As a fundraiser who met with corporate executives on a regular basis, I learned that going in for the kill (aka the ASK, as we called it in fundraising) was NOT the way to cultivate relationships.
The term "soft sell" was common lingo in my fundraising world. I was selling awareness - bottom line. It wasn't about going in there and asking for a huge chunk of change. Why would these corporate big whigs want to become a corporate sponsor for my golf tournament? What was in it for them? The benefits?
Preparation was the key and research! Lots of research! I dug out my Book of Lists and spent time researching their philanthropy history. I never went into that initial meeting blindly. I learned names - and who made the ultimate decision.
So what can the fundraising "soft sell" technique teach you? It's all about taking the soft approach with your clients and customers. People aren't going to part with their money just like that! They need a reason and a good reason to invest their money and their time into a worthwhile cause. In your case, you want people to find a good reason to invest in your product or service.
I massaged a lot of relationships during my non-profit days and many did not donate right away or they donated something even more valuable - their time and their employees' time (volunteering is worth its weight in gold!)
Traditional sales and marketing tout that the only way to make the sale is that you MUST go in for the KILL. That's the fastest and easiest way to turn off people and lose customers for good. Who wants an aggressive, fire-breathing salesperson in your face or on the phone with you 24,7?
If you want to make a lasting impression and build long-lasting relationships, it's all about cultivation and massaging that relationship - and it may take two months or it might take a year. Be genuine and don't shine on people with a "waste their time" dog and pony show.
People aren't dumb and they can smell a fake a mile away.
So forget any hard sales tactics you've learned along the way and opt for the soft sell. Be consistent and keep it real!