The hard sell doesn’t work with me and it hasn’t for a long time. These days I am feeling harassed as the articles I write on the Internet attract salespeople of all stripes. The relentless sales pitches clog my e-mail accounts, tie up my cell phone and pollute my Twitter stream.

Last week I had to block a vendor who is following me on Twitter. He started pitching his product to me a couple of times a day and managed to get on my last nerve. I used to try to be nice to people, but nice doesn’t come easy so I gave up trying.

The more aggressive the salespeople get, the more effort I put into blocking them. The challenge in my effort to defend my business from the electronic advertising onslaught is not blocking those who I want to contact me.

How do you sell products to someone like me? A phone call isn’t the answer. If I answer at all, most salespeople don’t get more than 10 words before I hang up. So far, few have been able to make those 10 words compelling enough to keep me on the phone. Those who have kept me on the phone longer have not been able to close the deal, often because I am not in the market for the product they are selling.

Sending me e-mail doesn’t work either. I get e-mails that start out with what they liked about my last article at Inman News, followed by their canned sales pitch. I can usually see through it in the first sentence and delete the e-mail.

There are ways to sell to people like me. I am an opportunity and a challenge. I am not alone. There are plenty of others out there who are just like me. My own clients fit the same profile.

I have been reading that the hard sell is dead, and at the last Inman News Real Estate Connect conference a few of the speakers talked about the death of the hard sell. I have found this to be true, and it is why I adopted a softer, more social approach through my blog and through social networks long ago. I attract clients by providing the information they are looking for and at the same time building credibility, trust and even brand recognition.

The best way to sell to me is to teach me or to provide me with information that adds value to my business or to my life. It also helps if the product being sold is so wonderful that the people selling it are passionate about it.

If my friends feel passionate about your product, they will recommend it to me and I will listen. I often test products and buy services that my peers recommend. Products that I recommend to my contacts get noticed, too. I once wrote a blog post that had information about a camera that I use, and within an hour four of my friends bought one. It wasn’t my intent to sell cameras, but I did.

I don’t really care about you or about your product. I care about myself and about my business, and I listen to my friends. You need to stop chasing me. I won’t take your phone calls or read your e-mail, and I will block you on Twitter. Please put me on your do-not-call and do-not-spam lists, and stop stalking me on Twitter. Your efforts are more trouble than they are worth, and so am I.

Bring this article to your next sales meeting and start a conversation about the hard sell versus attracting people to your product, and also discuss viral marketing.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.


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