A hard sell refers to using an advertising or sales approach that is pointed, direct, and aimed at persuading a potential customer to make an immediate decision to purchase a product.
A hard-sell approach stands in contrast to a soft-sell approach, which is much less aggressive and not as much focused on getting a consumer to make an immediate purchase. A soft-sell approach is also more often an appeal to a consumer’s emotions, as opposed to using a hard-sell style that more often involves bombarding a potential customer with facts and information and that stresses the urgency of buying “right now.”
A hard sell is an advertising or sales presentation technique that is strongly focused on persuading a consumer to make an immediate purchase of a product.
Hard-sell presentations typically consist of presenting multiple reasons to buy a product, as well as one or more special inducements to buy the product “right now.”
The hard sell stands in contrast to a soft-sell approach, which is usually a more emotional rather than rational appeal to buy and is usually a much less direct attempt to sell something.
What Characterizes a Hard Sell?
Hard-sell presentations are often characterized by exuberant enthusiasm, with the aim being to get the potential customer as excited about the product as the salesperson appears to be. They are also commonly packed with facts and figures meant to overwhelm a consumer with the many benefits of purchasing the offered product. For example, a car salesman will often run down all the “extra” or “luxury” features of a car, with the hope of making owning the car sound like a virtually irresistible proposition.
A hard-sell approach is typically one that aims to persuade a consumer to purchase a product on a rational basis by giving them multiple reasons as to why or how owning the product will improve their life. For example, the salesperson may offer reasons such as the fact that having the product will save the consumer time and that it is easier to use and less expensive than a competing product.
Finally, a hard sell is most characterized by the sense of urgency that the salesperson conveys and by their unwillingness to take “no thanks” or “let me think about it” as an answer. A sense of urgency is most often conveyed with a special price inducement, such as offering the potential customer a substantial discount if they make a purchase on the spot while pointing out that if they wait to make a purchase later on, they will have to pay substantially more for the product. Hard-sell salespeople are also extremely persistent, attempting, again and again, to persuade a consumer to buy something even when the consumer has said “no” several times.
The Alternate Approach – The Soft Sell
The alternative to a hard-sell method of sales is the soft-sell approach. A soft sell notably lacks a sense of urgency and focus on making an immediate purchase that characterizes a hard sell. It also tends to be a more emotional presentation, as opposed to the hard sell habit of presenting numerous facts and rational reasons for buying a product.
A soft-sell approach is also much less a direct attempt to make a sale than a hard sell is. In fact, some soft sell advertisements are so indirect that they do not even contain a direct attempt to persuade the consumer to make a purchase. The advertisement may talk about the product at length, but make no more of a direct, immediate sales attempt other than mentioning stores or websites where the product may be purchased.
Soft selling also usually lacks substantial discount pricing offers that are characteristic of hard selling.
A good example of a hard sell is the sales technique used in “infomercials” – typically half-hour presentations of a product on television. Infomercials are typically packed with reasons to buy the offered product, and often get the reasons backed up by the testimony of an expert. For example, medical products offered for sale may be touted with the endorsement of one or more doctors.
Infomercials are also characterized by containing multiple direct appeals to buy the product. The avalanche of information about the product is usually interrupted every five to ten minutes with a direct appeal to “call now,” “order now,” etc.
Finally, such advertising is invariably accompanied by the hard sell sense of urgency, in the form of several inducements designed to get a consumer to make an immediate purchase. Typical inducements include a substantial discount on the product’s price for making a purchase right now and offering free additional products to consumers who “call within the next five minutes.”
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