Hard Sell and Soft Sell: when to use each of these sales techniques?

Once a lead is generated, a company can choose between two paths to follow the business approach. One, more aggressive, known as Hard Sell, and another, softer, called Soft Sell. And this is a very important decision to get to conversion!

Not that there is a “right or wrong”. When we talk about sales techniques, by the way, we know that the scenario changes according to the customer profile, the company profile and the market in which it operates.

Precisely for this reason, this is a step that needs to be thought out and studied in order to be taken – especially in times of crisis.

If the acquisition cost of a lead already weighs heavily on Marketing and Sales budgets, in times of scarcity, there needs to be less loss from the top to the bottom of the funnel. Therefore, in this article we will help you understand which technique to adopt between Hard Sell and Soft Sell. Good reading!

What is Hard Sell? And Soft Sell?

Hard Sell and Soft Sell are opposite paths to the sales approach. Despite having the same objective, to bring leads to closing, their profiles are quite different.

Translated from English to Portuguese, we can call Hard Sell “hard sale” or “heavy sale”. This technique takes us to the most aggressive approaches, focusing on quick closing and generally applied to direct sales.

It is very common to see this type of technique in large B2C retail, especially in the trade of items for which the consumer researches prices and characteristics before going to the point of sale.

Appliances and mattresses are a good example: the customer arrives at the store practically determined about the product, expecting to know only price, term and credit conditions. Meanwhile, the seller does everything possible so that the sale is not lost that day. Often betting on points that can bring momentum to the decision, using scarcity triggers, for example.

Hard Sell usually works for products or services with lower added value and lower purchasing power, although this is not always the norm.

Soft Sell, on the other hand, can be understood as “soft selling” and part of the premise of not forcing the sale of a product or service, but letting the customer decide in their time and with all the information they need to close a deal or no.

It is a more sophisticated and consultative approach, where differentiation by product or service attributes makes a difference and where the average ticket is higher. It is usually seen in products and services for the B2B market and in high-value goods such as real estate or cars.

But here, as with Hard Sell, there is no rigidity regarding the profile of the company that can use this technique. In fact, many companies stood out in acquiring and building customer loyalty by using Soft Sell in markets where it was uncommon.

This did not happen by chance, the profile of the so-called “new consumer” prefers fewer interactions with the seller to close a purchase and avoids too incisive approaches.

To better understand the differences between the two models, it is necessary to know how each one works in the sales funnel, considering the following steps:

  • Strategy planning;
  • Discovery of customer problems;
  • Presentation of the advantages and disadvantages of the solution;
  • Reply to objections;
  • Closure.

See also:  Guide: Successful Negotiations (How to Overcome Customers’ Objections and Get to YES)

While Hard Sell concentrates much of the energy on the final stage, closing, Soft Sell invests in the initial stages, planning the strategy and discovering the customer’s problems.

What are the main characteristics of each sales technique?

We have summarized below the main features of these models, which will probably help you to understand if you are currently leaning more towards one side or the other.

Hard sell

  • Focuses on closing the sale;
  • It is aimed at speeding up negotiations;
  • Aims to convince the customer;
  • Seller knows a lot about the product, little about the customer;
  • Aggressive seller profile;
  • It is closer to Outbound Marketing.

Soft Sell

  • Focuses on strategic sales planning and customer challenges;
  • Invest more resources in each sale;
  • It aims to bring the customer closer and understand what he really needs;
  • Advisory seller profile;
  • It’s closer to Inbound Marketing.

Evaluation to choose between Hard Sell and Soft Sell

We said at the beginning of this text that there is no right or wrong when choosing between Hard Sell and Soft Sell.

The big question, as you may have already noticed, is to recognize how each of the techniques can work for your business profile.

In fact, there are companies that mix the two very well, depending on the solution, the public and the moment of the business. Thus, they can speed up negotiations or improve interactions as needed.

In fact, both techniques work and you’ll have to seek the insights of Business Intelligence to make a better decision.

How about a better assessment of what has been a good practice in your market and also looking at historical sales data? This will be a good starting point!

Another important point for the decision is to have empathy in relation to the moment – the market and the customer.

There are periods, like the one we are experiencing today, when Hard Sell can turn out to be a risky choice. By forcing closure in the face of an economic downturn, it’s possible for a hot lead to become a detractor for your brand.

Times of crisis? Tips to implement Soft Sell in your operations

If your analysis based on sales data and understanding of your business profile and that of your client indicate Soft Sell as the best path, or even if this is a decision to adapt operations during the crisis, we bring you some steps important for the implementation of this strategy.

1. Understand your audience

There are no more effective sales without defining your ICP (ideal customer profile).

The information contained in this survey ensures more effective approaches and also a deeper understanding of the sales representative’s challenges and desires of this potential buyer.

To implement Soft Sales, where sales planning is so important, this is step number one!

2. Customize approaches

Another feature of Soft Sales are the personalized approaches.

If a lead arrives at the seller as part of a pre-defined ICP and with information that allows him to seek more points for conversation on the company’s website or on social networks, this must be done even before the first contact by email or over the phone.

In this way, the interaction will be a closer conversation that can actually generate a relationship.

3. Practice active listening

It is the salesperson’s role more to listen than to speak. Especially in the first approaches, the sales script should be focused on getting the answers to questions like:

  • What is the customer’s challenge?
  • What does he value in this buying process?
  • How is the decision flow?
  • What results does he hope to achieve?

These are just a few examples of questions that can be part of an interaction focused on active listening!

4. Develop unique solutions

As much as there is little customization in your product or service, when practicing Soft Sell, try to deliver something unique to the customer, even if it has no commercial value.

It can be a discount, a gift, a material to deepen your knowledge. Something that demonstrates that you really listened to what he had to say and cared to deliver the best!

 5. Respect the purchase time

Oh, of course!

One of the questions to be asked is about the ideal time for the client to make a decision or move forward in the negotiation. Something that should be respected!

This is a way of not putting pressure on him and, at the same time, defining clear steps for his actions. In the more advanced stages, it will also help to predict the entrance of revenue into the company’s cash, which is essential for the finance department.

There is no magic formula: study and test your own market!

We end this article remembering that there is no magic formula in the sales universe, just some tested and recommended paths to follow. In the case of choosing Hard Sell or Soft Sell, only the application of the models in its operation can generate concrete answers. How about starting to study the best option?