not giving in to that.

If you “know” that purchasing your product/service is the right move for your customer then it should be possible to convince the customer of that without telling a single lie or bending the truth.
Saying “1 spot left, act today” is not ok in my book unless that is actually the truth.

I have a black-and-white view on this. The act of tricking someone is always bad. The end does not justify the means.

If you trick customers into buying something they don’t need, you are a cynical opportunist.
If you think you know better than the customer what he/she needs, and that shortening the sales process through using tactics is ok as long as you have the customers best interest in mind, then you are at best just arrogant and lazy.

Continue being a pussycat I’d say.

Michael J. Stone


For me, the underlying factor is the quality of your product and your belief in its value. I would argue that most freelancers and coaches undersell the value of their products. They are afraid to hype their own products and the value they can bring to their “velvet rope clients.”

If what you are doing can truly “put a dent in the Universe’ as Steve Jobs suggested we all do, it’s not Hype. As you know, having the right product is less than half the battle. The battle is in getting the product into the right hands.

To get back to the” velvet rope clients;” understanding who it is you are meant to serve should help you determine your message. We not only need to have the right message, but we need to deliver it in a way that our audience needs to “receive” it.

I find the limited time offer intriguing and effective. Even when I know it’s a marketing tool, and probably a lie, I feel like I am a pawn in the game, as I place my order.

But the point is, it only works on things that I am truly interested in buying. A limited time offer has no value what so ever, unless I have a base level of interest. The more interested I am, the more power the limited time offer has over me.

Therefore, I think the limited time offer is really a win-win. It is useless to those not interested, and filters velvet rope clients in.

When I reach the tipping point, I am forced to buy something I know deep down that I truly am interested in.

That’s my thought.

Caelan Huntress

The sense of urgency helps to close, it’s undeniable. But I’d be surprised if anyone had a customer come in over the ‘deadline’ and turned away their money, for most of these types of offers.

The happy compromise I like is a ‘limited time’ offer, and after that the price goes up. This creates a a sense of urgency, and offers a discount to the customer for acting now.

Sorry I didn’t post in the first 10 seconds after you published…but you’re still going to read this comment anyway, am I right?

Dana Leavy-Detrick

My clients are generally other creatives and consultants who are starting up small businesses and freelance ventures, and as they become more educated about marketing and starting a business – they’re going to see right through those tactics. On top of that, many of them themselves come from fields like advertising and marketing, so there’s no fooling them when it comes to marketing tactics, clearly.

For some people, the deadline-driven offers may certainly work. But what works better is relationship building – and certainly that’s not as quick a sell. But it’s more often a sale that has long-term potential because you’ve established trust and rapport with your client, versus fulfilling on a generalized, quick promise. Those kinds of tactics make a person sound like they’ll just work with anyone who’s willing to hit the PayPal button, and that lacks credibility to me. By not doing that, I feel that I’m doing myself more of a service by better qualifying my potential client. Good topic!


Hi Michael –
You’re right …. over time I’ve found that the “pressured sales” are the ones that I really didn’t want, or that leave an unethical feeling for me. Someone impulsively buys something that they don’t end up taking advantage of. How does that make me feel (not great). Thank you for mentioning this. We want the right clients, not any and all clients. Energy can lie temporarily, but only for that long.

Bud Bilanich

My thoughts are simple: when in doubt tell the truth.
If you say something is a one time offer, make sure it is a one time offer.
If you say you’ll be only opening 10 slots, open 10 slots, not 100. I’ve got more than one internet marketer in a lie about how many people they admit to their program.
In the end, you have only your reputation. Don’t ruin it by misrepresenting yourself.
All the best,
Bud Bilanich

Steve Healey

Phewww, did I make it in time Michael!?
As you probably expect I don’t like any kind of BS.
If I can’t grow it honorably then I’ll do something else.
Big surprise huh!

Bernardo Mendez


I get you 100%

Obviously having a deadline works and scarcity is a tactic used by many people in the marketing community. However, I personally absolutely hate being pressured into buying something and actually feel that today the kind of people I want to attract for my own business are intelligent and conscious enough to see past the BS and demand a more authentic and compassionate approach.

I believe that there is room for people who sell with heart and without games to create not just a surplus of business but a new playing field for others to venture to sell in a more authentic way.

I fully recognize I will leave some money on the table but I will do so knowing I did not betray my own principles in the process nor doing something I would not myself like to experience.

Thanks for the post


Michele Price (@prosperitygal)

These practices, why I keep hearing they are effective, do not call to me as a consumer or as a provider.

A man that I once went to his workshop reminded us to be clear about who we want to work with. I know that is not my core client – one who deals in scarcity mindset.

Jennifer Michelle

I think a sense of being conflicted keeps us honest. After all, our goal is to help people, but we also want to get paying clients, so we are walking a line. I think the focus on giving a ton to every client, and making sure it’s actually stuff they want and can use, keeps the balance point where it should be. (I also think the BYS system shows a great method for doing exactly that.)

For me, I think a deadline is fine, but what I hate is when a sales page is written so that you can feel the sense of pressure increasing. I find it to be a dreadful experience – I know enough about copywriting and sales tactics to see what they’re doing and how it works, and yet I really hate being that emotionally manipulated. Especially if I’m at some vulnerable moment – it seems unfair.

Presenting clear information, though, and pointing out exactly what need I have that it can address, has a totally different feel to it. If that’s presented with a limited-time offer, it feels fine.


I am comfortable doing it when it is true.

For example I am in the service business and when I say
There are only 10 spots availible for November left, it is true! …and
People always respond.

What do you think of that scenario?


Donald Wickham

Hi Michael,

I’ve always wanted to voice my thoughts on this very subject. I agree with you completely. I hate being manipulated and always feel that is exactly what is being done with this type of “sales” pitch. I have no problems with a real limit or scarcity. Such as a limited number who can be part of a group/class. But the phoney limits are just flat lies.

Thanks for stepping up and letting the discussion get started.


Sarah Yost

I hear you on this, Michael. However, I see deadlines as a built in framework to help people succeed. Just like deadlines are super helpful in our own lives. When there’s a deadline, I get it done. Yes, I do some things out of a natural motivation to experience pleasure of some sort. But usually I need a framework to keep me on track. Deadlines, lists, limits. All of those things serve something larger. Same thing with deadlines for our offerings. Yes, if we were always available, some people would still jump on. But creating some structure opens it up for many more people to succeed.

Obviously, these have to not be creepy, fear-driven things that we use to scare people into participating.


Hi Michael –

One of the things I love about you is that you bring up important topics like this. Knowing what I know about psychology, how our brains work, and how we make decisions, there’s no way to see most of these techniques, IMO, as anything other than unethical manipulation – especially the ones that involve false scarcity.

I can certainly see why someone might make an offer available for a limited time when it involves some type of group program that has a set starting date. I also don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to have an offer that is available for a limited time. However, there needs to be enough time so that the process of considering the decision can be done thoroughly and rationally, and with a limit like 24 or 48 hours, that’s unlikely to happen. For some folks, it probably won’t even happen with a timeframe like a week.


Derek Olsen

Michael –

(First, I loved your book)

Interesting take on these sales tactics. I agree that they aren’t wrong when used honestly as a motivator. (But the html code Jason mentioned is crossing the line.)

I wonder if it is actually good for the customer who need a little push (or pull) to buy a product. If they wouldn’t have purchased the product without the push and the product turned out to really help the customer, that is a win.

However it is not a win if, like you mentioned, the customer buys and turns out to be a less than ideal client. This is a bad outcome that could have also occurred even without the “offer.” So, it isn’t necessarily the push that causes this outcome. It might happen more often, but it isn’t the cause.

The law of scarcity is a fact of life that rightly affects our decisions as humans. I think the bottom line is that that law of scarcity is a positive motivator that is sometimes misused by pushy salesmen.

Did I make the 10 second club?



I work in the fitness industry and believe that if you have to push them much to take action you will have to keep pushing them to comply and adhere.

I agree, let them see the value and make a decision on their own with no pressure snd you end up with clients that are much easier to work with.

Kimberly Sheridan

Hey Michael,

I’m fine with making any urgency based claim … if it’s true.

I do believe that humans often resist taking action on things that are going to get us what we want in lives & in our businesses based on hidden fears & internal motivators. So unless there is some sort of reason to overcome our resistance, most of us will just stay where we are.

Most people live by the equation …


… and never get the life they REALLY want.

If I have to help them decrease their Resistance & increase their Desire in order for them to choose to take an action that’s going to get them closer to what they SAY they want, I’ll do it … as long as I do it with integrity.

The sales tactic that gets me is the B.S. marketing formulas with email subject lines like “Frankly, Kimberly, I’m confused …” (leading in to an email about why I haven’t taken action on their offer).

This type of email always prompts me to answer out loud … “Oh don’t be confused, I’m not interested in what you’re offering. You shouldn’t be confused at all.”

I’m usually able to let these slide by without getting too fiery about it, but when one of the leaders in the self-development/mindset field (who I admired) did it, I shot off an email to them begging them to market in alignment with their wonderful teachings. Didn’t get a response from that one. Oh well.

I figure if you run your business in alignment with who you are as a person, you’ll get all the clients, peers, partnerships & friendships that you need.

Thanks Michael!


Hi Michael

Good topic.

My take is simple, if it’s genuine and real that’s fine. So, say you’re running a workshop and either because of the room, the way the materials work or whatever, the maximum is 10 – then to say ‘When the first 10 seats are filled, that’s it’ – is fine.

If it’s just spin I think most people will see through it and it does not look or feel right. To me it’s in with the old ‘your pen or mine’ selling tactics from decades ago!

All the best from the Uk

Ryan Greene

This is a great topic! The end was hilarious. As an author and speaker I wrestle with this marketing tactic as well. I have a degree in marketing so I know it works and the psychology Behind it, however KNOWING there is no real scarcity or creating a false urgency has never sat right with me. And as a consumer, eventually you get hip to it and tune out tr message anyway. Forcing someone to buy, may put money in your pocket but it won’t create those lifelong customers we’re all looking for.

Melissa H

Hi all,

I feel like transparency is a much more effective tactic in gaining the trust of the consumer. Take this blog post- you’re basically saying here’s a tactic I sometimes use, but at the same time I’m going to empower you with the knowledge of how these tactics work, and by imparting some of this insider info you’ll feel more respected as a consumer and allow the tactic without seeing it as aggressive or deceitful. It’s an approach that’s very relevant in our current culture of wanting to know the truth behind a barrage of politics and PR spins, etc.

Kimberly Houston

I love this discussion!

I’ve noticed that alot of so-called “sales tactics” that used to fly by my radar completely unnoticed now bother the bejesus out of me, and I’m not sure why. Maybe because after 3 years of doing some of my own biz marketing online, I’ve seen one too many promotions. I find it hard to use some of these tactics, in fact, I never have, but maybe I’d sell more if I did. I prefer to make offers in the least douchy way possible. 🙂

That said, I think some of these practices are warranted — like when there is genuine scarcity, such as when a solopreneur only has room to take on 3 new clients or what-have-you.

What’s been irritating me recently is all these folks who claim their program is “shutting down, that’s it, get it now, it’s now or never,” then two days later you get an email saying, “So many people were disappointed they couldn’t get in that we’re reopening the shopping cart for 24 hours only!” It’s feels completely disingenous. Especially when you see the same thing after nearly every launch.

I’m glad to know there’s someone else who doesn’t feel comfortable putting pressure on people, even when there’s a true deadline. I knew I wasn’t the only one, but alot of the ubersuccessful guys online don’t seem to feel badly about doing it.

The peop


Ok, I know this likely sounds kind of “woo-woo”, but perhaps the answer as to whether these sorts of tactics should be engaged in comes down to intent. What I mean is this–if you can really only work with 50 students comfortably, after which point each student isn’t getting your best, then yeah–cut off at 50–& if someone doesn’t get in because they failed to act, then, well–they had an opportunity of which they didn’t take advantage. If you have a product that you couldn’t sell at a particular discount all the time & still have it remain profitable, but want to give some folks an opportunity who otherwise might not be able to afford it to get that particular product, then I see nothing wrong w/a time-sensitive discount offer. One does, after all, have to remain profitable in order to stay in business, else, by definition, it isn’t a business. Not only so, but if one can’t keep the lights on or the pantry shelves reasonably stocked, one doesn’t have a business, either, as a business generally requires electricity & a person behind the desk whose major concern is that they haven’t eaten in several days.

If the intent is simply to drive sales, however, & it’s not really customer-oriented, then I’m not sure how right those sorts of tactics are. I think some introspection is ultimately the way to determine one’s intent, & thereby, whether or not these kinds of tactics should be used in a particular situation.

Mary Ann Sircely

I’m conflicted about these tactics as well. I much prefer the soft soft sell, always giving people a chance to come back another time when they are ready. Hype around the call to action often can attract the wrong people.

Martin Stellar

“Hype around the call to action can often attract the wrong people” – That there is a crucial point. It’s there where you see the level of ethics of the seller.

In itself, there’s nothing wrong with a limited offer or limited time offer, but it’s only ‘right’ if, as mentioned, there is a true, valid reason.

If it’s engineered scarcity? Then they’re cheapos, doing nothing more than playing numbers.

That brings me to the quote: Sellers without too many scruples care nought about ‘the wrong people’. To that kind, only people who don’t buy are ‘the wrong people’. Anyone who buys is fair game to them. Not very nice.

Kathy Scheiern

I agree with Bud. Tell the truth. If there are only 10 slots left in the program, say that. If you can only take 25 people in a particular program say that. People should know when something has limited availability. Then they can make their decisions based on all the facts. No lying, no misrepresenting. In the financial world, it’s called “transparency”. My two cents.

Melonya Johnson


You bring up an interesting point. I can’t speak for everyone but as a consumer I have become desensitized to these types of sales tactics. At one point I was intrigued by this approach and considered using it myself however; the people who employ them use them entirely too often. It’s the equivalent of the boy who cried wolf.

I can appreciate a true deadline, limited offering or phenomenal savings/sale/discount however my motivation for purchasing is because the product or service has value. I personally detest heavy handed salesmanship and marketing. We see it all the time and after a while it doesn’t mean much. When I realize that a business uses this type of sales pitch frequently I tend not to respond.

Ellie Pope

I hate being pressured, so I don’t like it as a sales tactic.

BUT, as a practitioner, it costs me when someone waits to register. If they register AT an event, I process all the registrations together. I also know how many are registered, and whether I need to do more marketing to fill my class.

When people wait, and I have to call people to invite them, or I don’t know how many are “thinking about it” til the class starts, it costs me time, money and headaches.

So I do offer special pricing. The specials are really giving them BACK the money I have saved. And if anyone wants to back out within 48 hours, no problem. (I even hold off on running the cards until that time has passed.)

I see this as honest and fair.

Tal Rachleff

Thanks for this, Michael. I’ve been studying Internet Marketing for a few years and have many of the same concerns you do. That’s probably why I’ve always liked your vibe. 🙂

I believe that what really matters is relationships – and that there’s a ‘residue’ to the marketing tactics and strategies that we employ.

So even if certain tactics ‘work’ from an individual entrepreneur’s perspective, what are the unintended consequences or externalized costs of that marketing?

It’s an open inquiry I’m in, and I’m glad to hear that someone of your influence is in it, too. Thank you for sharing with us.

Monique Gallagher

Hi Michael,

I have noticed that people are becoming increasingly sensitive to and rejecting of hypocrisy. I believe that if we are not being completely true to who we are in selling or in life it can be felt. Firstly it doesn’t feel good as we are doing it but also it doesn’t feel good to the people we are meant to serve.

Soft sell is the way to go!

missing chatting with you,


Alexandra Wagner

Dear Michael,

If you don’t feel comfortable with this kind of methods why on earth would you use them? I think you offer something valuable, you are not in the start up phase where a missed sales opportunity might mean bread & water for dinner, so why do something you dislike? I think most of us are so engaged in the better-bigger-more race that it’s nice at times to just relax, sit back and enjoy your success instead of putting the next bigger carrot in front of your own nose even if it means you’ll have to resort to snake-oil-merchant-methods. Especially in your case where your authenticity is one of your big assets.

In fact how about doing the exact opposite? Why not use the success you have achieved so far as a platform for doing/offering something you really really feel passionate about but have been reluctant so far because it seemed too outlandish or radical? I’m sure most of your clients would appreciate it and be willing to follow you into new territory, when your heart is in it.

i’m just a minor customer of yours, I just read your books, but really found them very helpful and rather unique in the sales literature. So thanks for the good work, and stay yourself:)

All the best,

Chris King

Great article Michael (and intriguing web copy to get to me read it and comment) ; )

Scarcity is a powerful trigger to motivate people to act. In my biz, I do whatever I can to get people to buy because I know how much the information we deliver will change their lives. When you’re 100% committed to service and can stand so firmly in your offering, I think it’s fine to use scarcity as a sales strategy. I know in my personal life – I am highly motivated by it.

I on the other do not agree with falsely manufactured scarcity. If you’re going to use this strategy – always do it with full integrity and create a real reason for the limited availability. We never put out a claim that isn’t true or real.

I say go out and deliver more value to your clients than they could possibly imagine. Rock their world! Do whatever you can to get them to buy so you have the opportunity to serve them. Then you’ll feel really good about it!

Love ya buddy!

Michael Shook

It used to be that during a big launch all the servers went down because of the traffic. Every single time.

Then sometimes it is the payment processor who temporarily froze the account because so many people wanted in. And truthfully, those things do happen and that is why a friendly call to your hosting company or to Paypal can help you out with no issue.

I don’t believe any of them anymore, but I know that with many products, the next version of it is right around the corner, so I don’t get too worried about missing it.

Hashim Warren

Michael, there are other tactics that get people off the fence that might feel less pushy, and weed out bad clients.

For instance, an application process before a student can even pay you. If someone fills out the application, they’ve made a mental commitment to follow through if selected.

This way, you can be pushy about something that is low risk (the application) but and allow people to make their decision under no pressure if selected.

Gloria M. Miele, Ph.D.

Hi Michael. I know what you’re saying. My background is as a clinical psychologist, and my training in psychotherapy precludes pushing. As a coach, my role has changed. My approach is similar to yours. Right or wrong, you sell the best when you’re authentic and focused on the needs of the client. If you’re uncomfortable with a certain approach, it will be hard to be genuine and that will come across to prospects. Thanks for sharing this one.

Kathy Donchak

I have issues with that as well. I just ran a “daily deal” for my business and during the process of selecting the proper company for my deal I was told that I should inflate my offering to have a better margin. I would never do that but I wonder how many would. I feel like the coaching deals that are deceptive leave that person with much less credibility. I also feel like if you are confident in the value of your product or service you would not need a gimmick to sell it. It is one thing to discount for a period of time for more exposure to your brand and another to be deceptive. Enjoy your books and blog, your BYS is one I come back to time and again.


Michael –

I love that you brought up this topic.

Although this is probably one of the less egregious selling tactics in use, I can certainly relate to your conflict around it.

There are many more dirty selling secrets that I called out on a teleseminar I did last week about “How to Manipulate & Exploit Others In 5 Easy Steps” (If you want a chuckle, check out http://manipulateandexploit.com).

I admire your ethics and hold myself and my clients to that same standard in how I approach and teach sales. Thanks!

J Brett Abbey


It appears you’re also conflicted about what side of the fence you are on. Take a stand.

For me, it’s honesty. No gimmicks. No tricks. Just a simple, honest message. Because one thing I’ve learned in over 25 years in the marketing/advertising field is this … When you create the right message to the right person, the right way, good things will happen. And business will come to you.

J. Brett Abbey
The Message Master

Lisa Rothstein

These tactics are cheesy but standard in our industry. I’ve come to expect them and they don’t bother me that much anymore.

When I run my own programs, if there are limiters like this I always give a good reason — only the first 10 get a private session with me because that’s simply all the time I have available, or I’m giving them the incentive because I want to fill the program by a certain date so we can get started on content sooner, or there are only so many spots so that everyone can get enough one on one attention. It’s all true…and again, these limiters are par for the course so I don’t feel too bad doing it.


I also feel uncomfortable with such sales techniques, which is what drew me to buy (and use) your book in the first place. I am just starting and getting my ducks in order, but I really appreciate having the book as a general guide.
A few years ago I was under a lot of pressure to make money, and ended up going to one of those free workshops where they make time sensitive offers for very high priced programs –and those programs were about reproducing those very same techniques. I signed up for it in the middle of the well crafted and created hype of the workshop, and once in it I realized that doing this type of sales was not my cup of tea. Suddenly the value of the whole thing was close to zero for me.
Though, even as I am writing this, I do think it is good to draw the distinction between the time sensitive technique, how it is used, and the spirit behind it. I have seen people that I trust in their integrity do “early bird” registrations to make sure they can even hold a workshop by a certain date, which does not really bother me. They say something like this “If you are already planning on attending, you can take advantage of the Early Bird Registration…” It is directed to move into action sooner those that were planning to move anyway. Probably looses sales, but in other ways it gains, because they also gain more respect and trust.
After my experience with the high pressure sales I was fairly depressed, because I started thinking that was what it was all about (sales, not the hokey pokey…). So, coming full circle, I found your book and it gave me hope I could market myself as a relationship coach and workshop leader and walk the walk of actually caring for my clients as people. I want my clients to come to me because they know and trust I can help them and not because they are taking advantage of a time-sensitive offer or making them believe (i.e. manipulating them) into thinking I am the only one that can help them and this is their only chance they have… Maybe it was more than 2 cents, but I hope you keep doing what you’re doing.

Deb Sakal

Hi Michael, I totally understand where you are coming from. I’ve been in sales & marketing for many years and have seen the changes over the years when 20 years ago the only way to reach your b2b market was to get names onto your database, do a telemarketing campaign to make appointments and send a brochure. Today, I see all these tactics as a form of spam and I abhor spam or all kinds! The world has changed & customers have changed: they are better educated, more savvy, and basically expect more when it comes to making buying decisions. I myself still struggle with these issues, lets fact it it’s easier for me to hire a telemarketing company to get appointments than it is for me to spend time networking and build relationships to sell and market with integrity to build the “know – like – trust” factor which all good sales and marketing is based on. Of course these days I concentrate on the latter as I’ve learnt that this way I get more sales, it may take longer at the outset, but it ultimately results in being able to work with the clients I’m meant to work with. Regarding the specific tactics you refer to in this blog, I personally think there is a place for them, if used sensitively and with integrity (there’s that word again!), you put it well when you say that sometimes a clients needs that extra push. Of course I know this conflicts with the view that clients shouldn’t need pushing, but really? We all need pushing sometimes, as long as it’s in a genuinely positive and honest way. This probably isn’t the clear cut answer that you wanted Michael, but hey, thats life, it’s never cut and dried and sales & marketing isn’t either. Anyhow, this is my take on the issue, I do hope it is of use to you. I’m looking forward to seeing you in LA. Warmest wishes, Deb. 🙂

Jennifer Cheng

I’m so glad you wrote about this topic. I know people are generally more reactive, so they DO respond to deadlines.

As a coach, I feel like I’m being pushy by creating deadlines on my own, but if I don’t people don’t respond. Many people say they want something, but when do they will they actually take action? It depends on what is jumping to their attention. I guess maybe we’re uncomfortable with jumping around or possibly being obnoxious?

PS Thank you for your terrific humor!

Kathleen Ellis

Great article, thanks for sharing! I don’t agree with a lot of “marketing tactics”…..I follow my instinct mostly! I want volunteers….eager participants….people need to have enough information to make an intelligent decision….I feel very uncomfortable with the “emotional manipulation” so many use.
I don’t feel good when it is used on me…and I don’t want to make anyone feel “used”!


Maryellen Smith

Hi Michael,

I especially enjoyed the last paragraph of this post. 🙂

I also feel conflicted about the kinds of sales tactics that you’re describing. However, I have also seen that they work. Generally speaking, the level of time that is takes for the average person to make a decision and take action always surprises me. On one hand, I think you can be doing someone a favor by encouraging them to act. On the other hand, I think it’s important to maintain authenticity.

The one tactic that I definitely do have a problem with is the “limited number” approach. I’ve seen this sales tactic blatantly exploited and do not appreciate it at all. Most of the time it is blatant deception and there isn’t a limited number at all.

So, there’s my two cents, for what it’s worth. 🙂

Bye for now…

PS: I consistently promote Book Yourself Solid. I love telling people: This book changed my life and it can change yours too!


These tactics never work with me, to be honest my gut tells me when I see these sorts of offers that there is something desperate about the seller/product, and I’m inclined to not believe. I’m not a person given to such tactics and are usually are put off by any such kind of pressure. My view is if a product is good it sells and sustains.

Mary Kutheis

I know that they work, but I just can’t do it. I did in the past because I caved to pressure that “everyone successful does it.” But it just felt skeezy. So no more.

When I’m sold to this way, I know it’s a hunk of baloney so I base my decision on the product or service, not the high pressure deadline. If I’m so on the fence that I can’t make a decision comfortably before the deadline, then it wasn’t the right time to take it on. In my experience all helpful information comes back around in one way or another.

I feel the same way about overdone adjectives and ridiculous claims for success. But I also know that those work, too. The infomercial syndrome brought to service products sold online. But that’s another topic.

So, more sales would be great, but I can’t sacrifice authenticity. No false declarations of spots available or limits on time to act. If I want to employ those tactics I have to take the risk that I could lose sales when I stick to what I advertised.

Michael Port

Right on Mary.

Laura Kessler

Well said, Mary. The infomercial formula is so annoying! We are service providers, not household gizmos! 🙂

Cherie Sohnen-Moe

Unless there is truly a limitation, I think these tactics are obnoxious. I understand the psychology behind them, yet I personally don’t want to pander to those standards. If it means I lose a few potential clients — then so be it.

I have seriously considered signing up for some interesting courses myself, but then the hard-sell approach begins and I leave….


I agree with you Michael and while I know that sometimes these things must be done for proper planning..especially for live events, integrity is key. I hate feeling pressured to make a decision when I know those deadlines aren’t really true. I was speaking with someone yesterday and they were trying to sell me something. They said yesterday was the last day of the sale BUT if I decided afterwards, just send a personal email to get the savings…hunh?

Another pet peeve of mine is the “It’s my birthday and I’m giving you a gift of 25% off of my xyz”. Again, there is nothing unethical about it but I personally do not see that as a ‘gift’. Why not just say it’s my birthday and I’m celebrating with a 25% off sale..I know it’s the same but the latter approach feels better to me personally. (-;

Michael Port

Oh, my goodness! Yes, I’m so with you about the birthday thing. I just advised a client against that the week before last.

Misty Robinson

In my opinion, the focus should be on influencing (not persuading) people to take action.

If you’re influencing your primary concern is others.
If you’re persuading then your primary concern is you.

Influencers are never forgotten due to the impact they make.
Persuaders are remembered but it’s usually for negative reasons.

Deadlines for quality reasons are great.
Deadlines for greed reasons are not.

Michael, your character and integrity resonate well with me….You rock 🙂

Michael Port

Misty, you resonate and rock with me too!

Audrey Piepmeier

Hi Michael,
My answer is really about how I feel when these tactics are used on me. I really dislike it, and it made the difference between choosing you and not choosing another business master to follow. If someone pressures me, I definitely don’t feel like they care about me first, but rather, that they care about their sales. If there are only 10 spots in a program, that can be relevant information that I want to know, as well as enrollment deadlines, but that’s just information. The other stuff is pressure, and who makes their best decisions with that? Thanks for being real about this!

Michael Port

Really good point. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be of service to you.

Laura Kessler

Hi Michael!
Thanks for yet another timely and provocative article. You’ve always been a genuine and much-needed Thought Leader regarding the ethical issues that increasingly face our industry and its integrity, as well as external perception of us. Once again, you are a step ahead of most..

As coaching self-saturates to dizzying levels and multiplies at record speeds with few barriers to entry, we need to continually examine ways in which we are being genuine teachers and service providers, and not just savvy internet marketers keeping pace with the pack.

Personally, I share your ambivalence. Such tactics feel awkward to me. I can see some logic – perhaps occasional necessity – in doing this ‘one to many’ in large or live groups for group programs or events that run on a fixed schedule. Early bird savings also feel fine to me as a nice, standard incentive. However, 1:1 privately just doesn’t set well with me unless it is merely enforcing a standard policy or deadline across the board that is equal to everyone transparently.

Thanks again for keeping ethics and integrity high in the national conversation!

PS – Hello and a shout out to Matthew!


Hi Michael,
I understand your conflict. I feel that the conflict could be that people respond in different ways – some need a deadline for accountability or they will drag their feet and others know when it’s something that is right for them and sign up. For me, if it is something I feel I need, I will sign up but there are times that I’d love to join but the factor of the cost or I can’t commit will effect my decision. Since people respond differently, it can’t be black or white.

I think you’ve done fantastic job with your business and should just continue to go with a case-by-case scenario, meaning if the program fits and you feel there should be a deadline then do it. If it’s a program you don’t feel needs one, then don’t. Your business sense and intuition has been guiding you well so far. I personally would rather gain abundance being authentic and true to myself than the opposite. :o)


The second someone tries to pressure me into something,I think, “Ah, they are either desperate or they don’t really need my money,” and I move on. Bonus incentives are better to get me to sign up. I shut down under threats.

Linda Lee Rahn


I am not conflicted. If someone needs to embellish the truth, then the truth must not be too impressive. Integrity is monumental in relationships so why comprise it?

Linda Lee

Michael Port

Of course, I agree with you completely Linda. I’m not suggesting that I’m conflicted about telling the truth. I raising the question of using tactics like deadlines to help move buyers into action. I like to explore as many sides of an issue as are visible to me and then I like to have people point out even more sides to consider.

Peter Axtell

First of all, I have to commend you Michael for the honest consistency of your message and what you stand for. I’ve been following you for years and only bought a few of your books. You are however in my mind because of your honest message and consistency in marketing.

It only takes one small misstep to undo years of reputation building. I think people are hyper sensitive to lying, exaggeration, self serving motivations and in turn it takes a lot to build trust with a prospect.

I personally teach and coach the idea of gardening. People think the cause of their sales is the lie or exaggeration they told in the moment. It isn’t. Any more than a corn seed doesn’t mature into a plant overnight. You’ll never get a rose bush from a corn seed ever. This is just how things work.

So the cause of someone buying from us is that we told the truth in the past and now we experience a person saying yes without coercion. It’s like a corn plant doesn’t have to be manipulated into growing into a corn plant if you plant a corn seed.

Over time, if you adhere strictly to conveying true impressions (like you do Michael) and always telling the truth, it is impossible not to succeed. Trouble is, it’s very hard to do this all the time every time.

So when someone doesn’t buy from you in the moment and you’ve told them the truth, then you’ve planted a good seed to see either that prospect or someone else buying from you.

So lying and manipulation is planting a weed and well…you’ll just get a weed eventually.

All the great teachers said the same thing. You cannot get figs from thistles.Impossible.

I think the answer to your own question Michael is another question.What does your world look like to you? Are you happy and fulfilled? Do you have a wonderful community of people that feed and support and love you? Do you have enough money to live comfortably? Are you physically healthy? Have you brought a beautiful contribution to the world?
I’m obviously not in your mind but from over here it looks like the answer might be…yes…on all counts.

Keep doing what you do…it’s working.

Best Regards,

Peter Axtell

Michael Port

What a wonderful and thoughtful comment Peter. Thank you.

Tony Eddicott

People are better informed than ever before and becoming more so. As a result some classic tactics are looking transparent, cheesy and in some cases patronising. Credibility is diminished and any potential relationship is also undermined…that’s not very forward thinking so not hugely impressive!

Although I’ve mostly come to accept this practice my instinctive reaction is to unsubscribe…

There’s no conflict Michael. Integrity is a far superior and longer lasting currency.

Michael Port

Agree completely Tony. The gray area for me isn’t about integrity. That’s a no brainer but rather tactics – even when fully disclosed and truthful – are used to get people to buy faster. That’s the area that I think opens the door for discussion b/c it’s everywhere you look on virtually everything you buy.

Steve McDonald


I’m really not conflicted about it. If you have a limited number of items for sale then it’s OK. If it is a time sensitive offer, like your coaching program, then it’s OK.

However, if this is strictly hype to move conversions I would not do it. I would rather be upfront with my customers and build long-term relationships. I think hype marketing catches up to you in the long run.

Thanks for all your great content and excellent BYS course material!


Michael Port

Great points Steve. And your welcome. It’s my privilege to create for you.



I am with you on this subject. I will not put pressure on people to buy. There are a couple of reasons for this, firstly at the first sign of a problem the usual thought that arises is ” I knew I shouldn’t have done this, I should have listened to my self” and recovery is hard. The second is with a willing client I believe the client is more open and with that a better relationship will develop. You help them, they help me improve. You may leave some immediate cash on the table, but you will reap it many times over later with a few good testimonials from those fewer clients who were more than happy to sign up. The long term is flourishing and the short just surviving.

Best Wishes,

Martin Brownhill


I find it frustrating as a coach when you feel you can really help someone but they wont take the final step. In that case a LEGITIMATE nudge is in order. If you really can only take a few more clients then that is all you can take and it is fair to make the point. I give seasonal discounts – I am quiet in July and August so I give a discount to people who want to start a program then.
For new start ups that don’t have much money I give them a significant discount if I work with them on Friday afternoons when my regular clients don’t want to know me!

On the other hand this BS that we see too often now of “its only available for 20 minutes” etc is annoying, disgraceful and I think people are now becoming well aware that it is also meaningless.

As long as we are happy with our own integrity as coaches I don’t feel a conflict. If I am not happy with a course of action I don’t do it. This is my conflict resolution process.




This is a great question, one I think about all the time both as a seller, and as a buyer.

As a buyer, I always feel manipulated by deadlines. I think it’s because the reason I’m not buying is because I’m not sold yet. Having a deadline or even a discount offered usually doesn’t sell me. They only work if I’m already sold but just trying to figure out how to pay for something or get it scheduled. I’m pretty far down the pipeline for a deadline to work on me.

Switching hats to the seller side of the equation, I find deadlines tempting as a sales practice because I don’t like all the uncertainty and handwringing of waiting for people to buy something or sign up for something. I want them to make their decision and act on it within 24 hours so I can let go of the hand-wringing and go on with the planning.

But really, the buyer and the seller want the same result. The Seller wants the buyer to be sold on the product, and the buyer wants to be sold on the product. We all know nothing happens until the buyer’s sold.

In general, I think entrepreneurs treat prospects as though they are farther along in the pipeline than they may really be. I do it myself if I”m not careful. If someone has signed up for an RSS feed, well, that must mean they’re ready to buy! So I’ll hit them with a deadline or a preferred customer discount on something. In truth, that’s almost always overreaching.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could ask your mailing list to classify themselves? Like… I’m still getting to know you, so send me newsletters and announcements for the next 90 days. Or, I want to be the first to know about deals and deadlines so I can take one of your seminars in the next 3-6 months. Or, I’m a looky-lou right now, I’ll just browse on my own for now. If you knew that about each subscriber, then you could target how you approach them. If they say they’re ready to buy in 3-6 months, then they are at the very tip of the pipeline and probably receptive to deadlines and discounts.

Sounds labor intensive, but I really think sales are made one at a time unless you’re selling laundry soap or something.

Thanks for getting me to think more about this!


Michael Port

Jayne, I am the luckiest guy in the world b/c I have the coolest, deepest thinkers as readers of my blog. I’m tickled pink and deeply honored to serve you.

Randy Bridges

Michael –

I’ve become accustomed to finding clients who buy, not the ones who need to be sold (the Velvet Rope Policy helped me to define that). The major difference for me is that Buying looks for agreement that the product/service is right for everyone (buyer and seller included), whereas Selling tends to only look for agreement that the sale can be completed. I know that is a simplification, but it serves an important distinction.

High-pressure tactics – such as a “the time to buy is closing”, “we can’t hold this price forever” and a “limited numbers” approach – all follow a Selling principle. A Selling approach most often appeals to the impulse buyer. The Selling principle has many drawbacks – for example, Buyer’s Remorse generally follows such a decision (which does not work well when you are selling to the same people again). In addition, failure to adhere to the limited opportunity clearly makes someone out to be a liar. Finally, people will often ask why you can’t offer the discount tomorrow if you can offer it today.

On the other hand, the Buying principle removes most, if not all, limitations from the decision. Buying (in fact, nearly all consultative selling) allows the customer to feel confident in either making a purchase or in saying “No” to the purchase. It also allows them to look for other possible solutions with the seller or to simply say “Not now” (which is a decision people use frequently).

There will always be people who live by the impulse buy; however, I prefer it when the person on the other side understands the benefit to them of my services, sees the value in improving their business/position, and can anticipate the longevity of my solutions. In that case, where is the need for high-pressure sales tactics?

Michael Port

Amazing comments Randy. Thank you!

Tracy Reed

People buy more based on why you opened your business, which subconsciously reflects to them how you’ll treat your customers. If you are passionate about the problems you solve, you solve the problem your customer has, and communicate the why properly, they will be more loyal and they don’t mind paying a little more. I’d rather have these customers than ones who have been manipulated into the sale any day.


I completely resonate with feeling conflicted about using scarcity to motivate people. Especially if it’s manufactured scarcity, then it’s clearly not in alignment with my values.
However, if there is real scarcity — truly only so many seats in the room for an event that starts on a specific date, then it is simply stating a fact that there is an opportunity with an end-date.
Where I draw the line is “what is my intention?” If I am truly about being of service, and what I’m offering really does help people, then I’m open to being more bold.
But nobody likes being manipulated, which people will see through, and it will most likely backfire.
Long-term connections and lifetime value of my clients are important to me, so I will do what I can to keep everything authentic and with a high level of integrity.

Zita Fekete

Hi Michael,

You made me laugh, thanks! It’s so cheap we know what kind of control is applied on us but still we comply…

It makes me crazy how much manipulation is built into our sales process. I cannot avoid deadlines and fake scarcity, but once I switched off a Webinar when the presenter taught (selling coaching): “Ah, so you are not that motivated to develop your business.” (…if you not buying my or other coaches business developing products…)

Actually I am so irritated by the manipulation what effect us in our everyday life, that I am working on an Anti-Manipulation Boot Camp. This way I have no choice but recognize and resist. This is what I teach…

..with registration deadline and fake scarcity…

Did you say you are confused?



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Michael, Another aspect of this issue for me is pop-ups. Am I the only one offended, when in the middle of my reading something, a pop-up interrupts and offers me a “special opportunity”. When that happens, I always leave the site (sometimes triggering “Before you leave…” or lower price offer pop-ups). Relationships are the key for me. Thanks for wanting to take the high road.

Collette Gaskin-Gutierrez

When it comes to appraising the value of high-pressure sales tactics, it may be useful to compare your business model to a romantic relationship. You and your ideal client would be “consenting” adults negotiating your way from “courtship” through various levels of “commitment.”

Your marketing would be wooing the client from being curious, to captivated, to concerned. As the businessperson, you would be the one who is intentional about taking the relationship to the next level.

The question then becomes “What are your intentions?” If your intentions are “chaste” you are going to ask to move forward and allow the other person to make a decision based on how much s/he values your “company” and “compatibility.”

At that point, “convincing” would just be a matter of rehearsing the high points of your courtship and offering a deeper level of commitment.

However, if your intention is a quickie “close”, then convincing may deteriorate into coercion. Anything from sweet talk to squeeze tactics may be no moral dilemma for you. Although, afterward, your client may feel as if you had taken advantage.

Michael, if you’re conflicted about the idea of using high-pressure sales tactics, could it be that you’re just a hopelessly romantic businessperson who values deepening client relationships… hmmm?

Michael Port

Yes collette, I am hopelessly romantic!


Hi Michael,

I really despise pressure. I want to sign up for things in which I see value, not because I’m pressured to do so, but because I see the value. And I don’t want to hurry up and “do it now” when I am not READY to do it now! Not procrastinating, not READY.

That’s why I love your book, and your work study programs, and your weekly blogs and webinars. When you speak, I hear respect in your voice. When I read your books I read respect. And I love that.

But if you offer me a “buy this or lose out” proposition, I will lose out every time…….

Ruth Sheahan

I’m conflicted too. I don’t like dishonesty– really ever. But I also know this tack works. Not only that it works, but it works ON me. Even when I know I’m being played it works because there is that small chance that the crossed out “regular” price will come back and I’ll miss out. Or that the class will be full.

I’m a sucker and I know it 🙂


Biggest Sale of the Year, Limited Time Only, Only 10 Left, Only So Many Seats Left, If you buy now…If I had a $1.00 for everytime I get one of these emails or see an advertisement like that, I would be set.

Don’t like it and have started to unsubsribe to people and companies who do this. Like a few have said, if that is indeed true, then go for it. If it isn’t and you will be emailing the same people back in a few days or weeks, then you may push them away for good.

My 2 pennies worth.


Susanne Morrone

Do I hear used car salesman somewhere in this lesson? There’s respect and trust that results by offering value from a heart of service, integrity, professionalism, and easily-discernable expertise. I would be very shocked if you would conduct business any other way than the impeccable and consistent high standards synonymous with you. You’ve raised the bar for everyone to note. Remember that red velvet rope is set up by insightful customers and clients as well. :0)

Robert Matuszak

I believe that integrity is important in developing business and personal relationships. We have to walk our talk. Do what we say. I have seen the contrary happen to me too many times. As had been told to me many moons ago, don’t promise anything you can’t deliver.

I give people a choice. If I feel there needs a reasonable deadline to respond, say for a seminar or other training, then it will be done. But I don’t like the idea of “you must respond within 24 hours, end of day,” scenarios. If the offer to purchase is not valid within the next say 72 hours, why offer it? It becomes high pressure sales and that rubs a lot of people the wrong way including me. How many potential sales do you lose using that technique versus persuasion and relationship building? If the person really wants to buy your service/product they will. Pressuring them to buy runs contrary to my values and integrity. I go to sleep at night knowing that I take the high road in the work I do and not sell using manipulative techniques just to make a buck.

Dermotcrowley Crowley

Hi Michael

I am booked on your Sydney workshop in November – looking forward to meeting you. I believe that strategies like this depend on where you are in the sales cycle. Once I have made a decision that I want to buy, then a time based or a spot based strategy can help me to take the plunge. But if I am still considering if I will buy, I will often find the pressure that these strategies create as a turnoff.

Also, the statement must ring true in the readers mind. If there is a whiff of false about it you will begin to lose credibility. For example, in the email advertising your Sydney workshop, it stated that “be quick as this will probably book out”. That seemed a likely proposition to me as Michael is well known and not in oz very often. When I had made the decision to attend, it played on my mind and I made sure to book quickly so I did not miss out.

Look forward to the day

Dermot Crowley

Michael Port

I look forward to meeting you Dermot. Although, I have to admit, I’m a little nervous about the 24 plane flight. I’m not a very good traveler 🙂

Dermotcrowley Crowley

Mate, I am from Ireland originally. It is a 30 hour flight to Dublin! Just think of the sun, sand and kangaroos waiting for you!

Michael Port

Oooh, I forgot about the Kangaroos!

Claude Whitmyer

For me this issue is related to any kind of discount on your services. My practice over the years has been to avoid discounts and add value instead. If you keepthe “standard” price for a product/service and add more to what you will deliver, that’s added value, and it makes the price feel like a discount without admitting that your product is actually worth less than you usually ask for it.

Same with “scarcity.” The only real scarcity with electronic products is time. So the truth is “I’m only going to offer X number of these because that’s all the time I have to create, deliver and support them.”

Combine the two and you have:

Buy now when I’m making the time to create, deliver and support this product/service and your use of it and I’ll give you more value than you would ordinarily get.

Audiences aren’t stupid. They understand a proposition like that. So why pretend that there are limits when there are not?


Margi Wilson

If your customers respond to the fear of scarcity tactic, they are now your customers and you will begin to feel their fear of scarcity and your own decisions will likely be tainted with that fear of scarcity. The leader always reflects the collective consciousness of their followers. It is a very dangerous approach.

It is a relief to see that so many people don’t agree with this tactic.

Jamie McKean

Hey Michael,

It’s your fault you know!?

It’s your fault that I realised, in the early stages of my business, I’d been taught by others to ‘use’ tactics to get people to buy. What did that do? Saddle me with a host of unsuitable, draining, dud clients. You taught me (via your book) the Red Velvet Rope Policy. An a-ha moment ensued, and ever since, I’ve not pressured one person to sign. My clients are all cool clients. My energies are spent helping them get results, nothing else. And guess what? The results keep on coming…

Now… what was my scarcity prize again for replying? ;o)

Bye for now,

Michael Port

That’s why you’re awesome Jamie. And that’s why you’re booked solid.

Jacques de Villiers

Hey Michael,

Thanks for this interesting article. This is a slippery slope you’re putting us on. If you’re conflicted by time sensitive offers and some of the hyperbole that direct marketing sales letters have – and you’ve covered yourself beautifully – (To be clear, I’m not saying these kinds of sales tactics are wrong. I’m just saying that I’m conflicted), then you’ll be conflicted by 80% of direct marketing selling structure. Because, as direct marketers (we all are in a sense) if we don’t add the psychological triggers that get people to buy into our copy, we’d probably not eat.

Without Ron Popeil’s (Ronco) “but wait, there’s more” strategy of adding more value so that you can negate price objections or Robert Cialdini’s law of scarcity (only 10 places) to get people to take action, our marketing copy would be bland and would not tap into the vital element of emotion.

The copy on your website, for example, is subtle, but it has that ‘conflicted’ feel to it.

– Over 51 000 subscribers – telling us how respected you are that enough people subscribe to your newsletter. This will get more people to sign up because they want to find out what’s so amazing that 51 000 people are prepared to listen to you.
– (Space is limited by the size of the room.) – on your alliancewithmichael website – Tricky. Because if you get more people than the room can handle, you could just ask the nice people at the Manhattan Beach Marriot to secure yo a bigger room. And, how do we know the room you’ve booked can’t handle 500 people (I know you like to think bigger, so you probably expect 1000 people).
– Risk reversal, vintage Jay Abraham Real Results Or Refund Guarantee: Spend the entire first day with me and if you are not 100% convinced that your sales will not increase by at least 25% in the next 12 months, ask for your money back. (you and I both know that the chance of someone asking for their money back is less than 0,5% – so we put a guarantee in because it is worth an extra 10 bums on seats at our seminars.

So, I’m not having a go at you (or maybe I am) I’m just saying that we need to be careful about being judgmental of the techniques used to get people to take action. Because, if one is in the direct marketing business or the business of selling something, every line in one’s copy is designed to get people to take action – where do you draw the line and make a stand?

Michael Port

Thanks for the thorough and thoughtful comment. And, yes, I’m conflicted by about 80% of the marketing and sales strategies that are typical. But, do know that I’m not judging. I use some of these tactics as well. That’s the point I’m attempting to make — that I’m reflecting and asking questions to stimule my thinking. So, before you have another, as you say, “Go at me,” let me say again that I’m thinking so I can be discerning. I’m also attempting to give others the opportunity to think as well and make their own decisions about how they present themselves in business.

Jacques de Villiers

Good answer. And, you’ve certainly stimulated thought-provoking answers. Good luck with the course at at the Marriot. I’m sure it will be fabulous.

Michael Port

Thank you. I love LA. And, again, thanks for offering your interesting thoughts to the discussion.

Rick Carter

It’s a question of character, not marketing. Anyone who uses “scarcity” when there is in fact no scarcity will be found out. Plus, as a provider of very specific coaching services, I do not want a client who would respond to false scarcity. I want a client who is committed, and who really thinks about his or her choices.
Besides, anyone with half a brain knows that there is no scarcity of a digital product. There may be a legitimate time limit on an offer; i.e., 50% for the first 100 to sign up. That’s okay. But scarcity in general – no.

Jeff Moore

Speaking as a consumer, I think the pressure of a short deadline makes its less likely that I’ll opt in. It has to do with my state of mind when the offer arrives. If I’m in a receptive mood and have plenty of time I may consider and decide immediately. This happens. But its much more common for me to take some time. If I have a developing interest I may return the to offer a few times and do some research before deciding. This has been the pattern for offers that I’ve accepted more than not. Sometimes my process takes longer than the offer deadline. When it does, I’ll typically stop investigating and let it go. So the scarcity of time or slots isn’t especially effective to get me to accept your offers. Another kind of scarcity — requiring me to be interviewed or to otherwise qualify — makes it more likely that I’ll respond. This is just me. For other prospects, your mileage may vary.

David Blaise

Hi Michael,

I learned from a client that actual, legitimate time deadlines (i.e. scarcity) on quality offerings can actually be quite valuable to clients.

I wasn’t always sure. But once, when I was offering an online course, I spoke with a client who was ordering at the last minute. I asked what prompted her to order at that time. She said, “You know, I’ve been meaning to do this forever. It’s EXACTLY what I need, and I know that if I don’t do it now, I probably never will.”

Without the deadline, she might never have received the benefits of the training and she really appreciated it. From then on, I’ve never been shy about promoting actual, legitimate time deadlines or limited quantity offers.

Naturally, intent has a lot to do with it. If the intent is to trick or manipulate people, I believe it will backfire. But if the deadlines are real and the intent is to help, I don’t see a problem.



Michael Port

Thanks! Great comments David.

Stephanie Stephens

When I was searching online for business training I found many sites that used these sales tactics. I smelt an immediate whiff of dodginess; I couldn’t hit the delete button quickly enough. And they seemed so pleased and proud to use questionable tricks! But I was looking for quality, and quality doesn’t, and never will, need those types of sales tactics. I don’t believe you left some money on the table by not using them, and I wouldn’t be a member of the Alliance if you had. Your example shines in a sea of dodgy and questionable sales tactics.

Michael Port

Stephanie, you’re awesome. Thank you for letting me be your mentor.


I’ve been in sales for over 20 years and would never encourage false promises or use false tactics. Integrity is important to be successful. But I don’t see a problem with putting a deadline on an offer. It’s simply good business practice. After all, a good sale these days is leading someone to want to do business with you, and encouraging them to take action. If they want it, they’ll respond – but only if you have created some form of urgency. Time to get over it Michael.


Mike, first thank you for all you give and being you! I appreciate how you feel about I have no problem answering the questions you pose either, as you describe yourself I felt complete identified and validated, thank you for posting this.
With that said there are times that the opportunity is time sensitive and the quantities are limited. I would said as a promoter if you are lying there is always one person that knows the true, and as a consumer the question is do you need it or do you want it? Personally I learned from my father, when a bargain is not a bargain? When you don’t need the product or service being offered. When we need something we are willing to pay the price. I have found that every time I have purchase one of those limited time offers and later see it repeated I feel cheated and no longer buy from that company or person and tell my friends not to buy or trust the provider.
My humble opinion


Michael Port

Wonderful ideas Sam, thank you.


Hi Michael,

My take is:

1. Be authentic (you’re great at this, and teaching this!)
2. Use real limiters, don’t create false ones.


If you genuinely decide a class is better if it’s restricted to only 20 people and you’re promoting it in two speeches then using a limiter of “I can only take 10 people today” is 100% authentic because you want to give the other people a chance as well.

Or if you add a bonus and say I’m providing this special bonus until XYZ (but after that you can buy without the bonus), then that’s fine too. It’s completely up to you when and if and for how long you provide bonuses. 🙂

But don’t create false limiters …

Hope this helps. Keep doing what you’re doing!

Lauchlan Mackinnon

Michael Port

I love it Lauchlan. I’m with you 100%.


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I think you are all very talented! Your video’s are amazing, my son who is 7 loves your harry potter videos, he watches them and over and over and knows all the words to them, also my daughter who is 4 loves your Twilight videos she sits there and sings along to them. We are from the UK! Can’t wait for the next video!!

Lee Woodall

Im wondering if setting the frame of ” being in conflict ” is actually you jumping up a logical level and playing with a new frame of ” Michael being transparent ” which I’ve recently heard as ” getting naked” in Internet marketing circles to deepen rapport.

Michael Port

Well, Lee, I think I’ve always been transparent. It’s been important to me from day one. If now I’m, “Getting naked,” I just better remember to put my clothes on before I leave the house or my career is going to be in trouble.


I’m so tired of unethical marketers and people willing to lie or tell half truths just to get a sale. That’s why I admire folks like Chris Brogan who feel that solid, trustworthy relationships are what make you successful. I like his “Manifesto”

The Human Business Way:

We believe this:

What’s missing from most businesses, large and small, is a strong belief that a sustainable business is built on relationships.

We believe that the best buyers are those who feel like they belong and like they matter.

We believe that to succeed, all of us have to learn to love the grind and do the unsexy work.

We believe that people want the real you, and not the corporate you.

We believe that one way to make people care is to tell bigger stories that make your buyer the hero.

We believe that the age of service craftsmanship is upon us, and it’s yours to win.

Whether you’re a company of one, or an employee tucked into a huge corporation, we believe we’ve got a lot of ideas and actionable recipes that will help you find success on your terms.

We know, because that’s how we’ve been successful for the last several years. And that’s what we want to share with you: recipes for success, and a way to embrace the human business way.

I don’t have anything to do with him, but I like his (and others) honest approach geared towards sustainable relationship-building. It isn’t conflicted, it’s taking accountability and putting the customer first and then having faith that being real and honest will be succesful.

Michael Port

Chris is a friend of mine and he’s a wonderful, wonderful guy. I’m glad you’ve been exposed to him.

Kirsten Schults

Hi Michael,

When I first got into the market of free webinars and e-books as a client I was enthousiastic and a bit naive. I fell for an offer like the one you describe and thought I was a lucky winner of a free coach session with ‘an expert. In this free coaching the expert promissed she would reveal some exciting fact that would help me get on my way ( a sort of golden ticket). Although I was very very busy (just gave birth to twins and a 2 yearold on the side) I freed up some time to have a skype conversation with this expert. And you know what? The whole conversation she helt out ‘this golden ticket’ and she never delivered what she had promised in the first place. The whole conversation was designed to get me to buy something from her that I didn’t need. I felt betrayed and after that I felt a bit stupid that I was so naive. Since that time I feel scepticims every time I see offers that resemble this one. I feel conflicted because I don’t know if I can trust what is being said and I do want to trust. I think there are more people like me. Therefore I think it is of the greatest importance to be very honest and don’t try to manipulate.
That is what I feel is so attractive in your approach: to connect with what you want to give and not what you want to get from other people.
Kind regards,


Michael Port

Hi Kristen,

I’m so sorry to hear about what happened to you. You mentioned that she positioned the offer to you in a way that made you the “lucky” one. I see the converse to be the case. I think I am the lucky one to get to work with people like you.


Hi Michael,

You neither know me, nor am a personality with some reputation 🙂 (see that many are on this chain)

Am a Sales guy plugging chemicals.

In one word, ‘NO’ on all three.

There is a day of reckoning after all.

Good work, keep that up!




I believe that scarcity helps not only you, but also your clients.

How it helps you:
You can only support a limited number of clients and you want to be able to plan ahead, so it is certainly in your interest to limit the number of seats as well as the time for signing up. I don’t think it is unethical to do so – even if you are dealing with online courses that you could theoretically redesign in such a way that your clients can sign up without such limitations.

How it helps your clients:
From a client’s perspective a deadline forces me to make a conscious decision: Do I want to be on board or do I not want to be?

Without a deadline I can (and will) postpone that decision until “later”, which in reality translates to “never”.

So the net result of a deadline does not do me harm, but it does me good. Either I buy a service *now* that I will value because I made the conscious decision to do so or I will decide not to do it and the burden of the decision will be off my mind.


Thank you for addressing this subject, Michael. And about time we had the discussion in the open.

I know what you mean. It is a question of integrity. And we all got different flavours/levels of integrity.

It works. Is the short answer. The difference is that some people advertise in order to make money by selling. Other people advertise in order to provide value and earn their living. And somewhere in-between. It comes from different places in our hearts. It is also applied in different manners as there certainly are different degrees and styles of inducing scarcity-panic-mode.

A genuine offer will give ample time to decide and be forthright in the number of spaces available. It will hopefully be a genuine added-value offer. It doesn’t talk down to you.

My clients are bright. They can see through an insult to their intelligence. I will give an incentive to attend, sign-on and so on, but it does communicate at an eye-level in a straight over heart-to-heart manner.

The other points about testimonials and results: I believe it may well be an American issue somewhat. I am currently living in Denmark where all American mascara advertisements always gets banned by the “consumer’s advertisements council”: because their bigger, longer, better, fuller claims are deemed to be untrue. Nobody knocks on the door and tell you that you are lying in the US. All statements are so inflated that people just assume that all claims are exaggerated. It is not even possible to start a statement with the words “this is true and honest….”. I hope that the new’ish trend with real people providing video testimonials is going to pave the way for more genuine providers of value to shine through.

I aim to deliver value and my straight forward honest style is appreciated by my clients. That I don’t lie: You get what you put into something. I will be there to guide, cheer, chat, talk, plan, help, listen, assist, advice and otherwise be available. Always making a straight point: throwing some architect’s blueprint onto the building site does not build a house.

It may in essence –and hopefully- be the tale about the “hare and the tortoise”. Both making their way towards the finishing line in their own unique style. It is horse for causes. I believe that the clients that I attract would be different if I wrote my site and my offerings differently. All in all it is a reflection of who we are as people.

Thanks again for bringing it in to the open.

Michael Port

You’re so very welcome Elizabeth. Thank you for your thoughtful and intelligent comments.


Hi Michael,

I liked your reflexion here.

As a buyer I don’t like anything to make me in a hurry to buy, it is like a sing that something could go wrong. I see that “deadlines” and “out of stock” stories work on people’s anxiety bases and personally think that on a personal level never gives the “round” results.

When I was younger of course I had that – “ohhh it is the last par of shoes in the shop and in the world and they are so for me – means I have to have them now even if is not a good value and I don’t need them”.

But now I think all that is changing profoundly (and not only with me). :-)))
Especially with this global crisis, many persons are now buying in a different way that it doesn’t come from anxious desire to have more but from the appreciation of a real value and if is “perfect” for me at this moment?

When I knew (decided) I am getting into your BYSCC Program, it was because I felt it resonates with me strongly. It was before I read much about all the details and openings.

As a salesperson I never push the people to buy. So even I can anticipate the needs and see what it will be just great for them, I can accept they choose something else although it rarely happens vs. when they feel good about I guide them. I always inform about different possibilities so they choose the right one for them. If they are not sure and few spots left are gone is meant to be like that. Never sell what I think the people don’t need. And I always had more than great results and have been Nº1 salesperson always… people around explain it with saying I am gifted for sales and I dont even sell!! :-))

I just think: not a pussycat….“Alma de León”! :-))


Michael Port

Really interesting thoughts Tatjana. You rock. I’ll “see” you on our call this afternoon…

Jamie Broderick

I would never use a pressure tactic for membership but it is essential for event planning. People tend to procrastinate. If everyone waited until the last minute to buy tickets to an event it would be hard to plan the event & would put a lot of unnecessary pressure on my team. Giving early bird discounts & other incentives for registering early is a win-win for everyone.

Todd Strobel

Over the last two years I have coached several high income sales professionals and addressed these issues. It really boils down to expanding your perception to understand why you feel uncomfortable and finding clarity.

First the false scarcity is a form of hype which can have long term negative consequences(like when they refer you a new client 30 days later and the 24 hour price is still on)How can substitute Hope for Hype. Hope is as necessary as food, air and water.

By telling your personal TRUE story you can demonstrate what I like call the hero’s journey. The end result is your are now able to express gratitude for the hardships in your life as you grew and expanded to new levels that would not have been possible without the adversity. The client is accepting “I can do This” and ” I am not broken or defective”

Next is taking the client into their pain and allowing them to experience the accumulated future consequences of their past and current choices. If the pain of moving forward with you is LESS than the pain of continuing to dance with the devil they know, it no longer makes sense to procrastinate and we do not need the hype.

The final issue to deal with is accountability. Most clients will admit to not making timely decisions in the past that had consequences. This is where you obtain a commitment to make a decision(could be yes or no) and you agree to act as their accountability partner by reminding them of the commitment to reach a decision.

If you can do this with sincerity and integrity you will have delivered a valuable coaching experience as part of the sales process.

Michael Port

Love you comments Todd. Thanks.


Hi Michael,

I read a book a while back by Robert Cialdini PHd , called INFLUENCE – The psychology of persuasion. In it he talks about 6 different concepts that when applied launch an automatic response from people to which these concepts are aimed at. One of them is scarcity. I think every marketer has read this book and I see the application of all six concepts regularly. I think what I find creepy is when some of these concepts are applied with zero integrity an zero authenticity. Yuk.

Micheal I got to know you a bit in the last six months and everything you do is with 100% integrity. I can see your hesitation of using the scarcity technique probably because it is not you.

It reminds me of the 7 core self promotions strategies. Do as many as you can but if one of them doesn’t resonate skip it.(the optional ones of course)

If you do have limits for a program and they are real limits then communicating that is perfectly fine and it fits with who you are. at least from my point of view.

However knowing how you interact with the world and seeing you artificially use a scarcity tactic without it being authentic then I would fell less secure on your foundation. (and no I wouldn’t fall off)

So I guess for me it comes down to a decision as to more $$ at the risk of weakening the foundation.

Thanks for the post Michael. It made me reflect on what to do and not to do keeping in mind the impact it has on my foundation


This is a tough issue for me as well. I commend the pussy cat in you and I admire it as well. I think its challenging because getting the sale is the way we stay in business so its hard to be nice and easy with customers when it usually leads to them deciding its not a ‘now opportunity’ and then you see them later and they hired a coach like your for triple the price you quoted them for. That hurts so we learn to make the sale at all cost and we use manipulative tactics to do so. My overall take is that if you honestly feel that it serves the highest good for this person to make a buying decision now, you should be their mentor and lead them to what they may not know yet will be what they needed. Its still a touch issue though and I fully respect you, as this Guru posting something this revealing to your list. Thanks for the transparency Michael. Very refreshing.

Sonia Thomas

Hi Micheal,

I totally agree with the statements about integrity – for me, more hype generally = less value.

But there is natural scarcity – the main one for me being time. So, sometimes there is a limited offer.

Offer truthfully. It makes for a much more consistent relationship with potential clients.

One thing that seriously bugs me is the way people write copy to focus in on pain. I think people know enough about what they need, and it’s more useful to give them enough information to know if they want to work with you.

At a recent networking meeting the organiser told me that I should “focus on the pain” when introducing myself in my one minute. My question is, do valuable business relationships develop with people in one minute?


You could look at it as if your losing money by not using these techniques and feel conflicted, or you could look at it as if you are paying for a feeling of integrity! Depending on who you are, that might just be worth the price!

Shel Horowitz - Green/Ethical Marketing Expert

The older I get, the less patience I have for screaming hype–both as a copywriter/marketer and as a consumer. I’ve discovered many better ways to market, based in integrity–and I’m not at all sorry to leave the squirmy stuff behind. And interestingly enough, my business took a quantum leap about a decade ago when I started being very public about my commitment to ethics.

(I talk about some of this in my eighth book,Guerrilla marketing Goes Green,BTW–Michael, I believe you have a copy).

Kerri Quirt

Michael, these are good questions, and I’ve often wondered why more people don’t ponder them…

For me, I don’t do it: no exaggerating, no embellishing and no empty promises. I’d be out of integrity, and that’s not an option!

When I’m talking about my services, I share success stories that are real, and I never mention a limited seats unless it’s true (as is often the case and I like to keep my workshops small). There is usually a deadline for ticket sales, though, so that I know how many to plan for…

If someone I’m speaking to is interested, they’ll jump at the chance b/c, as you said, they know what’s good for them. If there doesn’t seem to be interest, I simply ask them to pass the details on to anyone they know who might want to know more.


Hey Michael, I have read thousands of online and offline sales pages. These tactics are in my opinion sleazy and have no place in salesmanship. However, you are right about the money aspect of it…you will leave plenty on the table.

It seems many are teaching and practicing scarcity, deadlines, price increase and the one time offers that seem to popup and go on forever.

I too am conflicted – should I use them or not? I struggle with this almost daily.

BTW I commented now and am still awaiting your bonus:0)

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