The Hard Sell is Dead

The hard sell is dead

We throw out our direct mail (junk mail), we hang up No Soliciting signs (Girl Scouts only please), promotional emails go to our junk folders (SPAM!), we fast forward through commercials (thank you DVR and Netflix) and if we don't recognize the number - we don't answer (thank goodness for voicemail).

We avoid sales offers like they're deadly and contagious. The used car salesman persona? Yeah, we know, we hate it, and we'd rather do anything than listen to a sales pitch.

The hard sell is dead. Always be closing is now Always Be Connecting.

Why Traditional Sales Doesn't Work


A few decades ago, life was a bit slower and information was harder to come by. Door-to-door salesmen found success pre-Internet because our choices were limited. Today, opening a browser and typing a query returns literally HUNDREDS of options. In our fast-paced world, how do we begin to make a decision among so many similar offers? 


Standing out today has less to do with the offer and more to do with the connection.


People hate to be sold. I don't know about you, but if I go into a meeting knowing that the other person is going to pitch me at some point I struggle with making a genuine connection. The encounter isn't about getting to know the other person - it's all about the possibility of a monetary exchange. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours? That's probably the best case scenario for these coffee dates. However, how do you get ahead in your business by paying someone for their service just so they'll pay you for yours? That's a no win game. 


It's also not sincere. It's not connection. It's riddled with expectation and some bit of desperation. 


When's the last time you got excited to hear a sales pitch?


The Cost of Sales


Sales is often about coffee dates, meals, golf outings. How much money (and time) do we need to spend to convince the other person that we are THE solution to their problem?


Occasionally, you'll get a close - a name on the dotted line. Your 3-5% return on effort. Often this is because you offered a good price and your new client didn't get a better offer. They had a pain point that needed a solution. You found a way to stand out.
Is that connection? With the right follow-up and client nurturing, maybe. Or, they bump into someone at a networking event that they really jive with, who's putting out valuable content, people are praising their work, and they have a similar price point. You probably won't even have the opportunity to compete at this point. Your client will bail and give you some reasonable excuse that you can't argue with.
The real reason they are leaving though is... they found chemistry and value on a personal level with someone they trust.
There's just no competing with that. You can't low ball on price. You can't offer a promotion or discount that'll convince them to stay. If that solution proves to be all it promised to be, they won't ever come back.
However, if you reverse engineered it so that you made that connection and built trust BEFORE exchanging engagement letters and contracts - then it's just on you to deliver value, keep connected and exceed expectations. Your branding and your time spent building that relationship will also be more impactful than your elevator pitch.
Trust is the hardest thing to earn with another person. You can't do it by selling. People don't trust sales. They don't want to engage with salespeople. They want to get to know YOU.
Making a Connection
If traditional sales and marketing tactics are no longer effective, how do you begin to reach people? Making a connection sounds great but can be tough. I find this is especially true for business owners, like myself, who tend to shy away from extroverted activities. The truth is... you can't hide behind your computer anymore. You can't build a bunch of virtual products, with no established audience, and expect people to just show up. It doesn't work that way. People finding success with virtual offers do so because they have already built the trust of an established audience.
If you are the type of business owner that puts stock in data, and numbers, and the bottom line - this approach isn't for you. Keep chasing your 3-5%. Hustle, work hard, invest your money, stay consistent - and make sure your returns are crafted in such a way that you make a profit on the time and money spent to reach a bunch of people in order to close a few.
If that doesn't resonate with you, stop thinking of potential prospects as a sales funnel. People are not numbers on a spreadsheet. You HAVE to start building your own community. It could be a virtual community, as long as you are present, engaged, and coming from a place of service. Instead of dropping hundreds or thousands on marketing campaigns and advertisements, you are investing your time and attention in getting to know people. If you're being sincere, you'll gain the attention you seek. You'll build brand advocates. You'll get that precious word of mouth marketing. 
Instead of 'growing your list', you'll be supporting your own tribe.
When approaching community building, you have to brainstorm ways to deliver value and give back. Practice your active listening skills. Go to networking events with the intention of connecting with new people, not making a new sale. Ask people what they need and see if you can give them advice or steer them in the right direction. Give them solutions to their smaller problems so they'll turn to you when they need to solve the bigger ones.
Become your own publisher. The content, format, and platform aren't what's important. Creating and sharing value with your target audience is the point. Whether it is a blog, a podcast, a video series, or a bunch of infographics - it's your brand story, your value, and the reason people should choose you, broadcasted for the world to see.
You aren't giving away the farm. You're building trust.

I enjoy getting to know people and what they do. I have a natural curiosity and interest when it comes to meeting new folks. If I need something, or someone I know needs it, I'll remember those connections I made. 


In the process, these people are getting to know ME and what I do. They are learning that I can be trusted, that they mean more to me than a paycheck. 


Bye, bye dreaded pit in the stomach or fear of being sold when meeting other business owners. Hello to making a connection with you and seeing where it leads. 


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