In sales, it is often thought that with the right sales pitch, you can sell anything to anyone. Every once in a while though, you meet that person who could sell ice in the dead cold of an Alaskan winter, but those sales people have one thing in common: they don’t sound like salesmen.
This is the key. They are not trying to sell something to the customer, instead they are building a miniature relationship, one that sometimes only lasts as long as that single interaction with the customer. Ever wonder how these guys sell without the sales pitch, and make customers for life?
Customer’s Don’t Like a Hard Sell
Ask anyone who bought a car in the 90’s what a hard sell was like. Rarely will they ever tell you they had a great experience. It was a time of the hard sell, the salesman creating a sense of urgency, almost hostility if you didn’t buy a car from them on the spot.
Fast forward to buying cars today, an entirely different experience. The customer is the center, and things like no-haggle pricing and asking the customer real questions to determine their needs is what really works. Why? The customer doesn’t like a hard sell, and that translates to nearly anything.
Conversion rates are so much better with a gentler, relationship-based sales model that in most cases, the hard sell has been abandoned.
A Hard Sell is Hard to do Well
The other reason the hard sell has gone the way of the horse and buggy? The hard sell is, well, hard to do well. Most of the time the customer feels like they are being sold to, and they look for reasons to say no. The sales person tries to overcome each no with a valid argument. The key word is argument. The hard sell is almost a conflict, a battle. Few customers enjoy this negotiation and competition to see who will win.
The other aspect is that negotiation is a skill. Some principles can be taught but not everyone can be taught to do a hard sell, and those who don’t like conflict often feel guilty for even attempting it. It’s just not an effective way to do business.
The Big Data Picture
The hard sell is based on speed. Bring the customer in, sell them something, and get them out. Rarely do these types of sales result in customers for life, but instead it is all about a single transaction.
The reason in part was that the salesman does not know the customer. There was little questioning as to what they needed or wanted, and how the product being sold could meet those needs and wants. Hard selling produces buyer’s remorse.
With the advent of big data, data made up of industry data, government census data and other public information, and enterprise data, it is possible to know a lot about our customers before they even walk in the door. This gives us the ability to anticipate their needs and wants and make suggestions that are more spot on in the first place.
It also can help us start the relationship with them off right. Ask the right questions and take note of their answers. Meet the customer where they are, find out why they perceive the need for your product or service, and wow them by showing them how you can meet their needs.
All of this big data, and everything you learn about the customer is useless if you don’t have it stored somewhere. This is where CRM software for customer service comes in. Every interaction you have with a customer, every fact you learn about them, is recorded in the software for future use.
Going back to the car sales example, you may see a return customer every few years for a new car. It is easy to forget that you have even sold them something, let alone what you sold them and when. Their needs and wants may have changed since that time, but it is easy to get “caught up” with them if you have a place to start.
This means you are now doing a soft sell to someone you already have a relationship with. Even if the sales person they dealt with the first time has moved on to something else, the customer can feel valued because you “know” and “remember” who they are.
The sales pitch never was a very effective sales tool. Customers lack trust in the salesman, look for reasons to say no that the sales person then needs to overcome, and can still walk away.
Instead, building relationships with customers, anticipating their needs and wants, and meeting or exceeding them is almost a sure way to sell nearly anything. The best have done it for years, but with modern technology, we can all improve. Instead of looking at single transactions, we can instead look at creating customers for life.