Sales is not a very easy task, particularly B2B sales. You have the following steps in it:
- Lead generation
- Researching prospects
- Qualifying them
- Presenting a sales pitch
- Handling objections
- Closing the deal if things favour you
- Following up
Additionally, there is also check-in to know how your customers are doing. This cycle repeats every time you get a hot trail. The point here is how you deal with each of the steps in the cycle.
In the sales world, two camps have different schools of thought towards selling. While the goal is to close the deal, the approach is quite contrasting.
The two sales approaches are hard selling and soft selling.
Giving you a gist of their meaning, you can call hard selling a straightforward way of closing a deal as soon as possible. Soft selling is all about building a relationship with prospects and using subtle nudges to make a sale.
Hard selling uses the sales pitch to make prospects ready for purchase and close the deal. There is no beating around the bush involved here, and this technique tends to close deals faster.
As a customer, you must have come across both of these selling styles – hard selling and soft selling.
The point is, which one of the two did you like more?
Turn the tables and ask yourself which one is your personal style as a sales rep?
Do you choose the hard sell approach and pressure clients to invest in your product or service, or do you believe in building relationships with prospects?
What is soft selling?
Soft selling is a sales technique involving the use of an approach that is less persuasive and subtle. The technique gives more importance to nurturing the relationship with the potential customer. While ultimately it is all about closing the deal, you pay more attention to understanding the prospect and their needs with soft selling.
The soft selling technique is suitable when you, as a sales rep, understand the potential buyer’s requirements and pain points. In fact, for a SaaS product, you would act as a counselor to make the prospects understand why they need your product.
Soft selling is mainly for high-ticket products or services where you need to meet a prospect multiple times, and therefore your approach has to be less aggressive. At the same time, you have to be persistent in your behavior with the prospect and maintain a conversational tone throughout. This would help in making things easier for the potential buyer.
As an example, think about a sales rep working for a weight loss supplement company.
A hard selling technique for this kind of product would not go well with potential customers. They would turn-off with such an approach.
It would be best if you had a rep who speaks about the prospect’s weight loss issues and understands the lifestyle and food habits. After knowing all that, he can suggest a suitable weight loss supplement that would help the prospect reach his or her weight loss goals. This kind of approach will make the customer return to the same brand repeatedly and eventually get loyal customers.
The focus in hard selling is on the product and sales pitch, but things are more customer-centric with soft-selling.
Difference between hard selling and soft selling
The main difference between hard selling and soft selling is that the former is a direct approach for making sales, and the latter focuses on building relationships with potential buyers.
In hard-selling, the sales rep pressurizes the prospect and tries to close the deal as soon as possible, whereas that is not the case with soft selling.
Hard selling is an aggressive and pushy form of sales that can turn off many potential customers. They might form a wrong opinion about your company and probably never return. On the other hand, soft selling aims to address the problems of prospects and resolve their problems, which helps build their trust in your brand.
Benefits of soft selling
Soft selling is advantageous by all means. The benefits of soft-selling are the following:
- Customers will trust you
When you go for soft selling, you tend to win the hearts of your prospects. There are promotional offers too, like free trials and money-back guarantees that make customers feel happy. When they get what you promised, they start trusting you and turn into lifelong customers, as already mentioned above.
2. You build a good reputation
To succeed, you need to build a strong image of your company. By soft-selling your product or services, you will make potential buyers feel that your business is reliable. It can create a positive image of your brand, and with the help of word-of-mouth marketing, you can close more sales than usual.
3. Helps achieve long term goals
With soft selling, you are more likely to get returning customers who tell positive things about you to their friends and family. As a result of which you can close more deals. This is essential to achieve the long-term goals of your business. On the other hand, unhappy customers can tarnish your image completely.
Consider this, if you used the hard selling technique and pushed a product to a customer for whom the product was not a fit, the unsatisfied customer would never come back to you. Worse, he might also tell other people of your wrongdoings. Though hard selling is not bad in every scenario, it can affect your business in the long term. Looking at the bigger picture, most people turn to soft selling.
Soft Selling Techniques: How To Soft Sell
- Carry out your research
Soft selling begins with understanding the potential buyer’s needs and what you, as a sales rep, can offer to resolve their issues. You have to analyze whether the product or service you are offering will solve the buyer’s problem.
After understanding things clearly, it is better that you do in-depth research and take a look at all the possibilities and options lying ahead. Be prepared so that you can answer any question that comes to the mind of the prospect.
At times, you have to act as a business counselor and help make the prospect understand their needs and wants. You can convince them how they can fulfill them with the product or service you have to offer. For that, you must have a complete idea of the whole scenario.
Ultimately, it would be their buying decision, but it would be your subtle persistence that would close the deal. Though you are not going to pressurize the prospect in any manner, your interest should be visible.
- Be empathetic and keep the tone conversational
In soft selling, it is the communication that makes all the difference. The tone that prospects use in soft selling is most often conversational.
Along with that, you have to empathize with the prospect and provide genuine recommendations from your end. Your focus as a sales rep has to be on resolving the problem the prospects is facing. Your communication style should be more on the casual and conversational side and not like a dry and dull sales pitch. It should sound as though you are helping out resolving a friend’s problem.
Remember that in soft selling, you don’t push the product to the prospect. You suggest the product and evaluate whether it can be a good fit for the prospect’s needs.
It is pretty apparent that if given a choice, you would also choose soft selling if you were the potential buyer. Nobody would like to be forced with a product or service they don’t want. When a person puts your needs first, it is more convincing.
- Concentrate on relationship-building
Developing a good relationship with your prospects will help close more deals and win their trust. By being a person who is interested in the issues of prospects, you turn into their trusted aide and have faith in you.
You must focus on knowing the prospect before getting straight to the sale of the product or service. It could be asking about something personal they shared with you in the last meeting or giving a compliment. Your approach seems genuine and friendly.
- Listen to potential buyers
Listening skill is one thing that you have to master as a sales rep. To be an active listener, you must repeat what you are listening to and make sure that you are grasping it properly. If not, ask for clarification so that you are on the same page with the prospect.
By listening actively to the prospect, you make them feel that the matter and you are getting what they are trying to say. During the conversation, it is better to give the prospect your undivided attention.
- Take interest in prospects
One way of showing your interest in prospects is by asking them questions. It shows that you genuinely want to help them and address the pain point. Also, by asking questions, you get a better idea of the situation the prospect is in. You will also earn the trust of the prospect this way.
- Make sure there is mutual benefit
When you are making a sale, you will benefit from it. However, at the same time, the prospect has to get a great product or service that meets all the requirements. It has to be a two-way street. In the long run, when your product or service doesn’t meet the needs of the customer, he won’t renew the contract, not want upsells, and won’t refer your company to family and friends. So, ultimately it will affect your company.
- Make use of stories and case studies
As a salesperson, you should know storytelling. It is a soft selling technique where you narrate a story to the prospect to understand their own needs. Present case studies in front of them to get an idea of how competitors are using the product you have to offer.
Real-world examples and case studies can go a long way in convincing prospects to convert. People get influenced by the actions of others, and you can use this tendency in your favour.
- Allow the prospects to take the final call
When you are soft-selling, you have to give the prospect the freedom to decide for themselves whether they should purchase your product or services or not. It would help if you didn’t pressurize or force them in any way.
Allow them to make an informed decision. Answer their questions and help them with relevant information so that they can decide. At no point should they feel that you are deciding things for them.
Soft selling and hard selling may be the two different sales ideologies, but the soft selling technique is the best for those trying to build a long-term association with their customers. Once you build your company’s good reputation in customers’ minds, they will likely return to you. The trust they have in you will be seen when they do word-of-mouth marketing of your brand. Though hard selling has its advantages, like faster closing deals and converting indecisive prospects, you can build trust through soft-selling. After all, your company can flourish only when you get people to trust you and your products/services.
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