Broken windows and soft selling. How do these fit together? Let me explain. I have been rereading Malcolm Gladwells “The Tipping Point”; part of the book talks about the well-publicised broken windows theory that was first introduced by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, in 1982. This is an excerpt:
“Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside. Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or even break into cars”
How does this apply to your soft sell approach? Simple, everything matters!
We were approached to work with an organisation who wanted to take a soft sell approach. They said they did; the management team talked about it; the directors engaged us on this basis. BUT they didn’t want to adopt the soft sell approach. What they actually wanted was to take their traditional hard sales approach and dress it up as soft selling. That is a crime so we chose not to work with them.
There is little point in saying one thing and doing another. The incongruence will show and your true colours will be revealed. At the centre of a soft-selling approach is openness, honesty and communicating in a transparent way with your customers.
What are the broken windows in your sales approach? Here are some areas that have caught others out:
1. Social media - do you spend all of your time shouting about how great your products and services are? Do you do nothing but push your products and services? Try pulling people in by sharing information that they will find useful and relevant.
2. Your sales and marketing literature - does it reflect how you really speak to your customers? Is the tone and language engaging and warm? Or do you have two voices?
3. Your job title - does it tell me what you do? Do you try and wrap up your salespeople in account managers or business development clothes? Do the titles mean anything to anyone outside of your business?
4. Do you and your team really understand your customers’ needs? A lot of organisations think they understand their customers’ needs, but they do this by framing this understanding around the products and services they offer. Just understand what your customer is trying to achieve and what pain they are facing before you think about your own products and services.
5. Have you ever found yourself pouncing on sales opportunities? There is nothing wrong with spotting and converting sales opportunities with a gentle nudge (a soft selling approach). However, if you find yourself carrying the “Big Closing Stick”, then you might be charged with GBH – Grabbing, Bullying and Harassing your customers.
It’s a simple thing to think about, just like the broken windows approach to crime, everything you do counts towards your soft sales approach. Following the Tipping Point examples, if you want your organisation to embrace a soft selling approach, then a key part of the process is to focus on all the small things.
Sometimes getting the microscope out and examining these small things in your business will highlight some of the great (or not so great) parts of the wider business appraoch.
When it comes to selling, avoid the strong arm tactics and employ the subtle soft approach. If you don’t commit the sales crime, you won’t be punished by your customers.
By Nevil Tynemouth - Director, New Results Training, Speaker, Coach and Workshop facilitator. Nevil is also the author of “Sales Success on LinkedIn” and is recognised as an excellent facilitator, bringing new ideas, methods and approaches to life for those he works with.