“COME AND BUY MY BOILED ONIONS! YOU CAN’T RESIST THESE CRAZY PRICES, MADAM!
I MUST BE MAD, I’M PRACTICALLY GIVING THEM AWAY! DO YOU HEAR ME, MADAM? GIVING THEM AWAY!! HEY, COME BACK MADAM, I’M TALKING TO YOU…”
That strange shouty bloke had somehow climbed up onto the roof of Martin Print H.Q again.
I wish he’d stop this. It must be the third time this week that he’s managed to climb up there and broadcast his aggressive boiled onion marketing messages from a Megaphone.
I still have no idea how he gets up there.
I tried sending Old Bert up on the roof to calmly sort out the situation, but he came straight back down again, complaining that he felt a little bit dizzy.
So I sent up Josh, our youngest and most dynamic designer, to go and resolve the noisy situation.
But he just returned with two bags of boiled onions. He reckoned that the shouty man’s pitch was very convincing.
It looks like we’re going to have to wait for Doris to return from the shops, so that she can have another go at chasing away this rooftop intruder with her mop.
(Naturally, I would have gone up there myself, but I’ve hurt my foot in another bizarre pencil-sharpening accident that I’ll tell you about another time. Probably.)
It’s funny, though.
Fairly recently, I came to the conclusion right here on the Martin Print Blog that The Hard Sell was rapidly becoming an outdated concept which most sensible small businesses would throw out of the window in favour of friendly and engaging marketing.
But over the last week, I seem to have been bombarded from all angles by this brand of hostile in-yer-face marketing.
It’s enough to make me wonder if the Hard Sell has made a sneaky comeback when our backs were turned…
I’ve had people shouting through Megaphones from the roof of my own office, I’ve had people stopping me in the street to scream their special offers into my face, and I’ve even had people knocking on my door in the middle of the night trying to sell me remedies for disturbed sleeping patterns!
I encountered one of the worst offenders during a local Small Business Trade Show.
We run a little Martin Print booth every year at this show, and I usually take some of the designers and account managers with me.
However, everyone’s been incredibly busy recently handling our Christmas rush of new orders for custom-crafted business cards and calendars, so in the end I just had to drag Old Bert along to help me out.
We’d only had the booth up and running for about half an hour, when we were suddenly targeted by a prowling salesman who managed to corner me and Old Bert for a full 15 minutes with little chance of polite escape.
He delivered a whirlwind breathless pitch for his own business which left absolutely no gaps or pauses for us to chip in with our own thoughts or ask him to go away.
Right at the end of this nightmare pitch, he took us by surprise by asking the following simple question;
“So, what is that you actually do then?”
I opened my mouth to reply, but a slightly grumpy Old Bert had beaten me to it.
“We create cool custom-designed marketing products for businesses that know how to communicate properly with their audience. You probably wouldn’t be interested in that, would you?”
The salesman frowned, gave us both a stern look of disapproval, and then shuffled along to the adjacent booth to begin the process all over again with his next unfortunate victim.
Here’s the interesting thing;
This 15-minute pushy pitch was so utterly dreadful and alienating, that I honestly couldn’t now remember the name of this salesman’s business if my life depended on it.
I’m not even sure if I can fully recall what his business actually did…
When I get trapped in these awkward situations, my natural reaction is to shake my head in refusal and try to figure out a quick escape route.
Somebody could be trying to offer me the most jaw-dropping product in the universe or the mega deal of the century…but if they’re behaving in an aggressive or frankly hostile manner, then they most definitely won’t be getting my business.
The everyday customer is increasingly switched-on and opinionated about the types of the marketing that they both like and dislike; the types of marketing that that they will happily absorb and the types that will instantly repel them from the business in question.
Nobody likes to be shouted at anymore.
I’m not entirely convinced that we ever really did.
But these days, it’s far less about who can shout the loudest, and far more about the actual tone of your voice and the engaging nature of your conversation.
Clients should feel confident that you’re listening to their needs and that you’re genuinely interested in working together for a mutually rewarding outcome.
Lamely asking a potential client what they do after you’ve been just talking at them about your own business for 15 minutes isn’t really going to cut the mustard…
I would still like to think that The Hard Sell is a slowly disappearing novelty act which will soon be consigned to the history bins forever and laughed at by future generations to come.
Maybe I’ve just had a funny week full of oddball coincidences.
Maybe I’ll feel a lot more positive about things when Doris finally gets rid of that noisy shouty bloke on the top of our roof…
But do you still come across far too many examples of The Hard Sell in action?
Perhaps you feel that there’s still a place for The Hard Sell in the modern world of marketing?
Let me know your own thoughts below – but please do it gently…