Sales can be as much art as science.
Having the best product or service, providing good value or having attractive prices does not mean your chances of closing a deal are significantly better than the competition.
Often, making sales comes down to intangibles, such as building relationships and hitting a potential customer with the right product or service at the right time.
Over the past two years, another important lesson I have learned to appreciate is the art of the soft sell.
In simple terms, the soft sell is focused on influencing and educating a potential customer about the benefits of your product or service, rather than pushing to close the deal.
The soft sell can be challenging because it is a delicate balance between pushing too hard and not pushing hard enough. As a salesperson, you may not want to be seen as being too aggressive, or too passive.
When done well, a salesperson sells to a certain point but doesn't cross the line. It can be difficult because you want the business but pushing too hard can drive away a customer who can sense your anxiety or desperation.
Being a good soft-sell practitioner means being confident about your products or services. Rather than selling, you are looking to educate, inform and sway the buying decision.
It is selling but, at the same time, it does put customers on the spot to make a decision when they may not be ready. By not looking for the close, you convey to the customer that they have time to think things through. At the end of the day, it could win you goodwill points, which could be as much a factor as a good price.
The soft sell takes practice and patience, particularly if you really need the business.
And, truth be told, it may not be an approach that should be used all the time. It really depends on the situation and potential customer. Sometimes, the hard sell is required to do what needs to be done.
That said, I'm a big proponent of the soft sell. If you have confidence in what you're selling, the benefits should be obvious to potential customers. They will pick up on it and become more comfortable doing business with you.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.