One day in my office at OpenText I saw a deal start to go sour when my over exuberant salesperson, on the brink of closing the deal said,: “Mr. Buyer, this product is exciting because not only will it give you what you a b and c which you want, but also d, e and f which you will really love!.” Immediately the client when into back peddle mode. “Maybe we are paying too much? Maybe the product is too complicated? Maybe we are buying something’s we don’t need”. Ouch! No one likes to see a sales unravel at the 11th hour.
Overselling. The act of telling the customer they are getting more than they need. When they don’t need it. Didn’t specify it. And may not ever use it.
Overselling is dangerous because when faced with getting more (features D,E,F in the example above) than they wanted, your client will always be tempted to ask if they are paying too much. Worse, you may have also just sent expectations through the roof that you can always deliver more than the client requested. Be careful. Be honest. And be specific to the client’s needs because over selling could mean no sale at all.
Let’s look at some specific tips for avoiding the overselling trap.
Confirm the Client’s Criteria for Success
The first step in avoiding overselling is to determine what is most important to your client. Be sure that your definition of success is consistent with everyone else’s definition. DO NOT operate from the assumption that you think you know what is important. Find out what is actually important to the client.
Ask questions such as:
“You mentioned that A, B, and C are important to you. Which is the most important?”
“When you say you don’t want to spend too much, what exactly do you mean?”
“What are your most important criteria for success?”
If your client is vague, help them be clear. Gain clarity by asking discovery questions. Show empathy when asking questions. 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.
Here is a list of discovery questions that will help you gain clarity:
- What are your top three priorities for defining the success of this project?
- Specifically, what is most important to you?
- What needs to be in place for you to feel that this project has been a complete success?
- What does a successful project look like?
- Is this something you would expect us to do or do you expect to handle it?
- Can you give me some more background on that?
- Can you give me an example?
- When you say ___________ (insert vague word here), what do you mean by that?
- Is that critical?
- How important is that as compared with______________ (insert some other criterion as a point of comparison)?
If your client has trouble being specific, make some suggestions. It’s OK to ask closed ended (yes, no) questions to help them determine what is or isn’t working. You might start the conversation like this:
“John, many executives tell me that although they are happy with their business results, they have ongoing concerns with ____________ (name a problem your product addresses). Is that what you meant when were we chatting about how you………..
Lastly, follow up by asking clarifying questions such as:
- How is that affecting you?
- How long have you had the problem?
- What have you done to try and resolve it
Sales conversations that are question based and focused on the client needs will ensure you have the criteria for success documented correctly to win the sale. That understanding will create a win-win situation for you and your client, and ultimately lead to ongoing sales and service as well as referrals.
Honest communication and not overselling, is the only way to uncover the real criteria for success and sell exactly what the customer needs, and NOT more.
Dedicated to doubling your sales!