As pushy sales techniques become ‘old school’, soft-selling has grown in prominence. Today’s prospects continually favour inbound, rather than outbound.
Soft selling is a longer approach but can be incredibly rewarding. Particularly if your prospects are bombarded by salespeople who call them, send them generic emails, offer a demo straight away, and then want to close straight away.
Instead, soft-selling takes more time to personalise communications, learn more about the business needs, find out about budgets and so on. It’s moving from the hard-selling mentality of finding the quickest way to close, to the soft-selling mentality of building a better relationship. Here’s what you need to know about the soft sell.
What exactly is the soft sell?
The soft sell is the more subtle selling technique that focuses on more open and casual communication and less on demands and pushiness. It’s not passive, but it’s a longer approach rather than directly asking prospects for a sale straight away. The soft sell requires far more industry knowledge as prospects will be interested in the value and insight you can provide. A top-class soft-seller keeps prospects engaged without pushing them away with sales spiel. Comparatively, the hard sell can sometimes be seen as ‘pushy’.
Mastering the soft sell
1. First and foremost, do your research. You need to know what you are talking about and what challenges the prospect will be facing. This research will help you determine if your solution is a good fit.
2. Be a great communicator. Personality and the ability to communicate is key to the success of a soft sell. Always keep in mind empathy for your prospect’s problems, providing valuable insights and a conversational, two-way tone. Reading from a script will get you caught out.
3. Focus on a long-lasting relationship. A long-lasting relationship breeds loyalty. And loyalty makes closing a sale easy. You want to be seen as a trusted advisor, rather than an annoying sales rep. Show a genuine interest in the prospect on a personable level, not just a business one.
4. Always listen. Listening is an incredibly undervalued sales skill. However, it’s critical for engagement. Make sure your prospect feels heard and provide advice and recommendations based on what they have said. Listening helps address what they actually need. Don’t interrupt them, and give them your full attention at all times.
5. Ask questions. Open-ended questions are your best friend here. It demonstrates an interest in what they are saying, helps build rapport, and gives you plenty of information to work with. Questions that can’t be answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will also help build trust and keep the conversation flowing.
6. Finally, provide value without pushing the sale. While you are probably desperate to close, your goal here should be providing value at all times. Even if it doesn’t immediately result in a sale, you may get one later as they’ll come back to you. Don’t go all gung ho and start pushing a sale if they aren’t ready, it will blow the whole relationship.
There you have it, the art of the soft sell. This technique isn’t always the best approach, so learn what approach works best for each prospect and build your soft skills to land even the hardest of sales.