I had a conversation with a gentleman that I do business with and we got onto the subject of different approaches to sales. He is a well-established individual who has successfully run many businesses, and his current operation follows a zero-pressure sales approach. The company he runs is not a start-up and his brand is well-established. This got me thinking about which sales models are better, or at what point should each sales model be used.
I broke the sales approach into two mutually exclusive styles:
- Hard and fast
- Soft and slow
Hard and Fast
The hard and fast approach is what most consumers are used to seeing. This would be the car salesman, or cold call approach, in which the salesperson is trying to close the sale as fast as possible. As you can see, there is a lot to be said for this approach from a business perspective. A business has a financial pressure to persuade a consumer into committing to a purchase. The window of opportunity is often short and, if not taken advantage of, will pass.
The downside to this approach is that it can often leave the customer feeling used or taken advantage of. The level of integrity can quickly be compromised if the sale becomes more important than the customer. This was the point of contention with my friend. His competition pushes a poor product on people and does not inform them on the potential downside of their purchase. They have ramped up their marketing campaign, so they are often the first place people go, and the high-pressure sales approach usually gets them to commit to the purchase right away.
The advantage of this approach is that it brings money in the door quickly. This is especially beneficial for a small company that does not have the finances to cover the month-to-month bills. The other upside is that it can lead to a sale with someone who was not intending on making a purchase.
Soft and Slow
The soft and slow approach is much more common among well-established organizations that often market very little. I am a fan of this approach because it removes the possibility of compromising integrity. The customer relationships are less business and more personal. An example of this approach may be found with your realtor. I understand there are pushy realtors, but most of the ones I have dealt with seemed to be more interested in what I wanted than what they wanted to sell.
The downside to this approach is that it takes time. Establishing rapport with a customer doesn’t always happen overnight, so a sale may take a few interactions. As a small business this can be a problem because of cash flow requirements. If each sale requires a month-long investment, it could quickly become difficult to pay the bills.
The upside to this approach is that a single sale could win you a customer for life. If a customer trusts you and you can help solve the problem, they will often times keep coming back, even if your product or service is slightly more expensive.
Relational Aspect of Business
The two approaches above each exist for valid reasons and each have a downside. A start-up with little capital behind it will find it difficult to not push to make a sale. A more mature company on the other hand may be leaving money on the table by not creating a call to action for their potential customers.
It should also be recognized that the slow approach will result in a stable customer base, while the fast approach will result in a volatile customer base. The customers that were sold on the fast approach will have zero loyalty and will move on to the next offer once they find one they like better. Customers sold on the slow approach will be fewer and further between but will likely come back time and time again.
I am an advocate of quality products delivered with quality service with zero compromise, so the slow approach is much more appealing to me. I appreciate the stability of the customer base that comes along with it and I don’t mind investing the time to provide the added value. That said, I would like to hear what you have to say. I know both have pros and cons, so which one works for you? Or, if you have not started yet, which one will you implement and why?
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