Hard sell not working for you? Good!

Small businesses should be frustrated with the hard sell

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
Andy Warhol

Perhaps it’s because I’m an introvert, or a woman or one who puts more stock in primary research than secondary – I don’t know – but I’ve never found the hard sell to be effective at attracting the type of clients I want to work with (or sell to).

Small businesses should be frustrated with the hard sell

Small businesses don’t prosper long-term from the hard-sell

I’ll admit it. I’m a contrarian. I tend to side with the underdog. When someone is absolute (or defensive) in their conviction I think Hamlet (“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”).  Obvious isn’t – usually I need to dig a little deeper to discover what’s really going on. I’m all kinds of shades of grey so find black and white thinkers challenging.

Today’s hard sell online marketing tactics aren’t new

Twenty-five years ago when I started Fulcrum Communications, pyramid to selling was the rage (hi, how are you; let me tell you about my product/service; sell, sell, sell, close, close, close, close). Manipulative selling became so pervasive shortly after I arrived on the marketing scene, the FTC was compelled to step in with what became commonly known as the buyer’s remorse law.

An inverted pyramid made more sense to me. Spend majority time discussing the needs and challenges of the prospect before suggesting solutions (or recommending a better provider).

Being obnoxious seems to be back in vogue as a sales tactic with online ‘gurus’ (my eyes roll when I see this self-proclaimed status). It seems if you don’t take out the hammer (or two-by-four) to make your point, redundantly, you’ll be belittled for failing to reach sales potential.

It seems each week, I receive hundreds (and hundreds) of e-mails from a primary provider and all his affiliates selling a product (with dozens coming from each in the days leading to the ‘closing date’) reminding me to buy before it’s too late.

Granted, my short-term memory isn’t was it used to be, but really, do you think I’m going to be more compelled to go grab your $10K worth of free incentives (right) in the 50th message than I was on the 3rd? Nope – my opt-in to your list because I was interested morphed to an opt-out. If you think I’m that dumb (or time-rich to continue opening and reading all you send me to try to find a gem), we’re probably not a good fit.        

That said, I’m seeing more small business owners previously committed to building relationship-oriented offerings shift to a hard sell approach in every blog post and/or newsletter.

Is this a turn off for you too? A follow for me means I’ve already spent some time understanding what you offer and have an interest in buying. Being accosted with a pitch on everything you send to me undermines your good will claim and my desire to continue reading. It shatters trust when what you say isn’t reflected in what you do.  

Subtle selling works better for relationship businesses

Are there case studies and statistics that prove the hard sell works? Sure there are. It does. But is that who you are?  

For decades, studies have proven a call to action (telling readers what you want them to do) sells more – to a point. Today’s over the top approach illustrates people don’t get the notion of building trust. Remember getting newsletters sent to your home for free. Publishers didn’t sell in every article then (when costs were high with printing and postage) and you shouldn’t be doing so with every message you cast out either

Sales have always come best for the little guy with relationship building. You don’t achieve that by making readers (or listeners, or viewers) stiffen their back knowing every message is going to involve a self-serving feature.

Maybe I’m different, but I grow weary of messages from a source I know is always winding up for the pitch. I’ll trust you more and like you better if you let me appreciate what you’re sharing. In more cases than not, I’ll buy from you if given the chance to make that decision without feeling accosted.

Manipulate selling has always worked in the short-term. You’d think by now people would have realized goodwill is more important in sustaining a business. No one likes feeling bullied into a purchase. Perhaps I’m more subtle than I should be about broadcasting sales messages, but there’s a greater value in repeat and referral business than there is with a strategy that requires one to always be chasing the next new prospect (or client) because they alienated the last.      

6 Responses to Hard sell not working for you? Good!
  1. Shawn
    October 1, 2013 | 1:09 pm

    I enjoyed your blog. I have meet people like what you are talking about. In my experience most of them seem to come from a larger corporation where they have to meet certain goals. There are exceptions to the rule of course.
    I am with you the person who is looking for a relationship in marketing is the one who will usually get my business.

  2. Nanette Levin
    October 1, 2013 | 9:40 pm

    Thanks for taking the top to stop over here, read the blog and comment, Shawn. Good point on the corporate transplants. I’ve had some challenges with employees from this sector who have a lot of offer but have constricted by policy and management it’s tough to get them to learn to think independently. I think you’re among a growing majority these days looking for providers who are interested in you.

  3. Jan Kearney
    October 2, 2013 | 12:54 am

    Great to see you back blogging Nanette – have you finished all your moving now?

    I’m with you on the hard sell – it’s not me and never will be.

    There’s a lot to be said for using calls to action, but no need for them to always be in your face.

    As for daily emails – they work when done right. Like you I receive 100’s of mails from internet marketers selling the next big thing I must have right now before the price goes up. There are very few lists I stay on for that reason – really, have they even tried these things out?

    Oddly there’s one list I stay on – even with daily emails with a call to buy at the end. That’s because the product doesn’t change daily or even weekly – it’s his own stuff or mastermind group and the mails usually have some good advice in there too.

  4. Nanette Levin
    October 2, 2013 | 1:01 am

    I actually have a number of daily e-mails I appreciate, Jan – even with an associated sales message. I’m just growing weary of those who don’t do so after building rapport.

    And to answer your question, I’m still working on the move. Should have been done by now but stuff happens.

  5. Amy Putkonen
    October 2, 2013 | 1:35 am

    Keep talking, Nanette! Maybe someday the world will hear it and live this way! 🙂 Glad to see you are part of the challenge this month! For me, it is zero to 60!

  6. Nanette Levin
    October 2, 2013 | 4:35 pm

    We’ll see, Amy :-). Yes, good to see you in the UBC too. Not sure what you mean on the zero to 60 reference.

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