No pressure selling puts customers in the driver seat, making them feel in control of the buying process. The rationale behind no pressure selling is that by creating a positive buying experience will likely result in high customer satisfaction, which in turn, improves sales conversion and retention. This approach can also generate new leads through direct referrals or favourable reviews online (those who have had a positive buying experience will likely share the experience with others).
Many business professionals use “soft” sales techniques to close a deal by keeping the prospect at the forefront of the negotiations. The chief aim is to build trust and loyalty. This article looks at two techniques: “Establishing an Upfront Contract” and “Delivering a Customer-Centric Solution.”
Establish an upfront contract
Many prospects need to believe that the objective is not to sell them immediately, but rather to work with them to find the optimal solution. Qualify your prospect to determine the right product fit by stating your intentions, agreeing on an agenda and establishing a clear path forward. The Sandler Sales Institute calls this approach “The Upfront Contract,” which is a verbal agreement grounded upon mutual respect and consent.
The purpose of the contract is to present a framework for managing customer expectations at the beginning of the buying process. It also gives structure to the conversation allowing the seller to guide the meeting.
A simplified version of the framework covers three main activities:
- State the purpose of the meeting. The reason for the meeting is to understand the customer’s needs better and determine how to fulfill best those needs (by way of price, timeline, service offering or any other factors that may influence their buying decision). Begin the meeting with the intention of qualifying the prospect to find the right product fit. You would first ask permission to ask questions by stating your reasons for doing so. Being transparent about your intentions can help the customer gain more confidence in the buying process, and be willing to open up.
- Establish an agenda for the meeting. The agenda includes the main discussion points and the time allotted for the meeting, keeping the negotiations on track by ensuring everyone’s time is respected. Early in the buying process, you will be asking a series of clarifying questions to capture new information before putting forward a final recommendation. The prospect must have a reason to continue with the conversation and asking questions is one way to maintain regular engagement.
- Create a clear path forward. The final step of the buying process should be to reach a specific objective. Getting a definite “Yes” would be the ideal scenario, whereas a resounding “No” can at least give some clarity and closure, freeing up your time to qualify new leads. It is the “Maybes” that can turn into a time-consuming follow-up process leading nowhere. You would have hopefully provided enough information in the meeting to prevent this. But if you are in a situation where the customer asks for more time to “think about it” you would want to determine when to call on the customer next. Try to leave the meeting with a follow-up agenda. You can also suggest calling the customer at a later time if you have new information that may help influence the outcome (rather than simply asking what they have decided on at a later date).
Deliver a customer-centric solution
No pressure selling goes against conventional wisdom of putting a sense of urgency or time constraint to secure a deal early in the buying process, such as “buy today and get 5% off” or “book now while seats are still available.” However, high-pressure sales tactics such as these might either discourage the prospect from buying or create buyer remorse later down the road if the timing is not right. These businesses may fail to secure a deal, miss opportunities for upselling or experience high customer churn because of rushing the process in pursuit of short-term gains.
Place customer-centricity at the core of the sales experience by focusing on what the customer wants. Capture their requirements through open dialogue and a healthy exchange of ideas, and then reverse engineer the solution to match their needs. Rather than pushing products onto the customer, you are pulling customer requests through your own workflow and business model, and then delivering the right product to meet those requests.
During the meeting, bring to light some information that customers may not be aware of. Once you have gained a better understanding of their needs, you can then phrase some questions in ways that reinforce your value proposition and will likely generate a positive response: “Would you find it beneficial if we can deliver the same result in half the time?” Subtle gestures such as this can keep the meeting in a positive tone.
Offering a customer-centric solution rather than one that is off-the-shelf allows you to learn more about your customers. The benefit of active customer engagement is not only to understand the specific needs of the prospect right away but also allows you to make inferences about the needs of the mainstream customer. Recognizing patterns emerging through repetitive behaviour can help you refine your business model, improving the type of services necessary for serving a broader customer segment.
Some business owners may need to go beyond their core services and tap into a professional network of suppliers or contractors, bringing together a diverse set of skills, to deliver a solution according to customer wants. Over time, the same owners can invest in strengthening those partnerships to offer a full-service solution if it makes good financial sense. Active customer engagement can thus provide valuable insights in refining your business model for better serving a more comprehensive set of needs and planning for the future.