What Is a Soft Sell?

Soft sell refers to an advertising and sales approach that features subtle language and a non-aggressive technique. A soft sell is designed to avoid angering potential customers and pushing them away. Because soft selling is a low-pressure, persuasive and subtle sales technique, it may not result in a sale the first time a product is presented, but helps to encourage repeat sales.

Soft Selling Explained

Using a soft sell technique does not mean that a salesperson is passive; rather, this technique is designed to push a product without coming off as pushy. A salesperson may use a more conversational approach in order to allow the potential customer to relax. The soft sell requires a certain amount of energy on the part of the salesperson, since they have to maintain the customer's attention in a friendly manner. Soft selling is facilitated by the repetition of an idea, message, or communication of a desired conclusion. Such tactics tend to be more persuasive and less likely to turn off prospective buyers.

Soft sell advertising tends to emphasize the benefits of a product or service, and appeals to the consumer's emotions by using humor or invoking warm and friendly ideas. The rationale is that the decision to purchase something depends upon the consumer's feelings.

Soft Sell vs. Hard Sell

To better understand the hard sell it is helpful to consider the hard sell, which features especially direct and insistent language. A hard sell is designed to get a consumer to purchase a good or service in the short-term, rather than evaluate their options and potentially decide to wait on the purchase. It is considered a high-pressure, aggressive technique that has fallen out of favor according to some sales experts.

Soft Sell Techniques

The soft sell is more consultative than the hard sell, so typically it begins with questioning the prospective buyer. The salesperson will ascertain the buyer's needs based on the answers they receive. They will then be able to make a helpful and suitable recommendation to the buyer about which product of service will best meet their needs. Soft selling salespeople will take their time to educate and assuage the buyers concerns when they arise. Only when the prospective buyer is satisfied will the sale be completed.

In e-commerce, an example of soft selling is when an online retailer recognizes when an online shopper has abandoned a shopping cart with several items in it by sending an email to the shopper to ask if they encountered a problem or if they needed advice or answers.