Customer in the Boardroom – Pitfalls of Hard Selling

Hard sell

A company/concern typically starts with a product focussed on meeting an existing customer need or an unmet latent need. Therefore in that pursuit it remains squarely focussed on customer value creation. Motivator for founder is solving customer problems emanating from their need states hence selling is carried out consultatively with a great sense of responsibility and empathy. Business is more aligned to this aspect since there is a zero degree of separation between the board/founder and customer.

As the company scales with a perfected product market fit and finds itself a large addressable market; external pressures like competitive market share, attracting higher valuations or maintaining quarterly earnings growth on the bourses start kicking in. These factors gradually tilt the concern’s strategy from customer value creation to revenue maximization.

Organizations scaled, hierarchized pursue revenue maximization strategy with a structure which professes “Hard sell or Aggressive Selling” meeting increased sales calls, revenue & market share target metrics and resource alignment to these metrics is done via monetary incentives. This makes the organizations approach more inwards as accountability is laid on achieving above metrics of sales calls, revenue & market share while shifting focus away from customer value creation.

Aggressive selling comes with energy peaks and troughs which cannot be sustained over longer periods of time. This is because of lower order motivators used like capital incentive or any other kind of social reward within or outside of their organizations. This often turns hard sell into bedrock of mis-selling as executives try to maximise their short term gains.

While a soft sell approach is based on higher order motivator of value creation for the client and through that creating impact for larger society, in that process a sales organization sees itself being part of a positive transformation and remains motivated with sustained higher energy levels.

Cases where there are shifts in market due to changes in customer needs or innovation coming from new players; a sales organization built on “Hard sell or Aggressive Selling” is unable to either pre-empt those changes or identify the shift in the first place. More so it is unable to iterate on its products or services before the trend fully manifests itself, as frontline executives are more focused on internal metrics and not empathetic enough to penetrate customer’s operating reality to provide a timely feedback. Senior leadership gets blinded to changes in customer reality as the degree of separation increases by up to 5. Hence “Aggressive selling or hard-sell” renders itself ineffective in the long run.

While a soft sell approach based on values of empathy and persuasion helps sellers penetrate customers operating reality and remain in alignment to value, as is seen by the customer. This approach fosters an environment of trust where clients generally articulate their met and unmet needs. This not only allows a concern to iterate their products and services to remain relevant in the marketplace but also rewards them by opening up the possibility of creating new products & services.

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