When I ask folks to name which salespeople they believe use the hardest sales tactics, I hear the usual suspects. Almost without exception, car salesmen are mentioned the most.

I then suggest that there is a sales group that is more hard core than car salesmen. These are people with whom you'll avoid eye contact. When you see them, you'll wait until they are distracted and then try to sneak by them. You'll even pretend you're not home when they ring your doorbell. No car dealer ever knocked on your door on a Saturday morning!

I'm talking about Girl Scouts. When groups inevitably chuckle at that statement, I ask them the following: How many of you have pretended you weren't home when you saw Girl Scouts walking up to your door? How many have ever told the fib that you had already bought cookies from a neighbor? How many have done everything possible to sneak by their tables when they set up outside of your grocery store?

With each question, the laughs and hand-raising tend to increase. I then point out that I'm obviously not disparaging Girl Scouts. I think that Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are two of the greatest organizations in our country. My point is that the perception of a nonstop sales focus can make people hide from, and even lie to, nice little girls.

I originally began using that analogy while speaking to in-store bankers. Part of the standard operating procedures for most of them involves getting out into their stores to speak with customers. And while face-to-face access to thousands of potential customers each week is a unique and incredibly valuable asset, it can be wasted. In fact, with the wrong approach, these in-store interactions can do more harm than good.

Simply, if the only time a store customer ever sees branch employees away from the branches is when they have sales pitches to make, customers begin giving them the Girl Scout treatment. They'll do whatever they can — including practically running away — to keep from being "sold" to that day.

And this phenomenon isn't limited to bankers walking the aisles of a grocery store. I've long had issues with "traditional" branch managers requiring customer-facing employees to make a cross-sell or up-sell pitch, regardless of the situation, with every transaction.

You can call yourself a banker, financial adviser, relationship manager … whatever. It doesn't matter. In the eyes of the recipients of those pitches, you're a pushy salesperson.

When folks bristle at the idea of being called pushy, I point back to the Girl Scouts example. Pushy doesn't have to mean rude or won't-take-no-for-an-answer. You can have a nice smile and friendly demeanor and still be perceived as a pushy salesperson.

And when customers are asked whom they consider trusted advisers, salespeople aren't high on their lists.

I frequently ask front-line folks and managers to contemplate the following. Over the course of a day, which will you hear more: Customers saying "Thanks" or customers saying "No, thanks"?

While that sounds like a trivial point to some, I'd suggest that it tells you plenty about where a branch's focus is.

When we are creating interactions that prompt customers to actually say "Thank you," we're typically making personal gestures, providing information, offering extra assistance or maybe just offering trinkets that benefit them. Our focus is on making them glad that they chose to interact with us in person today.

When we do these things, we build environments that give customers practice in saying things like "Thank you" and "Yes." But when we (often unwittingly) force folks to constantly rebuff us with "Nos" or nice-sounding lies, they become quite practiced and proficient at doing just that.

What gestures will your teams make this month to give customers plenty of practice in saying "Thanks" and "Yes"?

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