Sales techniques that used to work decades ago no longer relevant. Today, our customers are resistant to these old sales techniques.
We must treat our customers with respect and articulate value clearly.
I was recently asked this question by a business owner and entrepreneur:
“Is there not a balance with some products and services still, in that they need an element of the hard sell technique.”
The short answer, in my opinion, is No.
No to ‘the hard sell technique’
I do not think there is any need at all for ‘the hard sell technique’.
Especially if the hard sell technique is about a little coercion, or neuro marketing tricks to get the customer to make a decision.
These approaches have their origins in the day when customers needed to be informed, and often helped to make the decision to get onto something new. But, back then customers did not have the word of mouth platforms that they do now.
These coercive approaches will only lead to ‘buyers’ dissonance’ or even buyer’s remorse. This is when the customer ends up feeling uncomfortable about the decision they have made, and this will eventually to negative word of mouth. And today lots of it.
Caveat Emptor (let the buyer beware)
In fact, it is because some sales people still use these ‘hard sell techniques’ that governments around the world have brought in, cooling off periods. These cooling off periods are legislated to protect the consumer from hard selling techniques and from making decisions that they are later uncomfortable with. (See Qld Government; in telecommunications, in door-to-door sales, in the UK and the USA).
As Dan Pink puts it, there has been a shift from caveat emptor to Caveat Venditor (Let the seller beware).
Even in a Business to Business context, the last thing you want is to get the buyer to make a decision they later regret. This will only lead to poor business outcomes, for both parties.
Let’s instead describe and demonstrate our value in such a compelling way that it is irresistible to clients. So that they can make informed decisions – knowing the potential risks and benefits.
Let’s look at the challenge differently.
With some products and services, the difficulty is how to communicate the value the customer gets from these products and services. Many ‘sellers’ assume the features will automatically lead to the value – “it’s obvious” they say.
We have to make the value (including benefits) crystal clear, for the customer.
Our customers often see the value very differently those in the business selling their products and services. Customers perceive value in three key ways. Firstly, in the results or goals they achieve from using the product or service. Secondly, in how they acquire and use what you offer. This is the experience they have in reaching they results or goals. Lastly, they can get value (but not always) from being part of a community. Think of the Harley Owners Group and the merchandise that goes with identifying with that community. You can read more about how customers experience value here.
Even in B2B settings we also have to describe how the customer can get the value from the products and services. And that value is defined in the terms of that specific customer.
Talking about the features or functions of the product or service won’t help the customer make a decision because they have to translate the features and functions into value or benefit for themselves, and therefore making assumptions. Which again does not lead to confident decision-making.
What do we do then?
To me the onus is on sales leaders to be able to clearly articulate value in a way that makes it compelling for the customer. And then design their customer engagement approaches that align with how their no customer buy. (Look here at Profit by Design and the Architecture of Customer Engagement)
No hard sell techniques, just clear communication, respectfully with customers we want to open relationships with.
Read more in The New Manifesto for Sales.
Featured Image by Blake Wisz on Unsplash