The Complete Guide to Soft Selling

A Rising Sales Approach for a Digital-First Landscape

The Complete Guide to Soft Selling

The Complete Guide to Soft Selling 1200 1200 Home

Overview

summary of key findings
  • Covid-19 has caused an acceleration of digital trends and across the globe we are witnessing the emergence of a new customer – one with increased expectations and with a much more advanced use of digital technologies.
  • Customers now demand easy access to information, have a preference for self-service and require personalization to meet their unique sets of challenges. When dealing with sales professionals they require speed, transparency and expertise.
  • Bringing a human touch to virtual selling is key to thriving in a digital-first world and the benefits are numerous. Primarily, sales professionals can expect an influx of customer referrals, a greater closing rate and lower ghosting rate, a more positive attitude and overall their career reputation will be positively impacted.
summary of recommendations
  • Lean on the soft selling approach to create emotional and long-lasting customer relationships. Use the 6 basic principles to master the approach: empathy, active listening, value-based selling, value-added interactions, knowledge as well as availability and responsiveness.
  • Develop your tech stack to support your efforts. Already established technologies can benefit you, such as: CRMs, Social Selling softwares, Sharing Tools, Digital Sales Rooms, and more. However, as virtual selling becomes the new reality, make it a point to stay current on new emerging technologies.

Introduction

Two years ago, the world was forced to pause and to enter a remote digital world, which not only impacted the way businesses conducted their day-to-day activities but also the way customers behaved.

Across the globe, we witnessed the emergence of a new type of customer; one that is much more advanced in its use of digital technologies. New customers expect to conduct most of their business online, they need easy access to all information, and they only engage with vendors when they want. Meanwhile, sales professionals can no longer rely on in-person tactics, such as face-to-face meetings or tradeshows, to grow their business.

This shift disturbed the entire sales ecosystem and sparked a rapid digital transformation. Forced to adapt, sales professionals have moved to a digital-first approach, integrating simple tools like Zoom or Teams to manage remote meetings, heavily investing in providing added-value content, and making use of virtual selling tools and other emerging technologies to meet customers’ rising expectations.

Soft Sell opportunities to differentiate competition

To thrive in the midst of this digital revolution, sales professionals are moving away from pushy sales practices and traditional sales KPIs measurement, instead opting for a softer, more human approach.

In this exhaustive guide, we explore how a soft selling approach, adapted to a digital-first landscape, solves the challenges sales professionals are facing and paves a path for sustainable success.

What is Soft Selling

Official Definition

Soft selling is an approach to sales that values long-lasting customer relationships, based on trust and honesty. Adopting a soft sell approach consists of being empathetic towards your customers and taking the time to fully grasp their realities and needs in order to better help them. 

It translates into adding value whenever you can, giving rather than taking, and showing real product knowledge to inspire confidence. A soft sell approach helps you develop emotional connections with customers, transforming them into repeat customers and brand loyalists.

Hard Sell VS Soft Sell

Hard Selling, known as a more traditional sales method, is a direct approach to asking for the sales. It is straightforward, sometimes pushy and is often associated with unscrupulous salespeople. Soft Selling is the alternative, where urgency to close the sale is not a factor and where sales professionals focus on developing an emotional connection with potential customers.

Apple: A Modern Story of Soft Selling

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a company that has perfected its soft sell approach: Apple. Since its inception in 1976, Apple has relied exclusively on a soft sell approach; from its advertisements to its online and in-store shopping experience.

While Apple could brag endlessly about its technology and all its innovative features, it uses each consumer touchpoint as an opportunity to build an emotional connection and add value to potential users. Advertisements are created to make viewers feel happy and joyful, with bright colors, cheerful music, and beautiful landscapes.

For their part, store employees do not earn sales commissions and are trained on the retail well-known APPLE five service steps. The Genius Bar offers free support and consultation, whether you experience a problem or simply want to understand your products’ features better.

Apple service steps personalization customer needs solution resolve issues

At every turn, Apple has fully embodied the soft sell approach; supporting potential customers in their decision journey with product expertise and non-judgmental support and guidance, as well as adding-value to consumers before and after a purchase. Unlike many of Apple’s competitors, consumers walk away from each and every interaction feeling seen, understood, and genuinely cared for—whether they made a purchase or not.

Apple brand loyalty score 2021

The result? Apple is constantly top-of-mind and has built such a strong, positive reputation that when consumers are in the market for a new tech product, they know exactly where to turn. Focusing on building long-lasting relationships has been rewarding for Apple, which just scored the highest brand loyalty score in the industry with a whopping 92% in 2021.

Why the Soft Selling Approach

Before diving into the principles and the benefits of mastering the soft sell approach, let’s take a look at a few of the factors making the soft sell approach so effective in today’s environment.

Customer’ Perception of Salespeople

It is unfortunate — but no surprise — that most people have a negative perception of sales professionals. Maybe it is the way Hollywood painted the profession with movies like Glengarry Glen Ross and The Wolf of Wall Street, but sales professionals are often perceived as selfish, deceitful and manipulative.

As a result, sales professionals find themselves at an early disadvantage as customers join meetings with preconceived notions. Most customers have already experienced dealing with hard sellers, and will be on the lookout for the first sign of pressure or manipulation.

pressure customers reasons why product is wrong

This makes finding a way to connect with customers that much harder—and that much more important. For over-cautious customers who are expecting the hard sell, time and space are a sales professional’s best ally. That’s where the soft sell approach comes in, and giving the customer the ability to explore their options at their own pace will reassure them that the relationship you are building is genuine.

Impact of Today’s Digital Landscape on Customers’ Behaviors

The changes in customer behavior that we have witnessed over the past 24 months are merely an acceleration of digital trends that were already in motion. Across the globe, we are seeing the emergence of a new customer—one that is much more advanced in its use of digital technologies. To thrive in this new environment as a sales professional means adapting quickly.

Here are four key trends we are observing:

  1. Customer’s Easy Access to Information

    While not being a new trend, it’s even more accurate in a post-pandemic world, where every business is focused on establishing its online presence. Today, customers are doing most of their pre-purchase research on their own.

    Even in the middle of a meeting, your customer has access to a wealth of information—including an in-depth understanding of what your competitors offer—at their fingertips.

    This dynamic has completely changed the sales landscape. Sales conversations used to be the primary avenue for customers to learn about a product and assess whether it may or may not fit their needs. These conversations were unavoidable, so sales professionals began every relationship with the upper hand.

    Today, the opposite is true. Consumers are coming into the sales landscape with all the leverage. They understand their options and they are significantly further down the sales funnel than buyers a decade ago.

  2. Customer’s Preference for Self-Service

    Secondly, the pandemic has forced us to get accustomed to online buying. While purchasing clothing online might not have been foreign, doing our grocery shopping, buying home appliances, or even shopping for cars certainly was. The result? We now feel comfortable buying pretty much anything on the web—and we can do it alone. This change in behavior is consistent with what we are observing in the B2B and B2C sectors. Your customers would rather make their purchases independently whenever possible. However, as the last trend shows, they also expect to be assisted when needed.

    Soft selling is the perfect balance of these two needs. It allows customers to guide their experience, moving at their own pace and focusing on their own needs and questions. The sales professional is a trusted resource that follows the customer’s lead throughout the process.

  3. Customers’ Requirement for Speed, Transparency and Expertise

    According to McKinsey, B2B buyers are no longer willing to accept less from their professional buying experiences than their personal buying experience. In every transaction, they now expect the speed, transparency, and expertise that used to be primarily linked to the B2C industry.

    If a question arises at any point in the buying process, customers expect to be assisted quickly and with expertise.

    When looking at requirements for best-in-class suppliers, 33% of buyers named the need for live chat—which provides speed, transparency and expertise.

  4. Customers’ Expectations for Personalization

    Finally, with the rise of AI technology and automations that allow for customization at scale, customers have become less tolerant of canned sales pitches and mass outreach. They understand that the sales landscape shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all space, and they’re more likely to notice when sales communication feels templatized. For sales professionals, the key to successful personalization is through authentic relationship building.

    Soft selling affords sales professionals the time and energy to devote to truly getting to know their prospects and understand their needs. By investing this energy up-front, the rest of the process can be individualized.

In the face of new customers’ habits, sales professionals need to adjust their strategy. While face-to-face meetings have given way to remote interactions, whether it be via video conference rooms, emails, phone or online chat, there is a palpable need for human connection.

The 6 Basic Principles of Soft Selling

We have identified six distinct principles to the soft selling approach. Below, we identify them and put them into context to better illustrate their importance.

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to sense and connect with another person’s emotions. Selling with empathy means taking the time to understand your customers’ emotional states, deepening your understanding of their situations and creating strong connections.

Relationships based on emotional connectivity are much stronger than simple business relationships, and in an era of increased competition, these relationships should not be overlooked.

customers emotional connection with sales 306 percent higher lifetime value

Your ability to put yourself in your customers’ shoes is the basis for the other five principals behind soft selling.

Active Listening

The most crucial and overlooked technique to a successful soft sell approach is to practice active listening. Launching into a standard sales pitch before having listened to your customer does not allow you to personalize the presentation, which today is a customer expectation.

Active listening is understanding your customers’ realities, needs, timelines, behaviors and preferences. It means being attentive to non-verbal cues, such as eye contact and body language. It involves asking pointed questions and repeating customers’ answers to validate your level of understanding.

Pro Tip
Apply the 2-for-1 rule

Your customer should talk twice as much as you. This is a general rule of thumb and if this is ever not the case, be careful you are likely heading into hard selling territory.

Done right, active listening will make your customers feel heard, respected and valued. Which can give you a great competitive advantage, as they are more likely to open up, sharing more important information with you than they would with a competitor.

Value-Based Selling

Value-based selling shifts the focus from products and features to the value they provide customers once in their hands. For value-based selling to be successful, sales professionals must dedicate a considerable amount of time and effort to understanding the reality of their customers, their pain points, and their needs.

This is where the active listening approach comes in because if you’re paying attention, your customers will tell you exactly what problems they’re experiencing and what solutions they need. By reframing your products and features to put them in context as your customers’ solutions, you save your customer from the mental hurdle of having to imagine how the product may or may not help them. For example, if you’re selling a new car, you might choose to focus on its energy efficiency, safety, or even its improvements over the last year’s model depending on what you’ve learned is important to your customer.

This is no easy task in 2021, with each potential customer now presenting their own unique set of problems, which only grow progressively more complex.

Pro Tip
Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you consider the values that matter to your customer
  • Does this product save my customer time or money?
  • Does this product align with my customer’s morals or ethics?
  • Does this product excel in an area where my customer’s current solution falls short?
  • Does this product deliver cross-benefits that my customer wasn’t expecting?
  • Does this product fit seamlessly into my customer’s current situation?
  • Does this product carry less risk than other potential solutions?
  • Will this product help my customer achieve a goal they’ve been aiming for?

Taking a moment to reflect on questions like these will help you reframe your product or service in the terms that matter most to your customer. It will transform the buyer-seller relationships you currently have into more consultative relationships.

Value-Added Interactions

Value-added interactions is a technique in which sales professionals take action to provide value to customers at every stage of the selling process. It is the notion of offering rather than asking. This can be done in many ways: by offering valuable insights with business cases or white papers, providing an expert opinion or by giving specific and actionable tips.

tangible value to customers positive impact on business

Adding value during the selling process establishes sales professionals as trusted advisors. It differentiates them from the competition, and shows customers that by doing business with them, they will gain value before, during and continually, following the purchase.

There are many ways to infuse these value-added interactions into your sales process.

value-added interactions content knowledge contact

Offer genuine help without expecting to a close a deal and your customers will see that you truly have their best interests at heart. It will build trust over time, which, ironically, often leads to better sales down the line.

Knowledge

To gain customers’ unwavering trust and confidence, sales professionals need to position themselves as experts in both their offering and the market in which they compete.

Knowledge successful consultative selling approach

Without a deep knowledge of their products or services, a sales professional may be unable to quickly identify how and where they are bringing value to the customer.

To ensure you are communicating with expertise, remember the following…
‘’Whatever is well conceived is clearly said; the words to say it flow with ease….’’

While being knowledgeable about products and services is an important principle of soft selling, it loses all of its value if it cannot be communicated in a clear manner. Keep it simple and concise.

When in doubt, practice explaining your product or service to another person —ideally someone in a completely different industry. Ask them to highlight the moments in your explanation that are unclear or overly wordy, and then refine your description with a focus on clarity and concision. Spending a few moments on this practice is a great way to tighten up your understanding of your product before explaining it to customers.

Availability and Responsiveness

Availability and Responsiveness are key principles of soft selling, and they’re becoming even more important in a remote selling world. Why? Increased competition and the challenge of building durable customer relationships without face-to-face meetings makes it easier for customers to take their business elsewhere at the first sign of friction.

Throughout the entire customer journey, sales professionals need to be readily available to their customers. However, different stages of the journey may present different degrees to which this availability is required. Availability during the research phase can be as simple as a few exchanges through a live chat hosted on the web page, while availability at the moment of purchase can require longer conversations over video conferences or emails.

It is also crucial to ensure a speedy response.

Research shows that 35% to 50% of sales go to the vendor that first responds.

Being available also means offering customers a variety of communication channels; live chats, phone calls, video conferencing rooms, emails, SMS… and so on. Every customer has its preferred way of communication, but offering a variety in all simplicity is key— aggregated platforms grouping multiple ways to exchange is a great way to provide exceptional customer experiences.

The Benefits of Soft Selling

With those six principles in mind, let’s take a look at the main benefits associated with soft selling and how this method can pave the way for sustainable growth and success.

Benefits for Customers

  1. Dictate the Purchasing Pace

    Pressure is palpable, and it never feels good. In applying a soft sell method, you are putting your customer at ease throughout the whole buying process. In shifting your interactions from direct sales pitches to conversations, your customers don’t feel cornered or pressured. They sense that they are dictating the pace at which they purchase, and this will help you gain their trust faster.

  2. Purchase with Confidence

    By showing true product expertise and a genuine concern for customers’ challenges, customers will feel more confident when making a purchase with you. They will have all the required information to make intelligent decisions, hence lowering doubts and post-purchase dissatisfaction. Which in turn, increases the likelihood of repeat business.

  3. Lasting Memorable Purchase Experience

    By mastering the art of soft selling, you will build meaningful relationships with your customers where they feel respected and never pressured. They will leave each interaction with a positive feeling, creating a lasting, memorable purchase experience. This positive association with the experience is the key to effortlessly building a word-of-mouth inbound channel.

Apple
The Modern Story of Soft Selling

Apple’s sales associates are product experts. They can answer most of your questions, and when they can’t, they go above and beyond to solve your problem and get you the answers you’re looking for. They guide you through the setup of any of your devices, and the Genius Bar can provide you with in-store ‘’how-to’’ sessions—all for free. The only thing that matters is the quality of the service consumers receive, which is what creates the brand that Apple is. It’s no surprise, then, that Apple’s stores receive over one million customers per day worldwide. That’s the power of the soft sell!

Benefits for Sales Professionals

  1. Word-of-Mouth Effect

    One of the most beneficial results of adopting a customer-first approach is the influx of customer referrals it generates. According to Extole, 83% of customers are willing to refer you after a positive experience. Putting time and effort into delivering an exceptional purchasing experience will help you maintain a healthy and effortless pipeline of prospects—prospects that will be easier to turn into clients.

    Do not underestimate the power of positive word-of-mouth.

  2. Close More Customers

    Regardless of the length of the purchasing cycle, soft selling will support you in closing more customers. Using the value-added interaction principle, you will be getting in touch with customers simply to add value to their business. This approach will establish you as a trusted advisor, keep your customers engaged, and keep you top of mind for when the time of the purchase arrives.

    Typically, soft selling means managing a larger sales funnel, as customers stay longer in the alternative evaluation phase before reaching a decision. However, you will quickly see your closing rate improve, lose less opportunities, and sales will steadily increase.

  3. Lower your Ghosting Rate

    In a remote selling world, there is nothing as easy as ghosting a sales professional. Customers don’t owe companies or sales professionals any explanation for their choices or how they choose to spend their time. They will cut off contact unexpectedly when they see your offering is not for them.

    However, value-added interactions are much more likely to get you a response – or at least an acknowledgement. Building a relationship brings back some of the pressure to reciprocate information and follow social cues that prohibit ghosting, so you’re likely to see your response rates increase.

  4. Positivity

    Under the soft sell approach, closing a deal is no longer your main objective. Rather, a sales professional’s new measure of success could be to evaluate how a specific customer relationship is progressing. Especially with lengthy sales cycles, this new vision on success will help you keep a positive outlook.

    As you shift from an asking to a giving mentality, you will face fewer unanswered communications and you will stop hearing ‘’no’’ at every turn. Finally, adding value and knowing you are having a direct positive impact on your customer’s realities will give you a greater sense of accomplishment than simply closing a deal.

  5. Career Reputation

    Positive word-of-mouth goes way beyond generating inbound leads, and it can have a huge impact on your career reputation. The business world changes quickly and you never know where people might end up—your customer today could be your next employer, or even the CEO of your dream client.

    Let that be a reminder that regardless of whether you close a deal, you are leaving an impression on each and every person you meet.

    A customer that did not make a purchase with you in the past, may switch to a different company that needs a solution just like yours. If you’ve given them a great experience, they are likely to come to you – ready to do business.

Benefits for Businesses

  1. Transform your Company into a Brand

    A brand is the idea or image customers have of your company. It is the perception that has developed in their mind over time, and it is primarily based on emotions.

    Apple is a perfect example of using the power of soft selling to establish a positive brand image.

    AppleThe Modern Story of Soft SellingApple could brag endlessly about its technology and all its innovative features but the company chooses to use each customer touchpoint to build an emotional bond. Advertisements don’t focus on products, but rather on lifestyle. In-store associates are friendly and ask about consumers’ realities and needs prior to recommending a product.

    Focusing on building emotional connections has been rewarding for Apple, which just scored the highest brand loyalty score in the industry with a whopping 92% in 2021.

  2. Differentiate from the Competition

    Surprisingly, and probably because it is a hard pivot to make, there are still many businesses out there that have yet to master the art of soft selling.

    Putting your customers’ experiences at the forefront of every business decision you make, investing in adding value, and building strong relationships are the keys to gaining an immense competitive edge. Stop competing on offering and pricing, and instead, compete on the experience you offer—you will find this to be much more sustainable.

  3. Repeat Business through Higher Customer Satisfaction

    A successful customer-centric approach will have an immense positive impact on your bottom line. Not only does it increase the word-of-mouth effect, but studies show that 93% of well-served customers will make repeat purchases.

    Under the soft sell approach, it is always a priority to make customers feel well-taken care of. Make sure to actively listen to them, understand their problems, and nurture the relationship. With a 5% increase in customer retention you could see more than a 25% increase in profits, according to Bain & Co (creators of NPS).

  4. Increase in Customer Transaction Size

    By offering a consultative approach and building trust with customers, you empower them to make informed decisions. Removing the ‘’purchase anxiety’’ of customers will result in bigger transaction size.

    Customers can sense when they’re being pressured into a purchase. Removing pressure from the equation, will allow customers the time to explore their options and understand how your product best fits their needs. For high price point items, this comfort throughout the exploration phase is critical to closing the deal.

  5. Lower Employee Turnover and Attract More Talent

    As a result of high pressure, short-term results-oriented bonification, and fast-paced sales approaches, sales departments have higher turnover rates than others. As you shift your sales professionals’ measure of success from how many sales have they closed to how many interactions they have had or how did they add value to key customers, you create a lower pressure working environment for your employees.

    Moving away from numbers-driven KPIs provides employees with the whitespace they need to try new customer-centric approaches—to personalize their technique and to use their emotional intelligence to close a deal. It is often the fear of missing this month’s numbers that pushes sales professionals to use hard selling techniques.

    Don’t forget – having a low employee turnover sends a positive image to potential talent. Whether it is through a network effect of current employees, or simply through research, lowering your turnover rate will help you increase the quality of your teams.

  6. Create a Sustainable Sales Process

    Finally, through a soft sell approach, you can say goodbye to traditional sales playbooks. Instead, you leave it to the intelligence of your sales professionals, which means that your process becomes much more sustainable. There is no longer the need to update the playbook every time a new sales channel opens.

    The customer-centric values you’ve instilled in your sales professionals constantly stay the same.

    Regardless of the customer touchpoint, your sales professionals know what to do.

How to Master the Soft Selling Approach

7 Actions for Sales Professionals

How should you implement the soft selling approach with your customers? Here are some of the best practices to ensure that your process holds up to the digital-first landscape.

  1. Be Empathetic

    If you master only one of soft selling’s best practices, let it be practicing empathy. This ability to feel what customers are feeling and to understand their realities and needs is the most important action to take if you want to succeed in a digital-first landscape.

    There is an old misconception that the business world should not be emotional, but as Forbes puts it:

  2. Build Emotional Connections

    Our brains are made to remember feelings more than information. In business, this means your customers are unlikely to remember most of the product-related information you’ve shared, but they will recall how you made them feel.

    Research from Forrester concludes that emotion is the biggest driver of loyalty with 80% of customers stating they spend more with a business they are emotionally engaged with. To build these emotional connections, GapGemini identifies the following customer expectations: two-way interactions, real-time and varied interaction opportunities, and different buying experiences.

  3. Listen with Ears and Eyes

    Active listening is crucial in understanding your customers’ realities, needs, timelines, behaviors and preferences.

    Listen to what is being said, but also pay attention to customers’ body language. Countless studies have highlighted the impact of body language on conversations, and while scientists haven’t agreed on a specific figure, nonverbal cues may make up us much as 90% of the information we take from a conversation.

    Additionally, ask in-depth questions and relevant follow-ups. Whenever possible, repeat customers’ answers in your own words to show understanding and engagement.

  4. Be Available and Responsive

    In today’s new digital landscape, customers expect easy access to information and require speed, transparency, and expertise when doing business. Open different communication channels to support the new purchase journey, but ensure there is always someone readily available to answer. Do not forget that 35% to 50% of sales go to the vendor that first responds.

  5. Know your Products or Services

    In sales, trust is directly correlated to one crucial element: knowledge. In the soft sell approach, you are taking on the role of a consultant, discussing your customers’ needs and providing them with the best custom solution for them. Knowing the ins and outs of your product or service is mandatory to establish yourself as a trusted advisor.

  6. Act as a Consultant

    Under the soft selling method, you take on the role of a trusted advisor, which means that your only goal should be to solve your customers’ biggest problems—not to make the sale. In using a consultative approach, leverage open-ended questions to truly understand their realities, offer multiple solutions and gauge their level of responsiveness to each.

    Understand that one solution does not fit all. It’s incredibly important to have deep product knowledge to tailor the features you choose to highlight for your customer’s unique goals and objections.

  7. Think Long-Term

    If your sales goals reflect short-term sales cycles, you’re being incentivized to close deals quickly, often to the detriment of long-term relationship-building.

    Shift to a long-term mindset. When you’re looking at a longer horizon, missing a deal or two in the short-term is well worth it if it means the deals you do close can be bigger transactions, repeated business, and even bring new customers via word-of-mouth.

6 Cultural Shifts for Businesses

Without a business culture that supports soft selling, sales professionals will always push products and services first, which means that your customers will always come second.

Here are six actions businesses need to take to promote a customer-centric culture.

  1. Steer Away from Micromanagement

    One of the most challenging parts of management is finding the right way to motivate and inspire sales team without micromanaging.

    Create an environment where sales professionals are encouraged to follow their intuition and are given the opportunity to try new ways to interact with customers. Empowering your sales professionals to lean on their instincts and try new approaches will be key in standing out from the competition. Giving your sales professionals a checklist to follow will keep you behind the trends, giving competitors the upper hand to innovate.

    Take the upper hand for yourself instead, and trust your sales team to keep the company’s best interests at heart.

  2. Modernize the Sales Playbook

    In 2021, everything relating to your sales approach needs to be flexible and scalable. Needless to say, the old, linear approach is no longer a recipe for success. When it comes to prepared scripts, it’s better to give sales professionals flexibility rather than providing exact wording.

    As customers have increasingly complex problems to solve and high demand for personalization, a modern sales playbook should be about understanding circumstances.

    IF this situation arises, THEN this is the solution that tends to yield the best outcome.

    A modern sales playbook should be filled with examples, and contain detailed explanations behind common scenarios. Think of the playbook as a template that can be modified and adjusted for each unique customer, rather than a script that needs to be followed verbatim.

  3. Train on Products and Services

    Customers have direct access to online information and using a consultative approach is crucial in adopting a soft selling approach, that is why it is important to ensure sales professionals are thoroughly trained on the products or services they represent.

    Well-trained sales professionals will not only gain customers’ trust more easily, they will also be able to see different—and even creative—ways in which your product or service can support customers’ needs. Sales professionals don’t learn the ins and outs of their products overnight, so empower them with the information they need to master the details that matter.

  4. Reevaluate KPIs

    As a business, you should be looking at multiple quantitative and qualitative KPIs to monitor success. There are the traditional KPIs that have a direct impact on your bottom line, such as Gross and Net Profit Margins, Sales Revenues, Closing Rates, Year-to-Date Sales Growth, and so on. These metrics that shouldn’t be ignored, but they also don’t tell the full story.

    Make sure your evaluation tactics include KPIs that promote customer-centricity, and contribute to the bottom line—just in the long term rather than just the short term.

    Pro TipCustomer-centric KPIs and what they mean to your business:Customer Satisfaction (CSAT):the measure that determines how happy your customers are with the company’s service and productCustomer Retention Rate (CRR):the number of customers your company retains over a period of timeRepeat Purchase Rate (RPR):the percentage of customers that have purchased with you more than onceCustomer Lifetime Value (CLV):the total amount of money your business earns from the average customer over the course of their relationship with the business

    Evaluating sales professionals on customer-centric KPIs pushes them to heavily focus on offering customers a great experience at each step of the buying process. It also dissuades them from going into hard selling territory.

  5. Calculate your NPS

    The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is the gold standard of customer experience metrics. Your business’s NPS measures how loyal your customers are to you. As a business, you should often evaluate your NPS as it provides you with a pulse of how your customers are perceiving your products and services, but also your organization as a whole.

    Measuring your business NPS and having a target to raise said metrics will help shift the culture of the business toward a customer-centric approach. Make sure to reflect on what your current NPS rating means about your company. Look at the NPS score as an opportunity to dig deeper into what’s working—and what’s not working—within your organization. Then, take action accordingly.

  6. Promote Teamwork as Opposed to Competition

    While healthy competition has never hurt anyone, fostering a competitive culture can push sales professionals into hard selling territory. Traditional end-of-week meetings, where sales professionals sit around the table and call their numbers, build negative competition to the detriment of the customer. Rather, promote collaboration by sharing success and failure stories, so everyone can gain insights and discuss creative ways in which a situation could have been avoided or made better.

The Tech Stack to Thrive in a Digital-First World

Now that you know why the soft selling approach is important, let’s take a look at the technology that can help you get there. The right tech stack should help you improve your collaboration and productivity, so you can spend more time growing your customer relationships.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems

CRM can help sales professionals store all customer information and history of interactions, set reminders and actions that need to be taken and have a global view of the sales pipeline.

A CRM will help you deliver a personalized approach if you take the time to input all the data you gather during your interactions with customers. As you use active listening to gather insights about customers’ realities, needs and challenges do not forget to keep a detailed record of it in CRM.

Social Selling Software

Social selling software helps sales professionals initiate and build relationships with customers through social listening. While you can use social media sites directly, social selling software helps you track what specific customers are saying and lets you sort relevant messages from the noise.

The most popular social selling software is LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator, which lets you create lists of customers that you can then monitor.

In a soft selling approach, social monitoring acts as a way to actively listen. It gives sales professionals insights into what potential customers might be looking for and the challenges they may be facing. Social selling softwares empower you to personalize first cold outreach. This extra step will help you stand out among a sea of templated mass emails, and you’ll likely see a boost in your response rate.

Document Storage and Sharing Tools

Since so much of soft selling is about sharing helpful information and assets that may assist your customers, you’ll naturally encounter—and create—a variety of documents throughout the sales cycle. Document storage and sharing tools are more convenient and offer your customer a better experience than back and forth emails.

They enable you to share documents with specific people or organizations, protecting proprietary information from anyone outside of your intended recipients. There are countless options here: Google Docs/Google Drive and Dropbox are the current industry standards.

Digital Sales Rooms

Investing in a great virtual selling tool is a must.

To deliver a great customer experience remotely, you need to find an option that’s easy for the client to join (preferably with nothing to download beforehand) and that provides high-quality audio and video feeds.

Because we’ve all become used to video conferencing over the last 24 months customer expectations are higher than ever. People aren’t willing to tolerate a frustrating interface or spotty video connection, and this can really hurt your sales success in the long run.

Automated Appointment Booking

Automated appointment booking software empowers your customers to schedule a time on your calendar whenever they are free. This provide an extra layer of transparency – which customers require -, but also helps both sides avoid the back and forth of email scheduling.

For sales professionals, this also increases efficiency and allows your time to be spent on more important functions, like learning about your customer’s needs and providing informative content.

Instant Messaging

Instant messaging isn’t a new feature in the business world, but as customers require more of the sales process, instant messaging is crucial.

Having a chat feature is a must for delivering a memorable customer experience and nailing the soft selling approach. Just be aware of one important nuance as you find the right tool for your business:

Customers want quick answers without hassle

For this reason, using an AI bot to rapidly answer questions could create more frustration than it is worth. At its core, soft selling is about preserving the humanity behind every sales interaction. Consider whether each tech tool you rely on is adding humanity or taking it away and whether the benefits are worth the risk.

Emerging Technologies

Some of the biggest technology consulting firms predict that

As a result, we are seeing the emergence of new, fully-integrated technologies. These solutions encompass and centralize most—if not all—of the tools sales professionals need.

Finally, understand that a tool is not a strategy and that the real value of your tech stack lies in the approach it enables you to have and the positive impact it has on your customer’s experiences.

Final Thoughts

As you’re now well aware, soft selling is the future of the sales profession. As our world continues to evolve and prioritize digital interactions, sales professionals that go the extra mile to reintroduce humanity and personal relationships will stand out from the pack.

As you embark on you soft sell journey, remember:

six principles of soft selling empathy, active listening, value-based selling, value-added interactions, knowledge, availability and responsiveness

These six principles will be the key to developing long-term relationships with each and every customer.

To support your soft sell efforts, don’t forget to lean on tech tools to empower your process. When used as part of a holistic soft sell ecosystem, tools like CRMs, automated booking systems, and instant messaging platforms help your ability to deliver a great experience and focus your time on areas where you can truly add value.

Last but not least, make sure to stay in touch with the emerging technologies in the sales space, like integrated platforms that meet most sales professionals’ needs all at once. While not every new entrant to the space will be worth trying, keeping tabs on the latest solutions will ensure you’re always ahead of the curve. Combine that with your new-found commitment to the soft sell approach, and you’re destined for success!

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