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Does Hard Selling Still Work?

Even though customers hate high pressure sales tactics, some companies still use them. How come?

I've been writing about sales for over a decade and I keep hearing from various sales gurus and experts that the hard sell doesn't work any more.  Nevertheless, I find myself running into examples where companies are employing it, apparently with enough success to justify its continued use.

For example, the New York Times recently published a couple of articles about hard selling inside the office supply store Staples. If the articles can be believed, Staples salespeople have been trained to push service contracts until they've heard "no" at least three times--a classic hard sell technique.

As it happens, Staples is one of my favorite stores (What can I say? I like office supplies...) and I've never purchased a computer there, so I have no idea whether the NYT article is true or not.

However, I have personally experienced the hard-sell of car rental insurance at several rental car outlets. In this case, the hard sell consists of telling customers the lie that their regular insurance won't cover rental cars.

And there's no question that hard selling pops up in car sales and insurance sales with enough frequency to make those into pariah jobs. (Car salesmen are usually considered only slightly more trustworthy than politicians.)

As somebody who studies sales techniques, I'm amused more than annoyed when somebody tries to hard sell me. However, I can well believe that some people, when confronted with these tactics, end up buying something that they don't want or need.

In my opinion, hard selling is a short-term recipe for buyer's remorse and long-term customer dissatisfaction. I tend to agree with the gurus that hard selling drives away more customer than it increases a company's sales revenue.

And yet, the hard sell still remains a fixture in some segments of the business world. Since sales executives (as a general rule) aren't stupid, I have to assume that they've done the math and have concluded that hard selling makes sense.

Or maybe these sales execs are just dinosaurs who don't know anything better?

Anyway, I'm curious what you readers think. Have you ever attempted a hard-sell? Have you ever been goaled on hard-selling? Have you pressured a customer to buy? Do you think these techniques still work in today's business world?

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Last updated: Dec 6, 2012


Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed more than a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.

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