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It can’t be denied that the entire purpose of marketing is to sell products. However, your prerogative to make sales doesn’t have to turn your customer into your enemy. If you understand the genuine value that your product provides to your customer, you can generate a collaborative transactional environment in which everybody wins, and no one has any reason to feel regret or resentment.
Taking the time to refine a collaborative outbound sales strategy will result in long-term relationships that produce far more value than a single sale ever could, but developing your technique can take some practice. According to marketing researcher Frank K. Beard, the debate between the “hard sell” and “soft sell” camps has been ongoing for nearly a century with no sign of a resolution on the horizon, which can make it hard for an aspiring marketing professional to determine the right tack to take when approaching potential customers.
In a nutshell, hard selling is all about coercing or forcing customers to buy products. According to Sue Barrett from Marketing Mag, hard selling advertisers and sales professionals rely less on critical reasoning and more on emotions, such as desire and fear, to protect their bottom line. Customers who have been acquired through hard-sell tactics are more likely to regret their purchases, and they are less likely to become repeat customers. However, sales professionals who use hard selling are often assertive enough to get their way in the short term.
Soft selling, on the other hand, is a tactic that relies heavily on subtle manipulation. According to Investopedia, a sales professional who is using soft sell techniques will try to appear as a potential customer’s friend, and they may relate humorous anecdotes or other ice breakers to help their targets feel more relaxed.
Since the soft sell transactional environment isn’t high-pressure, it provides more of an opportunity to relate the value of a product to a customer, which is ultimately the key to success in sales. However, soft selling requires more communication, which gives you more opportunities to put your foot in your mouth. This sales tactic also leads to more opportunities to be incongruent in your words or non-verbal communication.
Hard selling can scare or anger your customers, but soft selling can be ineffective or even downright creepy. To achieve success in your sales strategy, you’ll need to develop a tactical approach that incorporates the best of each extremity of the selling spectrum.
There is a simple sales strategy that doesn’t require that you force your customers, who are strangers, into becoming your unwitting prey or your artificial friends. Ironically, this approach was standard to sales up until the mid-20th century, and it consists of relating the value of your product to your customer with as much candor possible without bringing emotions into the picture. While rational marketing is admittedly out of vogue, it is the only sales strategy that incorporates the assertiveness of hard selling with the information richness of soft selling.
Unlike either approach, however, rational marketing dispenses with awkward attempts at familiarity and instead assumes at the outset that both seller and customer are rational people in search of as much value as possible in life, which is true. In this way, both interested parties can meet halfway and engage in a forthcoming exchange of value that is beneficial to each. When you rationally assert the value of your product with facts, you don’t have to worry about coming across as aggressive, but you also don’t have to waste your time beating around the bush.
Unless you’re entirely selfless, you’re the most important person in your life, and your customer is no different. Taking the time to understand your customer’s wants and needs can help you target your product to them specifically, which will make them feel valued and understood. Listen to what your customers have to say, and paraphrase what you heard to confirm comprehension.
As you combine the benefits of hard selling and soft selling to develop your unique approach, remember to focus more on how your transaction will benefit your customer than how it will benefit you. Make sure to observe your own behaviors, and take note when you come across as intimidating or self-interested. Own your mistakes, and use errors to hone the approach you take in the future. By following these principles, you’ll be able to close deals on your first try without coming across as a self-centered asshole.