Zach Robbins is an entrepreneur and expert in performance marketing, website optimization, lead generation, and marketing technology. He is co-founder and CEO of Leadnomics, a digital marketing and technology company, and Margo, a digital insurance agency.

You may be shocked to learn that door-to-door vacuum salesmen are not an overcoat-wearing, Studebaker-driving relic of the past. The house call sales tactic is still alive, if not very well, and the reasons behind its rise and fall aren't much of a mystery.

Before the Internet, buying a vacuum from a person standing in your living room was an immediately gratifying experience. Today's consumers are also shopping from their couches, but they're doing it on their devices. They have instant access not just to one style of vacuum, but hundreds -- free shipping included.

The ability to get what you need right at your doorstep was, and remains, the model of convenience. As founder of a digital insurance agency, I've learned that it's how we want to be sold to that has changed. A 2014 study found that although daily media consumption has nearly doubled since 1945, there hasn't been a commensurate spike in ad impressions. Instead, we're using ad blockers and DVRs to skip advertisements and get straight to the content we want.

People today aren't consumers, they're informed consumers. And while you're going after an informed consumer with a hard sell, they're Googling your competitors, reading your reviews, tweeting about your phone manner, and adding promo codes to their cart. The hard sell is dead.

The good news is that consumers still need a proverbial vacuum. You just have to cut through the muck so that they choose yours. How do you do that? Stop selling, and start serving instead. Here are five tips to turn your customer sales pitch into a customer satisfaction strategy.

Have a mission.

People no longer want to just buy something. They want to be a part of something. That's why companies with mission-driven purposes have stronger brand engagement. Your mission can be as socially impactful as Toms' one-to-one policy or it can be more abstract. Consider a team communications tool like Slack, whose mission is to make your working life "simpler, more pleasant, and more productive." Find your mission, get your team on board, and live it through everything you create and sell.

Watch your language.

If you can't convince 'em, confuse 'em, right? Wrong. There is nothing that gets me off a sales call faster than an earful of jargon. Just like a shady politician, it tells me you have something to hide. Make sure you're using direct language with your customers. If they understand your product, they'll know if they need it. If you trick them into thinking it's something it's not, their post-purchase anger will have serious repercussions beyond the loss of a single sale.

Change titles and mindsets.

To move past the hard sell, your team needs to think beyond sales. That mindset shift can start with something as simple as a title change. Many companies are ditching "salesperson" for terms like "customer experience manager" or "client developer." At my company, we replaced "insurance agent" with "insurance advocate." It reminds us that we aren't standing in front of a customer pitching a product. We're sitting next to a customer solving a need.

Build for the long term.

Any lasting relationship is built on trust. And trust means being transparent when a sale isn't a good fit. Sure, maybe you can sell water to a whale or whatever braggy sales idiom you want to use. But that doesn't mean you should. Truly get to know your potential customers' needs and be honest about what you can or can't do to help. If your product is a good fit, they'll appreciate your personalization and be back for more. If it's not, they'll remember your honesty and return when their needs change.

Do the heavy lifting.

The definition of service is doing the work for someone. The antonym of service, therefore, must be leaving your lead six desperate voicemails during his work hours then making him listen to 10 minutes of automated menu when he calls back. Do everything you can to make the shopping experience easy for your customers. Send your own employees through your sales funnel so they can identify pain points -- then fix them. At my agency, we talk to customers via phone call, text, online chat or email. If it simplifies their lives, we make it work.

Your sales pitch may no longer be door-to-door, but that doesn't mean you can't be kicked out into the cold. When you shift your focus from selling to serving, both you and the customer win.

Published on: Apr 13, 2016