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Karin’s Leadership Articles

Your Hard Sell Is Hard To Buy

by | Jul 12, 2013 | By Karin Hurt, Communication |

If you want customers, stop selling. Hard sells exhaust. Aggressive pitches scream, “Do this for ME.” Every day, I close down down to parades of hard sells.

Last week I re-opened my mind to a sales exec who caught my interest by offering consultation to a real business problem. Two years ago, his predecessor pushed with a hard sell in the wrong context. I didn’t take the time to learn what the product was about. It took a long time to recover. This time it felt helpful and I’m listening.

Whether your’re selling a product or yourself. Approach matters. If you want customers or employers to listen, approach gently and solve problems.

From Hard Sell to Easy Relationships

Hard to Buy
“There are more fakers in business than in jail.”
~ Malcolm Forbes
  • Bringing the sales guy to the service meeting with a surprise agenda
  • Asking to expand the relationship, when performance is lagging
  • LinkedIn Spam emails
  • Follow-up Linkedin in Spam emails acting flabergasted that the first email was ignored
  • Sales pitches disguised as “Training,” “Workshops,” or “Webinars”
  • Sales people who don’t know the business or haven’t done their homework
  • Exagerated claims and manipulated data
  • Cold calls with creative tactics to get past the gatekeeper (burn those books)
  • Name dropping in interviews or sales pitches
Easy to Buy
“Stop Selling, Start Helping”
  • A track record of success in the current relationship
  • Networking through trusted relationships
  • Well researched analysis of problems, with creative solutions
  • Establishing non-sales professional connections in Linked and Social media
  • Helping without expectations
  • Showcasing what you can do
  • Sharing expertise
  • Intelligent questions

Executives turn down parades of hard sell approaches every day. We also tune into amazing networks of helpful people. How will you show up?

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?


  1. Steve Borek

    I never sell my coaching services. Prospects enthusiastically enroll. If this doesn’t happen, they’re just not ready to commit.

    On occasion, my intuition tells me the prospect wants to move forward. They’re standing on the fence looking to jump to my side. Yet they’re frozen.

    It’s my obligation, for the sake of the performance of their business, to gingerly push them, in the right spot, so they land on my side. The side with a big neon sign, blinking on and off, that says, “Let’s go!”

    p.s. Karin, thanks for giving me an idea for a future blog post. ;-p

    • letsgrowleaders

      Steve, That’s great. I think in coaching and consulting in particular it takes a gentle approach…. and now I understand, a gentle approach with a neon sign 😉 Namaste.

  2. Dave Bratcher

    As someone who’s spent most of my adult life in sales, I couldn’t agree more. The other thing I would point out has to do with what a salesperson who needs to make a sale smells like. You can smell them a mile away, and it’s never an odor that is appealing. The selling process is fun for everyone when done correctly. Like everything else, there are those that do it right and those who don’t.

  3. Ariana

    I agree, the hard sell is never enjoyable and much less effective. I think that one of the challenges for those of in sales is that there are many perceptions, beliefs and mental models about what sales is and how to do sales that are more closely aligned with hard selling. I like Daniel Pinks new book, “To Sell is Human” for that reason. My favorite line in there is that it’s time we rethink of sales as we know it! I think your approach aligns with rethinking of sales and appreciate the insights you share here for that reason. I’d also encourage readers to challenge their assumptions about what makes someone a good sales person.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Ariana, Thanks. I love your idea of challenging our thinking of what makes a good sales person. I find customer service teams are often the most important sales people we have.

  4. Ali Anani (@alianani15)

    Selling requires buyers. The latter used to base their decisions on benefit/cost ratio. Now, thanks to Dr. Rod King, it is delight/pain.
    Free offers serve as an example. The delight of having something free, no matter how small, when divided by pain (zero in free offers) gives infinite pleasure. Giving upfront delight is a magical formulae for success. This is one example of what I referred to as creative emotions that drive sales.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Ali, agreed… start by giving generously and build relationships along the way.

  5. Nick Jaworski

    I’m constantly amazed at how the hard sell continues to be so commonplace. I can’t say how often I meet a sales rep that has no idea about their product/service and won’t leave me alone.

    I think the real problem is how most businesses envision sales. Commission and bonus schemes skew behavior in negative directions. Managers hire people that are “hungry” when they should hire people that care.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Nick, me too. I think people use that approach because it feels “easy.” They don’t get that it also feels sleezy.

  6. sue bock

    My skin starts to crawl when the hard sell walks my way and I want to run. When I was looking for a car about a year ago, the car salesman had his claws and me and seemed so desperate to sell that I did walk the other way. Seth Godin recently wrote, “The provider is rarely better than the clients he is able to attract. On the other hand, the creator often gets the customers she deserves.”Thanks Karin

  7. letsgrowleaders

    Sue, So great to have you join the conversation. I took a look at your website. You have a great mission.

    • sue bock

      Thank you Karin. I am happy to be a part of a new community. You have a great way with words that sparks conversation. I believe growing leaders is an important mission as well. The old ways have served their purpose and have given us guidance. Now it’s time to offer more enlightened habits that serve so many more than in the past. Thank you for taking the time to visit my website and supporting the mission.

  8. MJ Gottlieb

    Hi Karin- Great post. I think you make some great points regarding sales being about solving problems more than anything else. I love the quote by M. Forbes, sooo true. I also think that people who research you (or your company) beforehand and focus on a solution specific to your needs is the best way to close a sale. Again, great post. Best- MJ


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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