Posted: June 06, 2012
Soft selling in a hard economy
Low-pressure sales are here to stayLiz Wendling
When it comes to sales, the debate rages on – to hard sell or soft sell? The idea of the hard sell doesn’t sit well with many people. No one likes salespeople who force, push or jam a product, service or idea down their throat. However, most people do appreciate engaging in honest conversations with salespeople about new ideas and products that can benefit them and make their jobs easier.
Sales are the bottom line for any money-making business. In order to make money, a sale must occur. But the selling environment has changed forever, moving toward lower-pressure sales techniques combined with a problem-solving approach. This has shifted the focus from making a single sale into building a client for life. The good news? The new paradigm is here to stay. The bad news? It’s here to stay, so not embracing it will cost you sales.
I don’t know anyone who likes to be hard sold. Most customers can spot manipulation and high pressure a mile away. So if no one likes to be sold this way, why are some salespeople still doing it? They either don’t know there’s a better way to sell or they refuse to let go of a selling style that went out of style many years ago.
Soft selling is a subtle-yet-persuasive, low-pressure, high-trust method of selling your products or services. The basic premise is focusing on developing relationships with a non-pushy approach that is free of tricks, gimmicks, pressure and coercion, instead of aggressively pitching your product in a hard way.
A “hard sell” is described as a sale that results from pressuring customers by being aggressive, unrelenting and confrontational. Salespeople who use the hard sell approach are often seen as abrasive, untrustworthy and harsh. Consumers are repelled by the hard sell and are less likely to buy from salespeople who use this method of selling. Hard selling methods are too shallow and manipulative to do anything but alienate potential customers and drain you of your energy and dignity. Those tactics simply don’t work anymore, especially in this economy.
Soft selling focuses on the relationship-building aspect of sales. Rather than putting psychological pressure on potential buyers, you find ways to show them that you have the solutions they need and that you are the only person for the job.
In soft selling you become a form of support for your clients. Your products or services become something they depend on. The more you can suit their needs and make their jobs easier, the better they will respond to your soft selling approach.
We all enjoy doing business with people we know, like and trust. Each of these three elements is important, but where the more aggressive, hard style of selling fails miserably is on the trust element. In my experience, aggressive salespeople who are unable to close sales don’t succeed because the trust is missing and customers feel the salesperson is only interested in their money! Soft selling is about being more effective at building long-term profitable relationships based on trust and win-win outcomes. Make no mistake, soft selling is not passive or laid back, it’s highly effective and creates trust.
The soft sell is not for everyone. Being pushy and manipulative still works, but those who continue to play that way pay a high price: they make less money and have fewer customers. Meanwhile, salespeople who have learned the fine art of engaging consumers are busy taking care of those who did not buy from the hard sellers. Remember, it’s not what you sell, it’s how you sell.
Liz Wendling is the president of Insight Business Consultants, a nationally recognized business consultant, sales strategist and emotional intelligence coach. Liz is driven by her passion for business and generating results for her clients. Liz understands the challenges that business owners are facing building a business and selling their professional services in today's market.
Liz shows clients how to tap into and use their innate strength, power and confidence to develop highly successful businesses. She teaches them to create effective, dynamic and fluid client conversations that turn interested prospects into invested clients who keep coming back.