Five old-paradigm sales tricks we’re still using

Wendy May
6 min readDec 8, 2020


Can we make our marketing as high-vibe as our offerings?

Earlier this year, I connected with a spiritual business coach who approached me to be a guest on his podcast, to speak about Regenerative Purpose. He wanted to chat before recording the interview to get to know each other and build rapport. Halfway through the first call, he seemed to have an internal struggle, but then managed to say he felt intuitively called to offer me his coaching services. He said he never does this with podcast guests, but in my case, he saw something unique and felt compelled to break his own protocol; it was as if the message had been channeled.

I felt seen. I felt special. We put aside this magical moment of soul recognition for the time being, and arranged a call later to talk about working together. We talked for more than an hour without any mention of money. When I asked him afterwards to send me the details for his coaching program and costs for working with him one-on-one, I received a long, rambling message which included the following framing for his pricing.

i am not expensive, but i am not cheap. i believe the way we do anything in the world is the way we do everything. and so i will already ask you to look at the way you respond to the price i charge and watch what your mind says and listen to the way it rationalizes and limits. and remember, the way you are with money is the way people will be with money towards you. this world is a great big beautiful mirror, reflecting back to us exactly who we are.

my asking price for the work described above is $3,000 US a month but i offer a sliding scale because i want people who can not afford that to still be able to work with me. i will accept whatever you feel to give me between the prices of $3,000 US to $1,500 US a month. i only ask that you feel into this. if you can afford to give $3,000 but only give $1,500. know that this is the energy you set up for how you want the universe to respond to you.

There’s a threat hidden in this message: If you don’t pay me a lot of money, then you’re sending a signal to the universe to be stingy with you. Oh and also, this decision has implications for who you are.

I was shocked. This spiritual business coach knew nothing about my financial situation. He had no interest in understanding how additive (or not) his offering might be to the work that I had already done or was currently doing. Yet, he was delivering a load of spiritual gaslighting. At the first mention of pricing, he was planting seeds of doubt around my own discernment, aggressively shaming my ‘no’ before I could even express it.

I said I wasn’t interested in hiring him as my coach, and a few weeks later I received a message trying to sell me a healing device from a MLM company that his wife was representing. When I pointed out to him that this message was unsolicited spam, he unfriended me on Facebook.

This is an extreme example.

But reflecting on all of of this got me thinking… So many new age gurus, leaders, teachers, and healers are still unconsciously using old-school methods to market and sell their new-school offerings.

Instead of Tupperware, cosmetics, and encyclopedias, we’re now selling sexual healing, inner peace, and essential oils. But we’re still using the same old-paradigm marketing psychology: leveraging fear, scarcity, and power dynamics to manipulate buying decisions.

The way that we’re selling things to each other needs to change as much as the things that we’re selling.

The way that we’re selling things to each other needs to change as much as the things that we’re selling.

1. Boundary shaming — Using abundance mindset language to manipulate a buying decision. This one is probably the most common in new age selling. It’s usually done by shaming other people’s so-called limiting beliefs about money, pushing them to overcome resistance, seeding self-doubt in their discernment if they’re inclined to say no. The experience I shared with the spiritual business coach is an example of this.

Examples of boundary shaming:

  • if you loved yourself enough, you’d make this investment in yourself
  • do you really want to change? I’m not sure if you’re really committed

The upgrade: Guide people to access and trust their own inner wisdom in decision-making. Honor the fact that choosing not to buy from you can be an expression of healthy boundaries and self-love. Sometimes the most empowering choice for someone is to say ‘no’ to you.

2.Disempowerment (also known as information-gap) — Assuming a one-up position, claiming to have acquired special knowledge that the buyer needs. This sometimes shows up as an intuitive/channeled diagnosis of a problem — an issue seen by someone who knows what you need better than you do. It’s common in enrollment-focused MLMs for the seller to take on an expert role: it’s his/her job to decide what’s best for the buyer. Old-school sales trainings tell us to “assume the sale.” That means the default buying decision is set to ‘yes’ unless there’s an explicit ‘no’.

Examples of disempowerment:

  • don’t waste years making the same mistakes, get my secret formula
  • I know what you need to solve this, I will show you the way

The upgrade: Give people the information they need to make the best decision themselves, instead of using an information-gap to lead them to where you want them to go. Practice consensual selling where ‘no’ is the default unless there’s a ‘yes’.

3.Scarcity — Creating sales pressure by using fake space limitations or countdown timers to make people feel like they will miss out, leading to a fear-based buying decision. A sense of urgency can motivate commitment when there is fear-based resistance, but without care, it can also mislead people to make ill-considered decisions under stress.

Examples of scarcity:

  • early bird registration discount expires at midnight
  • only two spaces left — hurry up so you don’t miss out!

The upgrade: Provide bonus incentives to those who register early instead of threatening price hikes to those who register late. “Commit early and get extras ” has a really different energy from “Come too late and pay more”. Or, if your program might be cancelled without a minimum number, say so.

4. Reciprocity — Overvaluing freebies that are actually lead-generating offers designed to capture emails, or discounting heavily from a falsely inflated price to make people feel like they’re getting the deal of the century. These seeming “gifts” are designed to generate a subconscious sense of obligation that primes buying behavior.

An example of reciprocity:

  • get free access to the webinar recording (valued at $299)

The upgrade: Make the exchange transparent. When you give something away for free, or for a discounted fee, acknowledge there’s some benefit or incentive for you to do it (otherwise you wouldn’t do it).

5. Manufactured authority—Using inflated titles or influencer name dropping for credibility, in order to convince people to value your offer simply because other people seem to value it. This classic marketing psychology tool preys on our habit of giving personal power away to external sources of authority instead of trusting our own discernment.

An example of manufactured authority:

  • Amazon bestselling author, world’s leading expert on…

The upgrade: Instead of generalizing around promised outcomes or puffing yourself up with grandiose titles, use testimonials from real clients and customers. Acknowledge that the benefits vary from person to person, and encourage your audience to decide for themselves.

Are you unconsciously using old-paradigm techniques like boundary shaming, disempowerment, scarcity, reciprocity and manufactured authority to sell your products or services? Can you see through these sales tactics when they’re being used on you?

Personally, I have used them all at some point. They are so ingrained in us, it can be hard to notice them, much less navigate around them.

The same or similar sales methods can be used with very different intentions and beliefs underneath. I’d like to see a marketing revolution that recognizes everyone involved in exchange as a wise, sovereign, empowered being. I’d like to see us making buying choices from our own inner guidance, instead of succumbing to one-up and one-down dynamics. Let’s beware (be aware) of giving in to marketing manipulation coded in new age language, and stop selling stuff by using spiritual concepts to convince.

The new paradigm that we are stepping into calls for business-not-as-usual. What else needs to die for our collective business values to be reborn? Read more here about how competition fares in this emerging business landscape. And if you want support to align your business structures and processes with values and purpose, we can work on this together.



Wendy May

Author of Regenerative Purpose, purpose coach and Enneagram self-inquiry guide