How to Avoid the Hard Sell

Published by: Meredith Thornton    |   Category: Blog, Business, Reputation, Sales    


Do you ever wonder why your customers call with seemingly “dumb” questions when the answers are blatantly described on your website? Just when you feel the urge to question their IQ, first take a moment and reflect on the reasoning behind the call in the first place.

The Hard SellNine times out of ten, prospects are not calling for detailed product information, but are in search of a human voice on the other side of the phone that will give them the confidence and motivation to move forward with the purchase. Trust is an extremely important factor to most customers when making a purchase or deciding which company to do business with. They’ve already done their research online to find you. If all you do is spit back information at the pace of a mile a minute without initially assessing the needs of the customer, have you really earned your credibility as a sales representative?  Regardless of what industry you are involved with on a daily basis, your goal should be to listen first and act second. Engaging in a two-way conversation with a potential customer will enable you to determine the nature of the problem they are facing, and then offer a solution that your product or service will fulfill.

You can talk to a million insurance agents, who will try every which way possible to sell annuities. Why you may ask? The answer is simple and should be pretty obvious. Because it pays the highest commission, that’s why.  Before the insurance agent finishes the conversation about the different types of annuities that they claim to be best suited for you, I bet your eyelids are already getting pretty heavy. If these insurance agents would tweak their strategy by selling you the “peace of mind” that accompanies the purchase of any insurance policy or annuity, I bet they would close twice as much and sell more policies. Likewise, think of your last phone conversation with your financial advisor. Did they capture your attention with their talk of mutual funds? Or would you rather be swayed by talk of how mutual funds can contribute to your long-term financial freedom? More often than not, it’s not the product itself, but it’s what your brand stands for that drives sales.

Your trained sales staff is conditioned to meet daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly quotas. With this thought at the forefront of your sales strategy, you will be left with nothing but a disgruntled group of prospects whose first instinct will be to seek out your competition. While setting quotas can undoubtedly contribute to a healthy, robust and productive sales staff, it can also undermine the value of effective customer service.

Related Article: The Cost-Benefit Analysis of Delivering Great Customer Service

Rather than placing so much emphasis on selling your product or service during the first contact with a potential customer, try and sell the burning desire to continue the conversation instead. Too much emphasis on product features and specs will cause customers to slip through the cracks. Rather, a focus on dialogue will lead to engagement, and engagement is what leads to closing deals.

Don’t get me wrong. When the opportunity presents itself to further your agenda, take action right then and there. However, sometimes “taking action now” is like a foolish young girl pulling on the roots of her hair in hopes that it will grow faster. It’s just not going to happen without giving it the proper nourishment, treatment, and time to grow.

Prospects have been trained to ignore what they consider to be a “pushy” salesperson. Don’t live up to the stereotypes of the car salesman in a slick suit that is after nothing more than his or her commission. Instead, succumb to the customer’s natural buying process to secure his or her trust and loyalty for the long-term.

Next time you jump on a sales call, remember…

People like to buy! Prospects wouldn’t call if they weren’t interested in following through with the purchase. It’s your job to outline the benefits and justify the cost in their mind as a “need” rather than a “want.”

Don’t make false claims about your product. No matter how good your product or service is, don’t lay claims that it works 100% of the time. With dollar signs in the back of your mind, it’s easy to over-promise for the sole purpose of making the sale. When the workload piles up and you suddenly aren’t able to fulfill your promises and meet customer expectations, the damage done to your reputation far outweighs the cost of losing the sale.

Example: When current or perspective customers call us with questions about our email list cleaning and validation service, they are always informed of our 95% accuracy guarantee prior to placing their order online. When uncontrollable variables are experienced during the email validation process, such as server timeout or ESP blocks, a 100% guarantee is far out of reach and can be considered nothing more than false advertising.

One person talking about you can mean thousands are listening. Sales don’t occur in a vacuum. More often than not, they involve multiple decision makers who will all be touched by the product or service in some fashion. When word of mouth has potential to spread like wildfire, it is important that a consumer-centric approach is employed at each stage of the sales cycle.

There is no question of the importance of closing sales to your business strategy. As long as you stand firmly behind your product or service and add you own perspective and expertise when necessary, you won’t come across as the aggressive salesperson obsessed with closing the deal over fulfilling a customers needs and building an ongoing, long-term business relationship. Avoid the hard sell by opening the door to further conversation.

Your bottom line will thank you later.

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One Response to How to Avoid the Hard Sell

  1. Arny says:

    Love your post,very informative.I like the part that you talk about how Prospects have been trained to ignore what they consider to be a “pushy” salesperson.Great stuff!Thanks for sharing your knowledge