Master Soft Selling and Hard Selling

Sometimes, closing the deal is just a matter of taking the right approach. Find out how you can master the art of the soft sell--and the hard sell.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the July 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

In selling, as in martial arts, there are times when being aggressive is the only way to close the deal. At other times, though, a softer approach is the better way to go. The difference is that, in selling, our customers are not our enemies. Rather, they are our sparring partners, and the result of our interaction is that both parties should come out stronger in the end.

The Soft Sell

If you've decided that a kinder, gentler approach is what's needed to close a deal, there are three "soft" steps you can take when someone comes at you with an objection:

  • 1. Listen and observe. You want to know not only what the person is saying to you, but also how he or she is saying it. You want to hear the words and analyze the personality behind the words. Most important, you want to establish eye contact and create a bond that can lead to a strong relationship.
  • 2. Question their objections. You can't counter an attack unless you're able to size up your opponent. And you can't handle an objection unless you understand exactly what it is and where it's coming from. Only then can you see the possibilities available to make your product or service fit with your customers' needs. So question your customers' objections, and find out how you can fill their needs. Ask them to explain, expand and elaborate until you fully understand the situation.
  • 3. Address their concerns. Use your customers' own objections to deflect their concerns and lead them to a positive resolution of what they perceive as a conflict. Say, "You mentioned this was your real concern about using this product. Here's what we can do for you to make sure that all your needs are met."

The Hard Sell

Sometimes, it's necessary to take a more aggressive approach to make a sale. There are two steps to follow here:

  • 1.Let your enthusiasm and passion show. Let customers see that you believe strongly that there is a match between what they need and what you've got to offer. There's a saying in martial arts: "If you understand yourself and not your opponent, you win half the battles. If you understand your opponent and yourself, you win 100 percent of the battles. If you understand neither, you win no battles." If you really understand yourself and what you're selling, and you really understand the customer, you will come away with a win-win situation.
  • 2.Be able to support your belief. In sales, belief and enthusiasm can carry the day-if they are backed up by knowledge and understanding. Have all your facts and figures down, and have at least three or four strong reasons illustrating how your product stands out from the rest.

When you're trying to make a sale, you have to know what to do when an objection comes at you from left field. To make the strongest close, you have to be ready to use what you've learned about your customer, what you know about yourself and your product, and how much you believe in what you're doing.


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