Hard Sell, Soft Sell

Kind of ironic that I am trying to write this blog and the music around me is blaring at a level just short of the pain threshold.  I am sitting in a small Mexican cantina in an unlikely college town in Pennsylvania. Ouch…the guy on stage needs to work on the feedback.  Me ears are about to bleed.  I singled out this little restaurant last night as I was driving back to my hotel, but waited until tonight to nurture my appetite for queso and salsa.  As it turns out, tonight is this little college town’s “Battle of the Bands” event.  Students have flocked to the doors fidgeting with their IDs and sporting suspicious looking bottles of water and iced tea under their jackets.    

As fun as the environment is, I am about 10 years late and 5 beers short of feeling as enthusiastic as the crowd surging around me.  How I landed this little table all too myself…well…I guess my smile still carries some charm.

Which leads me to the point of this article.  The difference between the short term and long term relationship with your ustomer and how to bring it about.  

Lets assume that this little Mexican cantina serves great food with good service in a setting conducive to conversation and the exchange of laughs with friends.  They would have captured a regular customer for life. Me. A long term customer. However, if each night I tried to eat here, this same cantina featured a screaming match between my waitress and I over the din of a metal band and a pulsing crowd of college students, it would change things. I need food 3 times daily.  I would eat here maybe a half dozen times in my life — only on occasions when I am surrounded by really fun people and the first drinks were poured at 3pm.  

Don’t get me wrong, once or twice a year, I love cutting loose. I took my wife moshing at a Celtic rock concert last year where she went crowd surfing for the first time…and the second time…and…you get the idea. The Irish are fun people.  Especially when accompanied by heavy electric guitars, bagpipes and Guiness.  Apparently, so is my wife.  

The point is that it was last year.  I am officially a short term customer of such settings. Super fun in the moment, then a bit of a headache afterward. This of it this way — Cantina #1: the soft sell and the long term customer. Cantina #2 with metal band or Irish rock crowd surfing: the hard sell and the short term customer. In-your-face, loud, hard-sell tactics have been the lifeblood of infomercials for the past 30 years. They are looking to grab the sale in the moment.  They create tons of excitement and customers get caught up in the energy, dropping dollars faster than the Irish can down Guiness. However, once the flow of energy stops, the customers come down from their mountaintop moment, the crowd surfing ends and the next time that infomercial plays, many will change the channel rather than buy another.  

Retail TV networks are interested in long term customers.  They want people to come back over and over again, buying from the same people with ease and confidence.  They employ the softer sell.  The metal band becomes an unimposing mariachi duet and the screaming waitress becomes smiles and conversational personality…and as a result, the food sounds good twice weekly!

Think about which relationship you want with your customer.  Depending on what you sell, each method has its unique function. Most seasoned sales professionals employ a bit of both tactics in very strategic amounts throughout their sell.  However, it is important to identify your customer and decide which way you should lean depending on who you want to attract.

In my case, my lean is toward the end of my meal and the door.  It is either that or 5 more beers, for which I would need my wife and a few hundred Irish.


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