To Increase Sales, Think Beyond the Hard Sell

Date: March 21, 2014

Build relationships with your buyers to make them more comfortable.

Two words can make customers nervous: hard sell. Yet, it’s still as prevalent as ever. This New York Times article details the hard sell practices by Staples.  

Hard-selling, the act of direct, forceful pressure on customers to convince them to buy a product or a service, can feel rather uncomfortable—for both sellers and potential buyers. So how can a small business owner increase sales with existing customers if the hard sell feels too aggressive? Focus on building relationships with existing customers.

Doing so can help increase customer retention, says Chuck McCabe, CEO and president of Peoples Tax, an accounting company in Glen Allen, Va.

McCabe stays in touch with his clients through a monthly e-newsletter. It doesn’t tout McCabe’s newest services; instead, it offers practical advice, such as how to create identity alerts, and relevant news, such as changes in tax laws. “Our current newsletter made clients aware that the cost of caring for a pet could be a deductible if the pet was adopted through a program of a charity recognized by the IRS,” McCabe says.

Christopher Ryan, president of Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Fusion Marketing Partners, also believes in the power of building relationships. He advocates that small business owners offer three non-selling pieces of communication for every hard-selling one. It creates a sense that your business is on the customers’ side, rather than trying to unload services and products.

Once customers feel like your small business is working with them, not for them, you can build a sense of loyalty. McCabe created a loyal customer card that gives cardholders a 3 percent discount every time they return for a tax service.

According to McCabe, after his company created the e-newsletter and a loyalty program, his customer retention reached roughly 95 percent, up from 85 percent. “A hard sell might work to get a new client,” he says, “but client retention is unlikely unless true value is delivered.”   


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