Hard Sell, Soft Sell: Finding the Right Blend

By MBO Partners | June 25, 2024


Key Points

Understanding the differences between soft selling and hard selling is key to honing your sales technique.

With knowledge of both styles, you can adapt to various customer types and situations, enhancing your sales effectiveness.

A blended sales approach can be a best-of-both-worlds strategy to maximize your sales efforts.

Understanding the differences between soft selling and hard selling is key to honing your sales technique. By grasping these differences and learning how to blend them, you can adapt your approach to various customer types and situations, enhancing your sales effectiveness.

What is Hard Selling?

Hard selling is the style most associated with “sales”  in people’s minds. Immediacy and urgency are its defining features. Pop-up alerts on websites are strategically designed to spur shoppers to make a quick purchase (or risk missing out!). A pledge of swift solutions, particularly when combined with a money-back guarantee, can encourage more people to buy. A sale with a short time window can prompt buyers to “act now!”

Hard selling can be challenging because of its “Buy Now!” aspect. For example, sending a lot of emails related to a sizzling offer can put people off, and you could lose subscribers as a result. Upselling—pushing customers to add certain items at checkout—can be frustrating to the buyer and negatively impact your long-term relationship with them.

Risks related to the hard sales approach include:

  • Customer alienation
  • Increasing consumer caution about your business
  • Deterioration of your brand image
  • Lack of good long-term customer relationships

What is Soft Selling?

Compared to hard selling, soft selling is a gentler approach. Successful soft selling persuades customers over time, focusing on relationships and trust. Tactics include storytelling, educating, and lead nurturing, all without direct pressure. A drip feed of content such as white papers, articles, e-books, and educational webinars is part of a soft sales approach. Testimonials and buyer reviews can persuade prospects over time.

Disadvantages of soft selling are related to its softness. Vague marketing messages can keep people from engaging with your product or service. A weak call to action (or lack of one) won’t lead prospects to the desired action. Lack of follow-up with people who have indicated interest can mean missed opportunities and lost sales.

Risks of soft selling include:

  • A slower sales process
  • Significant resource investment in content and customer engagement activities
  • Abundance of content without a drive for sales
  • Challenges in measuring results
  • Sales underperformance

A Blended Approach: Think “Marketing Touches”

If you don’t want to pursue hard-selling tactics but find that a soft-only approach doesn’t close enough business, consider a blend of styles into a multiple-marketing-touch strategy. A “marketing touch” is any time you contact a client or prospect, either individually or en masse.

Expect to make several marketing touches before making a sale. Experts say that the magic number is eight, but this is not a fixed rule and can vary widely.

In a blended sales approach, make your early touches soft, such as sharing an article you wrote focused on educating the reader or sending a report with valuable information for your prospects. Embed an offer into each touch, but keep the heat off at first and move progressively toward harder sales. Make an offer for a time limit or stress the limited quantity available. Your last touches can be more direct—ask for the business!

The blended sales approach allows you to cultivate relationships with prospects and clients while making clear, compelling offers for your product or service. It’s a best-of-both-worlds strategy that can maximize the results of your sales efforts.

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