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Soft sell? 软式推销

中国日报网 2019-08-27 12:03

Reader question:

Please explain this sentence, particularly “soft sell”:

It’s a soft sell — come and listen to renowned figures who have studied the benefits of educating very young children, and maybe people will leave charged up to support more and better preschool programs.

My comments:

Suppose you are invited to a seminar on the importance of pre-school education, you know, on how to get your kid a head start. At the end of such an event, promoters of the event will try to convince you to enroll your child in one of the programs.

However, in our above example, you won’t be asked to pay anything out of pocket – not right now at any rate. Just come and listen. If you like what you hear, well, good – you may become a supporter for preschool education. If you don’t like what you hear, well, that’s fine, too.

This is what we may infer from “soft sell”.

Soft sell, you see, is an advertising term. It is descriptive of the selling technique that uses subtle, persuasive language rather than a direct, insistent and aggressive approach.

The direct, insistent and aggressive approach, of course, is the hard sell, the opposite of the soft sell. Souvenir sellers at tourist spots usually pull the hard sell on travelers. You know, they push their merchandise in your face, grab you by the arm and insist that you buy one – otherwise they threaten to follow you all day. Very pushy and annoying, in other words.

The soft-sell approach, on the other hand, is much less pushy and more subtle. In this case, the salesman or woman or person talks to you in a friendly manner without forcing you to buy anything. In this approach, the salesperson is just happy to have your ear on how good their product is, believing that even if you do not buy it now, you’ll probably buy it later, sometime in the future.

At any rate, you the customer won’t feel badgered, annoyed and threatened.

Let’s read a few media examples of “soft sell” for greater elucidation:

1. Over skits and snacks, hundreds of teachers from around the country on Wednesday got a soft sell from the U.S. Department of Education to become more open-minded about new pay and evaluation systems.

At the second and final day of the first national summit among teachers’ unions, school administrators and school board members representing some 150 districts from 40 states heard glowing reports from districts that have already shifted how they evaluate and train teachers.

The summit is billed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan as a groundbreaking effort to build trust between unions and the leaders who sometimes are their adversaries. Participants spent most of the short summit hearing how great things are in the dozen school districts presenting how they achieved pay-for-performance teacher compensation and other changes that align with what federal education officials say are needed reforms.

It’s a whirlwind pitch covering 10 sweeping points federal educators want schools to consider, from evaluating teachers in new ways to handling layoffs demanded by budget cuts in many areas.

“There’s so little time - they couldn’t really go in depth, so they act like this is the easiest thing in the world, and we know that that’s not so,” said Earl Rickman, school board president in Mt. Clemens, Mich., which recently agreed to a merit-pay system with its teachers’ union.

A sixth-grade teacher from Rickman's school district, Kevin Marvin, leads the teachers’ union there and agreed the selling pitch for merit pay and other changes was a bit one-dimensional. But he gave high marks to the effort to remind school leaders that teachers are willing to make changes but need to be persuaded the reforms will help kids.

“Something we’ve never looked at is how our labor agreements affect student achievement,” Marvin said.

Federal officers made clear schools have little choice but to make changes to how teachers are evaluated and trained. They tried to sell teachers and administrators on the idea that change is needed even when it’s scary and painful. All sides agree that kids come first, but the unions and administrators were told they need to work harder to iron out what all sides don’t agree on.

“Honestly accept the burden of the entire conversation, from aspirations to problem-solving to the tough conversations,” said Brad Jupp, a senior program adviser for the U.S. Department of Education.

- Teachers Getting Soft Sell On Pay Changes, Associated Press, February 16, 2011.

2. Everyone wants their hotel to know what they want before they do, but maybe not like this.

One five-star hotel in Tokyo, The Prince Gallery, has recently opened up and an enterprising blogger at “God Save The Points” stumbled upon an inter-company PDF file that—among other things—laid out a little Orwellian craziness the hotel will be embarking upon to better serve their guests.

I’ve seen Terminator; this is how the robots win.

The hotel’s “e-service” system will share information between the hotel’s departments to let the entire staff know things like a guest’s likes, dislikes, preferences and so on. There’s more, though. The company has also employed an artificial intelligence (AI) that will analyze these data points to populate recommendations to “enhance” the experience.

“Enhance” by the way is clearly code for “sell more to.”

Think of these hypothetical situations: Maybe someone heads to the gym and checks in with the attendant. That attendant then plugs that information in, and that guest’s in-room tablet populates with lighter fare at the restaurant or a protein-packed, post-workout treat. In another scenario, perhaps a stay is predicated around a birthday or anniversary. From there, the hotel knows the guest is in a festive mood and the soft sells of amenities get a little more frequent.

The positives, of course, are endless. There’s a ridiculously good chance that this sort of system actually does make most stays more enjoyable, and it’s not absurd to see the very normal customer service-type reasons a hotel would want to include something like this.

Travel also isn’t the only industry doing this—not by a longshot. Think back. Do you remember the shift from a grocery store sending random coupons to the grocery store you frequent sending you coupons for things you buy? Or, how about searching for a product on Google and then having banner ads featuring that product and products like it from now until kingdom come?

Does it help? It can.

Does it make people queasy? Yeah, yeah it does. What should make you queasier is that hotels have been doing this for years.

It’s why hotels want you to book directly with them and not through an online travel agency who gets all that precious info. Hotels want to be able to send you (really you, not a generic you) an email and remind you about all the stuff you liked during the last stay and how you can upgrade the experience.

Overall, is this really a big deal? Not to me, but some people get awfully upset at the idea of companies tracking and retaining their information. If you’re one of those people, this is just another example of today’s technology looking over our shoulders in new and inventive ways.

The question is not whether or not your next hotel stay will feature much of this same kind of data mining. It almost certainly will. Instead, the question travelers need to be asking is just how much of this they're willing to be comfortable with.

- Is Your Hotel Spying on You in the Name of Better Service? By Michael Schottey, TravelPulse.com, August 4, 2016.

3. Whether you’re a Democrat or a Trump-hating Republican, you’ve probably heard the rumblings over the course of the last few weeks. Lower your expectations. The Mueller investigation is wrapping up, and if you’re hoping to see it obliterate the Trump presidency, you should prepare yourself for a letdown.

Some will argue this is a soft-sell, but it doesn’t feel like it. It feels like a genuine warning. Mueller & Co. spent two years and millions of dollars digging into Trump’s supposed “Russian collusion” – and all they’ve got to show for it is a few process crimes. Yes, Mueller could still pull a rabbit out of his hat, but the smart money is on a nothingburger with a large side of innuendo.

Never fear, though. Mueller may not be able to produce anything substantive, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t have endless, mind-numbing, investigations.

Last night, news broke that President Trump’s inaugural committee had been hit with a wide-ranging subpoena. Prosecutors from the Southern District of New York are demanding a veritable mountain of receipts, records, and documents pertaining to every donor that contributed to the $107 million raised for the event.

- Trump inaugural committee subject of wide-ranging subpoena issued by New York federal prosecutors, WesternJournal.com, February 5, 2019.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)


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