Remember the old adage: No one likes to be sold, but everyone likes to buy. Each of us has been on the receiving end of an off-base sales pitch and there are few things more intrusive and alienating. As the consumer attention span gets shorter so too does the tolerance for irrelevant information.
Research shows that today’s buyer is more informed and educated than ever before. With virtually endless access to information, they have likely done their share of research – and may have even made up their mind – before ever speaking with a sales professional. This access to information has changed the sales game, as sales reps are no longer a consumer’s only source of information.
So, what does that mean? It means that a sales professional’s job has become increasingly complex. No longer can you simply lead with features and benefits and hope that something sticks. Buyers are a few steps ahead which forces you to be more strategic and specific with the information you provide.
Overselling Shows That You’re Out of Touch
You’ve heard it described many different ways: “show up and throw up,” “data dump,” “give ‘em the pitch,” etc., which are all ways to say oversell. And what this tells your customer is that you don’t “get” them. Not only is this sales mentality out of date, it’s also one of the easiest ways to turn off your customer – and worse yet – risk losing any future sales opportunities.
Overselling can change the entire dynamic of the sales process. Through research and observation, Janek has identified three major pitfalls when it comes to over-selling:
Pitfall #1: You Risk Overwhelming the Customer: Often times, even when a sales professional is privy to the needs of their customer, they still bombard them with added features and benefits. Resist the urge to do this. When you throw everything including the kitchen sink at your customer, it’s not only overwhelming, it can also confuse and distract the customer, taking the focus away from what you offer that genuinely meets their needs. Keep things simple. Stick to offering only relevant features and benefits.
Pitfall #2: You Risk Losing Your Momentum: In every good sales interaction there is an element of momentum – each bit of information you divulge (or, uncover) is building toward an eventual commitment. A rhythm is created and you as the sales professional should control the tempo of that rhythm.
See how it feels when the rhythm gets thrown off? It’s distracting. And it’s the same thing you’re doing when you go off on a tangent explaining the benefits of a feature in which your customer isn’t necessarily interested. The customer won’t be impressed by your breadth of product knowledge, they’ll likely be overwhelmed and distracted by the unnecessary information. The further away you take the conversation, the harder it is to reel it in and get back on track.
Pitfall #3: You Risk Laying All Your Cards on the Table: Even though today’s customer is smarter and equipped with more information…it still doesn’t mean that they know everything. As a representative from your company, you have access to some key information of which the customer has no knowledge; it’s something they can’t research on a company website. This information may be a flexible price point or expedited delivery option. Keep these things close to the vest and reveal them as they become useful in moving the transaction forward.
In the end, sales is a game – it takes two to play and requires interaction from both sides. And if the buyer is savvy there will also be some strategy involved. Maintain some element of surprise by holding back your best cards. Otherwise, if you lead by showing your whole hand you could wind up shooting yourself in the foot.
How Can You Avoid Overselling?
Surely you’ve been guilty of overselling at some point in your career – we all have. It can be the result of inexperience or a stressful situation. Studies show that sales reps are typically most comfortable talking about their products and services, therefore, overselling can become a natural inclination for many people. Here are a few things to keep in mind in keeping your sales process on track:
Value is in the eye of the beholder – Realize that what’s valuable to you may not be valuable to your customers. Perhaps one of the selling points that speaks to your needs would not have the same effect on your prospect. For example, when you’re explaining the benefits of, say, a computer application, resist the urge to jump ahead and describe its compatibility with XYZ operating system. Your customer didn’t ask for the additional explanation or give you any indication that they had interest in making that kind of purchase. Just because you wouldn’t think of buying one without the other does not mean your customer will feel the same way.
By the same token, a two-day turnaround for a computer repair may be impressive to you but if you’re dealing with a customer whose job hangs in the balance without access to the information on his hard drive, he likely would not find value in anything over a 24-hour turnaround. It just isn’t relevant in his world and it’s your job as a salesperson to recognize that and present options and benefits accordingly.
You Should Assume Nothing
We all know by now what happens when we assume something we don’t know for certain. It makes an…well, it can leave a sales professional with egg on their face. And there is no reason for it. Use your communication skills – both for speaking and listening – before you jump to your own conclusions about a customer’s needs and wants.
As we have observed in many sales interactions, it is a mistake to make assumptions about a customer’s level of knowledge surrounding a given topic based solely on the terminology they use. They may be regurgitating something they heard elsewhere and not fully understand what it is they are inquiring about. Don’t be afraid to ask polite but leading questions until you have a clear understanding of the customer’s knowledge level. Otherwise, you risk going too far with a conversation that could be over their head.
It All Comes Back to Needs
Instead of throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks, take the time to actually engage your customer and find out what’s truly important to them, and relevant to their current situation.
Ask questions to discover needs and create value for the customer based on their answers. Practice restraint and communicate only relevant information at the appropriate times. Take your assumptions and values out of the picture and focus solely on your customer and on finding a solution that fits them. In finding these solutions, you may also find that your conversion rates improve. Further, in practicing need-based selling, it gives you the potential to become a “trusted advisor” to your customers. And, because no one likes to be oversold, we won’t belabor the point by telling you in yet another way…no overselling, just smart selling.