This post was written in 2012 and approved at the time of writing. 

KashFlow (, providers of online accounting software for small businesses, exhibited at business events in their early days. I interviewed them to appear as an example business in the Watertight Marketing book. They took experienced salespeople and targetted them on sign-ups secured on the day. Initially, this seemed highly effective. However, within days the customer service team was receiving calls from people who’d got back to their desks and changed their minds.

It takes roughly eight months for KashFlow to break even on their average cost of acquisition, so customers who defect this early really aren’t worth having.

Chief Executive, Duane Jackson comments, “We never push for a close any more. We believe that if we answer their questions, and our software suits them, they’ll sign-up in their own time.”

Since moving away from hard-sell techniques to a wholly service-oriented model, with no salespeople at all, where the whole emphasis on simply being helpful and friendly, their retention levels have settled at around 90% year-on-year. And, being as roughly 10% of businesses in their target market go under each year, you could argue that this represents almost non-existent customer defection.

Lessons from this case study…

Getting into a more nurtured sales habit is a lot to do with values. It can mean re-assessing the way you recruit, train and reward your sales team. It could even mean changing your perception of what a sales team is. In some businesses, the people that buyers really want to deal with in the sales process are the people that they’ll deal with as a customer. So, it may actually be better for sales to be a core skill that is integrated into everyone’s role rather being seen as a distinct function. Either way, long-term relationships are much more likely when each party is genuinely useful to the other.

If you can shift the mindset of your business to one of being genuinely helpful to people, rather than selling to them, you’ll reap the rewards. Hard sell techniques rarely work a second time. So, unless your business model is to only ever sell someone something once, then it’s worth remembering that softer, slower, sales will last longer and net more both in their own right and in their impact on your wider reputation.

© Bryony Thomas – The Watertight Marketer

Bryony Thomas

Bryony Thomas

Author & Founder, Watertight Marketing

Bryony Thomas is the creator of the multi-award winning  Watertight Marketing methodology, captured in her best-selling book of the same name. She is one of the UK's foremost marketing thinkers, featured by the likes of Forbes, The Guardian, Business Insider and many more, and in-demand speaker for business conferences, in-house sales days and high-level Board strategy days.

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