Hard Sell vs. Soft Sell

Today I was on a Facebook group and one of the participants raised this question:

Need some advice ya’ll – client wants to “soft sell”.

An Australian client (mortgage broker) goes:

* “Here in Aus, people are not in the power hungry game so lots of the wording sounds a little too intimidating. We are after an empowering message.

* “I want like a soft selling site, this sounds a little too strong.

* “I searched through a few more mortgage companies in my area to see how they write. They’re all pretty plain vanilla and finance boring but none of them are as aggressive or convey horror story messages.”

What are your thoughts on “soft selling?”

Before I show you the answer I gave him, let’s talk about hard vs. soft sell.

First, there is a right and a wrong way to sell and that has nothing to do with hard vs. soft sell. So, I don’t want anyone coming back at me with “but in the financial marketplace there are strict regulations about what you can and can’t say.” Look, I’m not suggesting you violate any of those regulations. That would be extremely stupid and I would never do that.

However, hard sell means you are not watering down what you CAN say. You are not pulling any punches. You are open and honest about the fact that you are there to sell them something and you are trying to be as dramatic about it as you can…without violating any laws or regulations.

Now, unfortunately, not all of your clients are in favor of this. In fact, most of businesses are too chicken shit (oooh, he said the “S” word) to be bold in their advertising. These don’t usually last unless they are big enough to absorb the loss and have a system that otherwise gets them business without the advertising.

The quickest way to get people to ignore your advertising is to bore them to death. The quickest way to bore them to death is to write copy that is vanilla, meaning without anything dramatic or different (i.e., unique) to say. These blend into the background.


The best way to get someone’s attention is to say something that rocks them out of their seats. Maybe it’s something they don’t know. Maybe it’s something shocking. Maybe it’s something that makes them curious. Maybe it’s about something NEW. Maybe it’s something competitors are afraid to write about…etc.

If you are a copywriter looking for clients, I have some bad news for you. Most of your clients are too afraid to run a good ad…one that will actually SELL what they’ve got to offer. If you have a client who is willing to run a bold ad and take a chance, treasure that client. They’re rare.

If your client is of this variety, you either need to educate them out of their ways or do what I suggest in my reply to the guy in the Facebook group… which is this:

This is an excellent opportunity for your client to stand out among all the other (vanilla) competitors. If they can’t understand that, they’re foolish. Write them a soft sell, take their money and find a competitor who is interested in your strong message. They’ll be stealing all the sales and you’ll have them as a client for a long time.

I hope I haven’t offended you. If I have, you probably haven’t read this far, you left long ago (get how that works?).