When is the Hard Sell Appropriate?

I’m not one to think that a particular sales tactic or strategy is “always” good or “never works.”

It all depends on the context and the individual customer you’re trying to sell.

A hard sell where you push the prospect to buy even though they have expressed hesitation or resistance. It’s the most aggressive and direct sales tactic.

While this will fail in some situations, it will work like magic in others.

It’s easy to see situations where this will fail: like when a customer has made it very clear they are not going to buy right now, or when they are looking for someone to gently guide them along the decision-making process instead of just pushing for the close immediately.

And typically very large purchases are not served well through hard selling. Whether “large” means a $3000 purchase from an individual, or a $10 million purchase from a medium-sized enterprise.

In general, the bigger the transaction, the more time it will take to close. And usually there are more decision-makers involved in big purchases too.

But what about situations where a “hard sell” tactic will work, or even be superior to a softer approach?

These would be situations where the buyer has already expressed significant interest in working with you.

And keep in mind that “expressing significant interest” comes in many forms:

  • It could be verbal: they literally say outright “We really want to work with you…” or “We are curious to hear more…” The fact that that statement might be followed by a “but” is irrelevant. There is legitimate interest there.
  • It could be behavioral: even though they offer lots of resistance with their words, they keep taking your calls, or they keep setting up meetings with you.

An effective hard sell means that you, as the professional, know that the buyer is really interested in the product, despite their apparent hesitations or uncertainty.

You are certain it’s a good deal for them, and you are enthusiastically encouraging them to make the decision. You know they are on the cusp of making a decision, they just need to feel that confidence, conviction and leadership from you.

These are the conditions where a hard sell makes sense.

This is why it’s absolutely critical that you listen to your buyer from the very beginning.

You must have a clear sense of where your buyer is in his or her decision-making process.

You need to listen carefully to them throughout. Because they will tell you, both through their words and their behavior, what their comfort level is with this product, and with you.

So, assuming they have expressed lots of interest and have gone down the whole sales process with you, a hard sell is potentially viable.

Finally, keep in mind that a “hard sell” is not the same as persistence. You can be very persistent in a soft sell strategy.

The hard sell refers more to the counter-acting or disagreeing approach. The message you are sending is: “I disagree that you should think about it. I think you should purchase now.”

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