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The Hard Sell (and why it isn’t as effective as it may seem)

This past weekend, I had an experience that made me rethink how sales strategies affect consumers. Without getting into too much detail, I was at a convention and was approached by a sales person at a booth who began to pitch a monthly service to me. She was well informed, able to answer some tough questions, and had some persuasive arguments as to why I should sign on. I liked the idea of joining, but wanted to go home to do some more research before committing. Had the conversation ended there, I would have left impressed and curious.

Instead of leaving it there, she began to use several tactics that, while getting her initial sale, doesn’t work in the grand scheme of things.

She put me on the spot and asked why I didn’t want to sign up immediately. She pushed and made me feel like I’d be a fool if I didn’t join. She mentioned her extra commission she’d get if I signed up there rather than going home to sign up online.

Did I sign on the dotted line? Reluctantly. Yes, she got her sale. But I walked away from the booth feeling uneasy and pressured. Everything about what I signed up for makes sense: it’s low commitment, inexpensive, and a simple way to support a cause that I believe in. Why, then, am I not eager to enthusiastically spread the message to my friends and family?

Although signing up makes sense in all categories, something didn’t feel right. Ultimately, it’s because of the nature of the sale. As the consumer, I didn’t feel like it was my intelligent decision to join. Rather, the sales associate made the decision for me - and made me feel like I was a buffoon if I didn’t.

This experience highlights the importance of the conversation between brand and consumer. Sure, you can use pressure to sell – and your initial conversion might be successful, but in the long run, are you gaining long lasting advocates of your brand and product? The downside of using “the hard sell” is that it removes the ongoing customer relationship - and if you’re interested in keeping returning customers, the sale process doesn’t end after the initial encounter. Rather, it begins there.

The consumer wants to feel as though the purchase was their decision. Your brand builds loyal followers by acting as a resource and provider, not as someone who disparages potential customers. Put the right information in their hands, and the conversion will follow.

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