The hard sell and me

Playing hard ball

When I moved from employment to running my own businesses I did a few sales courses. The first one I was obliged to undertake as it went towards getting and accreditation with a membership organization. The technique they employed was the hard sell.

Being wet-behind-the-ears as an independent business person, and also intimidated by being overseen on my first sales appointments by a “mentor”, I thought this was the way to go. The plan was to make the “prospect” or victim feel really in pain and then offer a solution at a price. The “close” involved applying psychological pressure along the lines of “Imagine how disastrous your business future will be if you do not sign” and “This price is for today only. We are only taking on a few clients at this special price so you must sign now”.

Fortunately I was no good at this type of selling. I did not like my “prospects” to squirm because I tended to empathise with them rather than see them as prey. I did not have the stomach for the hard sell.

One could well imagine that if any of my “victims” had caved in, he or she would have regretted the decision all too soon. Had she paid too much? How could he work with someone who had scared the proverbial out of him?

I never made a sale that way, thank goodness. I would have had it on my conscience.

Buy from me!

Buy from me!

 

Softly, softly

I learned that customers do indeed seek comfort and reassurance. They know when they need help. They answer a familiar ad; one that they have seen many times. They come by referral from a friend or fellow networker. They qualify themselves because they seek a solution, and they want to buy that solution from someone they like.

The failed biter bit

Last week my wife and I agreed to see a “surveyor” about perhaps having solar panels fitted to our roof. We want to help the environment and of course we want to save money from our electricity bills. So we had this person round and he brought his “compliance manager” with him. They spent five minutes in the garden looking at the roof, but none in the house looking at our loft access or current wiring. It turned out that rather than being surveyors they were a two-handed hard sell operation.

These guys were in our house for two and a half hours. They were very pally and friendly. They filled in various forms and made estimated projections of savings. It was only on the last half hour that suddenly the offer was only for “today”, there was a credit agreement with a bank for us to sign, and we had to decide. Despite the fact my wife and I knew exactly what they were doing, there was that psychological pressure and we feel we had been ambushed.

I said I needed time to look at their figures, and I could not agree to sign anything until I could go through them. They tried for several minutes to persuade me I was passing up a great opportunity and they tried to play my wife and me against each other.

A sour taste

When it was obvious that they were not going to get signatures on any agreements, suddenly the palliness had gone and the “manager” said they had to get back. They departed and it was obvious from their demeanour that we were no longer their “friends”. They left no figures or other documentation with us either, which seemed very strange, and I still have no idea whether the offer was good.

I could not sell like that, even if I had the ability. It seems immoral these days that anyone should be selling in this way, particularly in the domestic market where vulnerable people could be exploited. After all, even if it is a great deal on offer, no one should feel obliged to sign up to something they do not understand.

Do you think I am soft and lack ambition to be very rich? I would rather be comfortable in my own skin. What about you?

Selling our services through others

Photoxpress_10909891 calculatorPart of my business is to facilitate services to other businesses which they may provide to their end-client. I am good at selling services to my own clients ( though I say it myself) because I know the value of what my business provides, and I can help my clients and prospects to see that value and buy into it. That will be because they receive great comfort and very likely substantial financial benefit from “buying me”.

Many of my potential clients are small firms of accountants who do not have the tax expertise that businesses like mine can provide. Of course we never steal other people’s clients, but just the same there is a reluctance as well as a lack of ability for the intermediary accountants to sell our services, and that means that their clients do not get the service and expertise they really need.

The blocking factors are:

  • Many accountants do not charge their clients enough for what they do.
  • Their clients expect to be only a low fixed fee whatever services they require each year.
  • Accountants are quite often hopeless at selling, and especially at selling value.
  • They join the race to the bottom in terms of fees for selling generic services such as accounts and tax returns and have no room for manoeuvre on fees.

How do we get round this, and sell more through those other businesses who themselves should be “making a turn” on the fees we charge them?

  • Firstly, we need to convince the intermediary business of the value of what we offer.
  • We should ask to draft any proposal they send to their client, emphasising the value if we honestly think we can deliver the value for that client, or
  • We should ask to speak to the client direct, reassuring the intermediary that we will not steal their business.

Of course this is not just a problem in my profession, but in so many where we need our services to be sold through others.

Do you get frustrated when someone else ends up selling you short to their customer?

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