Always Be Selling.

by Suhail on February 26, 2012

If you've ever been to Canal Street in NYC or any Chinatown in the US, you know all the street vendors are using the hard sell (and how good they are at it).

Taking the time to find out people’s interests is key in selling. Background information, likes, interests; virtually any type of lead. Maybe a referral from a friend. These are all great ways to start off a sell. These aren’t just my ideas, but more of a mash-up of things I’ve noticed credible life-hackers talk about all the time. People like Michael Jordan,  Seth Godin, Jeff Bezos, Tim Ferriss and even Charlie Rose all exhibit great selling. Whether it’s trying to get your book off the ground by word-of-mouth recommendations or selling your personality every time you meet someone important, people exhibit two approaches to selling: the soft sell and the hard sell, even if they don’t use those terms.

So, first off: What is the hard sell?

The hard approach to selling is kind of like cold-calling. If you know anything about cold-calling, it can get extremely rough at times. Don’t get me wrong, cold-calling has it’s time and place, and can definitely produce new sales. But, for the majority of time you live life, you’ll be interacting with people that you know through other people. Think about it: Anytime you’re compelled to sell yourself on your work, your personality, or your experiences, sometimes it’s someone completely new, but more than likely, it’s someone that you know through another connection (digitally, think 2nd or 3rd connection). In my opinion, these types of interactions are best approached with the soft sell.

So, let’s say you’re a single male and you meet a girl that you would like to ask out. The hard sell would be having your first conversation with her and asking, “do you want to come home with me.” Now, I don’t know who this works for, maybe it works for you, but it’s definitely met with many failures for the average man and even the average stud muffin. That’s a pretty simple example. It sounds inconceivable that you would ever do that, but you’d be surprised how often we use the hard sell in everyday conversation.

Next: What is the soft sell?

Using the same example of the single male, the soft approach is very much like getting to know a girl, and taking her out on a date. Wooing a girl is the soft sell. Taking it easy and letting multiple meetings build trust. The same is true in business and in life. While cold-calling is parallel to the hard sell, taking the time to get to know a client is parallel to the soft sell.

Now, which one is better?

Well the hard sell, like I said before, is excellent in tense, urgent situations where pressure needs to be applied fast in order to get a quick result. So, getting someone to sign up for a one-time newsletter or selling a football ticket for an upcoming game, is a speedy situation that requires a quick call-to-action, making the hard-sell a better choice of action. Think of the old cliche of detectives using the hard approach to get a suspect to reveal a hidden detail about a crime.

However, the soft approach is what the best salesmen use, regardless of the situation. If you’re trying to sell a software product that is hard to understand, getting to know the back-end development of the software, how it works, and all of its bugs and fixes, will give you an edge when it comes to selling that product to a potential customer. Similarly, if you’re an entrepreneur and you want to get the word out about your new startup, then you’ve put your marketing hat on, but don’t forget to put your sales hat on as well.

In Real Terms…

Marketing is also selling. How do you create a buzz? If you’ve innovated a startup company that is based on getting users signed up online and ready to interact with other users (like most social networking websites) then how do you get people to sign up?

You have to sell it! As a marketing associate for BranchOut, one of my jobs is to, well, market the online service. BranchOut gives you the ability to find and have access to competitive job postings online, through the largest social hub online, Facebook. In my mind, asking people to sign up through Facebook chat is useless because most people ignore it, and if they do sign up for the Facebook app, they don’t end up using the service.

What’s an increasing number of users mean, if user interaction is staying stagnant? So, a good way to save some time is to narrow the target audience by asking graduating seniors who are actually looking for internships and jobs. Then, using the soft approach to selling, I could start a conversation about their plans after college and then boom, you’re in. People don’t find jobs from just one source, so the opportunity cost of signing up for a Facebook app is very low. People are happy to do it if it even has the slightest chance of helping them because the job market is stressed. Just don’t spam. Have a genuine conversation. You’ll not only sell what you’re trying to sell, but chances are you’ll probably have a great conversation and make a new friend.

On that note, if you are looking for a job, I’d love if you’d sign up here, for an awesome account on BranchOut. You’ll be able to connect with your friends, your friends friends, and all of their linkages to possible job openings that match your interests and qualifications. Like I said, the opportunity cost is low. Why not give it a try?

You can also check out my BranchOut profile by clicking on the link in the About Me section in the sidebar (up and to the right).

My last thought on selling:

Know your product, know your industry, and most importantly, know the needs and interests of the person you’re selling to. It takes a little bit of work, but it’s actually the most rewarding way to sell.

What approach do you take to selling? Hard or soft? Which one do you think works better for you?

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Also, check out which books I’m currently reading:

A Wizard of Earthsea, Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries, and The Hunger Games

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