One of the most common mistakes made by sales people is selling too hard. And the meaning of hard selling has changed in time. If in the past hard selling was calling prospects every day, stalking them and approaching them every time they come or leave the office, well, today a lot of people feel you’re trying to hard when you’re calling them. They know you wouldn’t call just out of courtesy and you’re probably going to try to sell them something.
Today, consumers are bombarded with an unprecedented amount of information about products and services that a lot of them will simply ignore any direct approach. This information overload is made worse by the abundance of direct channels – think email, facebook, twitter, mobile texts/sms, and various other websites, all this in addition to the more traditional channels: radio, tv, billboards, newspaper adverts and yes, those pesky cold calls from various sales people.
This abundance of information is one reason why, even though there are more direct channels available to market and sell products and services to customers, paradoxically, these customers filter more and listen less.
There’s another reason of course – consumers are becoming smarter in time. They learn in time that some companies use all sort of tricks to sell their products, they learn that behind every nice corporate intention there’s probably a desire to sell more. This gradually led to a change of behavior where the customers will want to acquire more information rather than just trust the vendors. They want to make an informed buy decision and they do not trust the vendors anymore.
Enter social media. With the rise of the social media, sharing information about products and services between customers became much easier than before. Trusting a recommendation from “a person like me” became the norm in shopping online at least and the review sites appeared everywhere. Big companies like Amazon capitalized on that by facilitating that information sharing between customers, with positive effects for their bottom line. Customers are more likely to buy when a product is recommended by other consumers (“people like me”) than when they’re not recommended or only recommended by the vendor. These recommendations help people buy, they are not sales pitches.
So how can you benefit from this customer behavior?
Here are a few easy steps:
1. When calling a prospect or discussing face to face, don’t sell hard. Actually don’t try to sell at all – at least not on the first meeting/call. Be helpful, explain the products, the markets, the benefits, etc. – let the information sink in. Do not try to close the sale too early or you’ll alienate your prospects. But always follow up, and when you do, be polite, helpful and do take a no for an answer. Let people buy from you, do not sell hard.
2. Invest in soft selling techniques and channels. Soft selling relies on sharing a lot of information, being helpful, developing a good brand – think of a brand as the way people think about you. You want to inspire trust and competence. You want people to feel comfortable in approaching you – and that sometimes means a promise of no hard sell.
3. Share as much information with your prospects – again, information and not selling. Use twitter, facebook, linkedin, forums, etc. This will also have a secondary benefit of helping you out your SEO (search engine optimization) project – this is the art of staying on top of google (and other search engines). The information needs to be high quality because you’re customers are smart people – don’t insult their intelligence.
4. While sharing as much information with your prospects is great, be careful not to overdo it. You don’t want to annoy your prospects and you certainly don’t want to spam them – this will not help your brand (how people think about you). Choose a right balance. And as mentioned above, high quality content is a must.
5. Word of mouth is king. In a world where consumers rely on recommendations from “people like me”, word of mouth will sell more than your best sales people. Keep your customers happy and they will spread the word – you can even ask them to do so, and when they’re happy, they’ll do it. Have a stellar customer service and your customers will love you for it. There are so many bad companies out there that customers will stick with the companies with very good customer service.
Best of luck!