If you’re in business, you’ve probably been the recipient of high-pressure sales tactics such as cold calls, robocalls, LinkedIn pitches, mass e-mails, and direct mail campaigns. These high-pressure sales tactics typically end up in the real or digital trash pail.
High-pressure selling is defined as “salespersons using psychological pressure on the customer by appealing to their fear, greed, and pride to sell a given product or service.” The proliferation of digital media has given those sellers the ability to apply that pressure across multiple channels, at all hours of the day and night.
When you cross the line between being persistent and being bullying or annoying, you run the risk of damaging your brand’s reputation in the long-run and coming across as desperate and even unethical.
So, as a non-profit or brand marketer, how do you ensure that you break through the clutter without annoying a prospect or donor?
The first step is having a tight sales strategy. You must know – at a deep and broad level – exactly who you’re selling to and why your product, service, or non-profit might appeal to them. Research and database management are both key to getting that understanding and mapping-out a sales plan, creating message points, and creating a unified marketing/sales strategy.
Relationship Development Versus Selling
People buy from, invest in, and donate to organizations and people they know, like, and trust. In a personal relationship, you wouldn’t contact someone repeatedly until they agree to date or marry you. Cultivation of a business relationship is no different.
Close to 60 percent of people say that they would be more inclined to buy from someone who doesn’t apply constant pressure. Nearly 70 percent appreciate a salesperson who does their homework prior to reaching out; researching something about the company and prospect to help craft the message.
In the words of Adam Schoenfeld, VP of Strategy at Drift, “You can’t make your customer buy. But you can remove friction. And less friction means more buying. Personal trainers don’t make you healthy. They remove friction from exercise. Great sellers remove friction.”
Create the Right Listening/Talking Ratio
Once you’ve done your pre-work, take the time to listen to what a prospective client or donor has to say.
Kara Diane Festa, Founder of Kara Diane Coaching & Consulting, uses the term “hard listen” as opposed to “hard sell.” She says that when she really listens to a prospect, she can “tailor her services exactly to the problem they’re trying to solve, instead of trying to create a solution based on preconceived notions or a one-size-fits-all packaged approach.”
Adds Will Evans, Senior Sales Manager of Splash, a software company that works with the event industry, “The key to closing sales without being too high pressure is deep discovery. Through deep discovery and understanding of your potential client’s pain, you are able to keep coming back to the risk of not moving forward with your solution.”
Understanding the balance between your own timeline and the prospect’s priorities is critical. Many salespeople or non-profits become consumed by their own calendars or quotas and don’t realize that the people they are selling to might have other priorities in their work and lives. When a prospect tells you that the time isn’t right for a decision, don’t push too hard or the time may never be right.
If you are offering a “limited time offer,” make sure that your offer is credible and compelling. For example, the non-profit Tuesday’s Children ran a “holiday flash sale,” matching donations 3x during a 24-hour period. The executive director and other team members made personal calls, letting people know about the promotion. The campaign also afforded them an opportunity to deepen relationships.
Know the Decision-Makers and Process
Many purchase decisions involve multiple people within an organization. Part of closing a deal requires understanding the influencers and the process. Evans advises salespeople to provide prospects with “content to help them pitch” and also to “maintain multiple lines of communications with all individual parties.”
Forcing an organization to make a rapid decision will not pay off in the long run. When buyers don’t have time to ask questions, absorb a product demo, or research a cause, they may make impulsive decisions that will have longer-term ramifications. Buyers’ remorse is real and potentially dangerous for your brand and its credibility.
Use Technology to Improve Sales Skills
Conversational intelligence is becoming an essential part of sales training and management. Rather than having a human coach teach people how to sell and evaluating their performance (which can be highly subjective), several companies – including Gong, Chorus, and ringDNA have developed technology that records and analyzes the content of sales conversations.
William Tyree, Chief Marketing Officer of ringDNA, talks about how his own company applies this technology to improve his company’s own sales results. “We can actually measure the performance of SDRs (Sales Development Reps) who don’t listen to their prospects’ needs. For example, our research indicates that the average talk streak of top B2B SDRs in a sales conversation is just 12 seconds. Obviously, reps will talk more than that occasionally, but once the average talk streak goes beyond that duration, there’s a significant dip in the likelihood that a demo will be booked.” ringDNA has tracked more than 130 million sales conversations.
What is Low-Pressure Selling?
The Harvard Business Review lays out an approach for sales that puts the decision-maker in charge and softens the persistent approach that many salespeople have adopted. This approach requires more active listening and relationship development and even different types of sales professionals. This methodology can “bring higher productivity in relation to the time and effort spent.” Less time is spent trying to convince a prospect to make a decision versus working in partnership with them to reach a sound conclusion.
Organizations and salespeople can clearly see the listening/speaking ratio and map out the point at which the prospective customer engaged or disengaged. Salespeople can then model their conversation flow and message points after the most successful closers.
Knowing who you’re talking to (whether over the phone or via e-mail), building a solid relationship based on trust, listening well, and leveraging technology to enhance sales skills are all keys to building a long-term effective sales strategy.