Avoid the trap of overselling

It’s every salesperson’s nightmare: the sale that unravels just before the deal has been closed. It happens more often than it should, and overselling is quite often the cause. As sales professionals, it’s important to recognize that this is a trap that we all can inadvertently set for ourselves. With a little forethought, however, we can learn to avoid making this costly mistake.

Overselling happens when we promise a customer that they will get more than what they need when they don’t need it-even though they didn’t specify it and may not ever use it. It creates problems rather than solutions. It raises doubts in the mind of a buyer, and does so right at moment when they’re looking for reassurance that they’re making the right choice.

So while you might think what you’re doing is reinforcing the benefits of the product or service you’re selling, what it often does is gives a buyer a reason to pause and ask themselves: maybe I’m paying too much, or maybe this is more than what I need? Even if the buyer doesn’t back-peddle in an oversell situation, you risk creating false expectations that you can never meet, in which case you could be damaging your credibility as a trusted salesperson.

So be careful! Be honest, and be specific in communicating to the needs of your clients, because overselling could leave you with no sale at all.

Let’s look at some specific tips for avoiding the overselling trap.

Confirm your client’s expectations

The first step in avoiding overselling is to determine what is most important to your customers. What are their expectations when buying your product or service? Check your assumptions against what your customers tells you. Never operate from the assumption that you know what’s best for them.

Ask open-ended questions to get the facts you need

Sometimes, customers give vague answers to a salesperson’s questions. This can happen for all kinds of reasons. Some simply don’t want to be held accountable for saying what’s on their mind. Sometimes people are vague because they really don’t know the answers to your questions, or are scared to take action.

Great salespeople excel at cutting through this fog. They’re skilled at helping customers be clear about their expectations and their needs. To do this, they ask open-ended questions designed to obtain specific facts to help close a sale. Examples:

• “You mentioned that three features are important to you when choosing this product. Of these, which is the most important?”

• “When you say you don’t want to spend too much on this service, what exactly do you mean?”

• “What are your most important criteria that define a successful product?”

When asking a customers a question, be sure to show that your understand and share their feelings. That’s what empathy is all about. If you need to, explain that your questions are intended to help you better understand their needs, prevent misunderstandings, and deliver what they are looking for.

Next, pick one or two serious and common problems that your product or service can solve, and focus on those when speaking with your customers. After all, it’s always easier for people to discuss problems (especially with salespeople) when they hear that others have had similar experiences. In doing so, you can follow-up with clarifying questions, such as:

• In our conversation today, you and I have talked about a common problem. How is that problem affecting you in your business?

• How long has your organization been struggling with this problem?

• What have you done to try and resolve it?

So steer away from overselling at all cost! Engage in open, honest communication with your customers. Uncover important facts about the needs and expectations of your customers. Not only will this help you close more sales successfully, it will also help you build great business relationships, generating repeat sales as well as referrals.

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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