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How to “Soft Sell” Your Products and Services in a Volatile Economy

4 Minute Read

No one likes a pushy salesperson. 

Well, their families probably like them. And I’m sure they have some longtime friends that appreciate their company. But people that encounter them on the other side of a sales call would almost universally prefer a root canal, in a boat on choppy waters, while Nickelback plays on a continuous loop.

The “hard sale” is dead. Or at least it should be. Some stalwart salespeople still make it work, but particularly during a difficult economy, it’s the soft sell that will bring timid customers into a conversation. To make the sale, salespeople need to work with their prospects instead of just trying to sell them. 

When businesses are facing uncertain financial prospects, they tend to dig in to insulate themselves from loss. They’re understandably cautious about committing needed resources, and will not respond favorably to a sales pitch that attempts to manipulate them into spending money. Trust has become an integral part of the sales process, and this is never more true than when businesses are in defensive mode, desperately trying to protect their bottom line.

To our great dismay, our current circumstances are rapidly spiraling the planet into what might well be the worst and most prolonged recession in recent history. Businesses that survive the shutdown and its immediate aftermath will face a steep climb back to financial health. If there were ever an economy where the soft sell is the only way to fly, it’s the one that’s emerging around us now. This article will provide insight into how this can benefit struggling companies.

The Soft Sell is Based on Building Relationships

Who would you rather buy from, a trusted acquaintance, or a total stranger? During feast times, people might be willing to take a chance on the stranger, particularly if they present a good deal. Still, during times of famine, smart business people will always fall back on trusted relationships — people that they know they can depend on to do what they say they’ll do.

To have a chance at selling in times like these, you can’t read from a sales script and leap right to the close. You need to build a relationship with your prospects. You need to give them a reason to trust you before you ever ask for the sale. 

This takes time. Imagine if you tried to build a deep and abiding friendship with someone that you just met in a few days. Would the friendship mean anything if you were trying to check off boxes as you went? Of course not. Friendships develop organically over time. The same is true for sales relationships. 

Developing these is a slow process of building value. You need to offer your prospects tangible benefits that aren’t hinged on a successful sale. Would you expect to make a friend if they knew you expected a quid pro quo in the end? 

The soft sell comes with a fair amount of uncertainty, as do all human relationships. But like anything, if you offer genuine value with the HOPE of a sale, but not the EXPECTATION of a sale, you’re far more likely to get what you want.

Do Your Research

This is where the friendship analogy falls apart. Most people would be supremely creeped out if a new acquaintance already knew what they were interested in, what was making their lives difficult and was primed to offer solutions.

But that’s precisely what’s required when building a long term sales relationship. Because, of course, the two are very different. Friendships usually happen by accident. Sales relationships are intentional. Both parties know what the salesperson is looking for. There’s an endgame, and the salesperson is attempting to build toward it. 

If you’re that salesperson, you can’t go into your first communication blind. You want to be ready to demonstrate value immediately. You want to show your prospect that you understand what makes their business unique. You know the challenges they’re facing, and you empathize with them. This personalizes your message. You aren’t just selling your product or service based on some generic one-size-fits-all benefits. You’re able to explain how your offerings will help your prospect’s specific circumstances.

Of course, you can’t expect to learn everything you need to know before your first conversation. So above all else, LISTEN. Let your prospect tell you what they need. Ask honest questions and commit to genuinely caring about their responses. If you worry less about the sale and more about getting to know your prospect, they’ll tell you how to sell them. You just have to pay attention.

Offering Value Free of Charge Will Pay Dividends in the Future

Information is cheap, so give it away. Rain knowledge down on your prospects. Help them when they’re in a bind. Be quick to answer difficult questions. When you make it clear that you’re a resource, they can rely on, and you won’t need to be pushy. Your prospects will seek you out. And when they’re ready to make a purchase, your email will be at the top of their list.

When you are talking sales, provide the information your prospect needs to make an informed decision. Be there to answer their questions, explain precisely how your product or service will help them solve their problems, and how you can work with them to bridge the gap between what you need, and their potentially precarious financial situation.

It may seem strange for a salesperson not to ask for the sale. It’s like a waiter not bringing your food or a doctor shying away from providing an exam. But particularly in a volatile economy, that’s precisely the right approach. 

When you build a relationship, you aren’t trying to close one sale. You’re trying to close a lifetime of sales. You’re working to become a trusted, responsive partner. You’re playing the long game, and when you’re successful, your customers will return again and again. 

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