Hard Sales - a long battle

Yes, there are hard sales out there that are probably worth spending time on, but you're better off to first exhaust all reasonable possibilities in the area of easy sales. These will give you highest return on your investment of time and resources.

Next, you'll want to tackle the more challenging sales, as these will likely provide better return on investment than any of the sales that you perceive as being "hard." You'll want to invest some time and effort in hard sales, especially if there will ge a nice reward for your efforts.

Let's look at what hard sales are, and how you might tackle them.

What Makes for Hard Sales?

Sales that are easy are generally those where the customer knows you, and you're trying to sell a "tried and true" product or service. Hard sales are just the opposite - you're trying to sell something to someone who doesn't know you, and you're trying to sell something that you've never or rarely sold in the marketplace.

The net result is that you and your product or service is unknown and perhaps untested. Your reputation may be nil in the eyes of your customer. Confidence in your product or service is low because your potential customer has no experience with it, and they probably have never heard of it before either.

Think about it for a while. The main focus when making sales is to overcome objections like cost, performance, guarantee, convenience and suitability for the customer. The secondary objective is to create customer confidence in your ability to deliver, service, maintain and support what you're selling.

In trying to make these type of sales, you're really going against all the odds. You're trying to gain customer confidence in what you're selling, and you're trying to gain customer confidence in you and your organization.

It isn't easy to do.

An Approach to Hard Sales - build a relationship

Some of the hard sales are worthwhile hammering on because there might be a substantial reward at the end. Hang in there and you'll reap the benefits of all your hard work. But, be prepared to put in some time, effort and resources to accomplish your goal of having a new customer.

The first step I'd recommend is building a relationship. I learned that business is done between people - it isn't done between companies. Therefore, the first effort you need to make is to get acquainted with the decision-maker of your prospective customer.

If people know you and like the way to present yourself and handle yourself, they're more likely to give you a chance to prove that doing business with you is worthwhile. Otherwise, you don't have much of a chance.

So, engage your potential customer in conversation and start building a relationship. If you can visit them in person, then do that too.

Don't waste their time. Have something to say. Obtain information from them about their interests and needs. See if they're ready to consider what you have to offer. Thank them for their time. Leave with the idea that you'll check back in with them later, because you're interested in doing business with them.

If you propose something or promise to followup with them, do so. That helps build confidence that you're going to do what you promise.

Also, ask them if there is something that you might be able to help them with now, even if you're not engaged in a contractual relationship. This further shows your interest in meeting their needs.

An Approach to Hard Sales - inducements

Things change. Sometimes gradually, and sometimes overnight. The idea is to "be there" when they do. So, you have to be ready to make an appealing offer to your prospective customer as an inducement to doing business with you.

Can you offer any of the following:

  • reduced or "at cost" pricing for being first?
  • free upgrade if they purchase your first product offering?
  • an extended service contract at no cost in exchange for them taking a risk?
  • no risk guarantee?

If you're developing software, you'll need a realistic test bed. Can you work with your potential customer to provide them value while you do the final testing with the program? Can you add in some of the features that the customer might want, and then have a better product to offer others?

Use your imagination and work with your prospective customer so both interests are met.

Hard Sales - making 'em happen

If you're going to invest time into making hard sales, it's wise to focus your energy where you're likely to get high return on investment. Since you're an unknown, and your product or service is an unknown, you're really "swimming upstream" in the marketplace, so make certain it will ultimately be well worth your while.

To ensure success, build relationships first, then wait until the time is right to make an offer. You may have to wait a long time.

When the time is right, make a reasonable offer, and sprinkle in some inducements that will help take your customer from reluctant to ready. Then, deliver what you promised so you build on the relationship that you worked so hard to develop, and you retain a customer that you worked so hard to get.

Done with Hard Sales, take me back to Small Business Advice

The only business you'll really ever be part of is your own.

Wondering about what to do with your savings so inflation doesn't eat it up? Start your own enterprise. It's a good way to invest your capital and make it work for you. Who will be better at keeping an eye on your investment than you?