September 29

How Not to Sell

by Trish Smith     1152597_paid_invoice

Recently, I had an experience in the “non-tech” world that I think has parallels to many people’s experiences with technology, so I thought I’d share it with you.

Several weeks ago, my husband and I decided that we had had enough of our mattress; it was only four years old, but it was a memory foam mattress that developed a distinct body impression on my husband’s side. It was uncomfortable, to say the least. The furniture company that sold it to us is a store located here in town, so we had them come out and take a look at the mattress to see if it was defective. Sure enough, when they inspected it, they determined that it was, and that they would reimburse the purchase price of the mattress (with a store credit, of course). At this point we needed to buy a new mattress, and this is where the story goes south.

We already knew we wanted to purchase a “traditional” mattress, and not another memory foam mattress (we might be slow learners, but we’re not THAT slow). When we entered the furniture store, we were imediately pounced upon by a salesperson, who escorted us to the mattress department and asked us what we were looking for. We explained the situation with the store credit, and told him that we had decided to purchase a non-memory foam mattress because of our recent experience.

At this point, I should explain that we were not entirely against a memory foam mattress. If we could have found one with a good warranty and reliability, we might have purchased it. But instead, the salesman proceeded to try to “hard sell” us a $3,000 mattress (which was $1,300 above the amount of the store credit). When I indicated that we wanted to try to stay close to the amount of the store credit and that we weren’t entirely sold on “newfangled” latex foam, considering our last experience, the salesman made an obnoxious remark about latex actually being an old technology (since it’s been around for thousands of years). At that point, if the store credit situation hadn’t forced us to buy the mattress at that store, I would have gone to a different store and they would have lost my sale (which ultimately turned out to total around $2,000).

So what’s the lesson here? It’s obvious – regardless of whether your job is to sell technology to the public or to provide IT services to your organization, DON’T HARD SELL. Believe me when I tell you that your client will recognize this tactic from a mile away, and will run in the opposite direction.

But what is a “hard sell”? According to Wiktionary.com, it’s “a sales technique of pressuring the potential buyer to agree to a purchase”. It implies that, instead of providing customers with valid reasons for making the purchase, and helping them understand how the product will improve their jobs or their lives, salespeople simply subject customers to high-pressure tactics to get them to agree to the sale.

We’ve all been victim of the hard sell. Our society has even developed a stereotype of the hard seller: The car salesperson. Most of us recognize when we’re being pressured to buy something, and our first instinct is usually to run the other way. It doesn’t matter if the salesperson is an expert in the field; we don’t like being made to feel as though we “have to” do something by another person (even if we really do have to do something). It might be our contrary nature, but it doesn’t matter if the salesperson knows more than the us (or just thinks he does); it doesn’t even matter if what we’re being sold is something we really do need. We will walk away from a hard sell.

So how do you avoid making a hard sell? Explain, explain, explain. Even if what you’re dealing with is a highly technical product, and the person you’re selling it to isn’t very technologically savvy, there are always ways to explain something in a way the customer will understand. Follow the therapeutic mantra, and “start from where the customer is”. Remember that when you don’t do this; when you instead attempt to pressure a client into a sale because you “know better”, I can guarantee you one thing:

Apply pressure tactics, and you can kiss that sale goodbye.


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