Selling Hard Shouldn't Be a Hard Sell

I get many of my ideas for this column as I travel around and talk with people in the kitchen and bath industry. When I attended the National Home Builders Show in Atlanta in early February, a discussion with other industry salespeople sparked an interest in examining the concept of "soft selling." At the time, I felt confident that I would be able to develop this idea, and feel comfortable with the outcome.'

After going through my usual routine of gathering and organizing my thoughts a process I go through each time I sit down to write about a particular topic I created a rough outline, feeling good about my progress. When I sat down at my computer to write, however, something seemed wrong. Every step of the development process was harder to make. After a few hundred words, I printed it out to try and get a handle on the problem. While it read pretty well, something was definitely amiss.'

Then it hit me. What I was trying to develop wasn't my selling style. It wasn't me. It isn't the way I sell, and it isn't the way I teach selling skills. The soft selling style that we discussed in Atlanta may work for others, but I don't think it's the best way to take advantage of selling opportunities and not believing in this, I knew I could not effectively "sell" the idea to others.'

After my realization, I scrapped the "soft selling' article and started over, trying to write a story that would more closely mirror my own beliefs about selling, and the selling style that I am most comfortable with. I didn't want to call it "hard selling," because the phrase alone conjures up images of pushy selling tactics that could be construed as unfair, or at the very least, uncomfortable. For sure, that isn't my selling style, either.

But when I thought about it, I realized that if I had to define my selling style, I would say that it could best be labeled as "selling hard."'

Selling hard
"Selling hard" revolves around the development of selling skills and employment of them in selling opportunities and not giving up. Selling hard means that you have a positive attitude that you believe that you will successfully close the sale with the next prospect you encounter. Selling hard means you'll use all of the sales tools available to you to develop sales that fulfill customers' real needs, wants and desires at the right investment for them and appropriate profit for you and your company.'

As I criss cross this country, sales designers report that there's extreme competition everywhere. I believe that, in almost all markets, there's a war going on, with everyone trying to grab what they believe is their market share. Clear lines of distribution are gone. There's no level or market that's protected anymore. This is why I couldn't feel comfortable developing the "soft selling" title. We need to use all our sales artillery to win our marketing war.'

Skill development
You should always aggressively market your products and services to assure that qualifying prospects in your market know who you are, what you offer and how to find you. A few ways to remain aggressive is to search for prospects at home shows and designer showcase homes. Networking within your market is a key tactic.

Skillful and complete questioning of prospects to develop both their known and hidden needs, while at same time evaluating if they fit your prerequisites for potential customers, is also a part of selling hard.'

Another part of selling hard is identifying potential customers who will give you fits later on. Disqualify them now and let them do business with your competition. Let this type of consumer paralyze your competitors' operation and steal their emotions and profits.

Selling hard is also knowing your products and services, and how ownership of their features will be of benefit to your prospective customer. This takes effort on your part, to raise your knowledge to a level so high that you'll be viewed as an industry expert, the creative one, the professional kitchen/bath sales/design person who people seek out when they want it done right.

Investing time and talent into the presentation of the solutions you've designed to satisfy prospects' needs is also an element of this type of sell. Your presentation must prove the benefits to be gained by your clients' investment. This presentation needs to show fair value, and be attractive enough for the customer to say yes to your offering.

When your customers tells you your price is too high, they want to think it over or they want to run around and get more quotes, don't give up. Selling hard is being prepared for these rejections and any other common objections you hear. Selling hard means developing your defense to these typical objections before they occur.'

You can do this by altering your sales development to accommodate overcoming the expected objections.

Probably the most difficult aspect of selling hard is delivering on the expectations you built up in the development of the sale. While delivering on the commitments you made will result in a happy customer, delivering on those expectations plus one extra thing is an important part of selling hard.'

Therefore, not only will you have earned a happy customer for life, this will act as an investment in creating your next sales opportunity. Your next opportunity may come as a direct referral or indirectly from the positive comments made by satisfied customers to their friends, coworkers and the like.

Additionally, people who sell hard practice the following:'

  • Being on time for business appointments.
  • Returning phone calls in a timely manner.'
  • Having quotes available in a timely manner.
  • Controlling the sales process.
  • Paying attention to detail.
  • Ensuring accuracy.
  • Communicating if any expected time line will not be met.
  • Providing attention and quick resolutions or answers to any concerns or problems, and follow-up to assure satisfaction and to maximize opportunity for referrals.

There is no end to "selling hard" because, when done correctly, your selling hard efforts will build new selling opportunities, and the process will feed itself. "Selling hard" not only maximizes your selling opportunities, but provides the customer with the best overall value.

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