This post is inspired by a bad sales call I took recently. I’ll assume that you’ve heard the old school sales adage of ABC: always be closing? But is that really appropriate in the modern sales arena? This bad sales call really made me start thinking about why we tend to oversell and how to know when to stop.

When you conjure up an image of a stereotypical salesperson what do you think of? Someone who’s loud, brash, always at the centre of attention, loves the sound of his own voice? If you’re being kind you’d say gregarious but in reality he’s probably a bit ostentatious and would brag about things like ‘being able to sell salt to a slug’, right? Having been a buyer and a seller for most of my working life I can tell you now that these people do exist and some of these characters will also be exceptional sales people. Successful sales meetings can be done over lunch and last a couple of hours. However, in today’s world of hyper-information and hyper-speed, this style of salesperson is a dying breed. Before I offend anyone I should point out that I’m not criticising this type, but it is on the out. Having said that there is one common trait of this stereotype that I can see has transferred across into the new world of the foodpreneur and that’s overselling.

Let’s set the scene with two characters: Bob, our stereotypical salesperson, and Barry, our new age foodpreneur.

Bob has worked in sales all his life and is good at what he does. He’s done many a valuable deal on the golf course, at the bar and in meeting rooms. Bob has always been the lead salesperson wherever he’s worked. Barry has never worked in sales and would openly say he’s not very good at it. He’s just started his own food business and is getting a lot of interest.

Bob and Barry have both managed to secure a meeting with the same customer. For Bob it will mean hitting bonus so he can retire early; for Barry it will mean he can secure funding to take his business to the next level.

Neither Bob nor Barry got the result they wanted and were rejected by the retailer for the same reason: they oversold. Bob’s style is to charm the buyer round to his way of thinking and only actually talked business for 5mins of a 30min meeting that was cut short because the buyer was out of time. Barry’s passion got the better of him and his entire presentation was about the features and benefits of his product, not once did he mention the retailer or its customers. Now you may be sat there thinking, ‘what’s wrong with building a rapport and what’s wrong with passion?’ Nothing. Nothing at all. However if it impedes the message you really want to put across then everything!

Have you ever bought a used car? You’ve done your research online, you know what car you want and you know you’re going to buy it. If you’ve ever been in that scenario you’ll know how frustrating it is when you walk in and some salesperson insists in selling every little feature of the car down to the fully removable cup holders. Not only is it frustrating but it may even turn you off from the purchase completely. This salesperson may have clung to defeat from the clutches of victory because he didn’t know when to stop selling.

Ok, so overselling is an issue but how do we stop doing it? It’s definitely not about skipping small talk and rapport or removing passion for our business. It’s very simple: ask questions and listen. You may have prepared an incredible 50 slide presentation but if, when you sit down, the buyer says, ‘I’ve tried it, I love it and I want to list it’ do not get that presentation out just a pen to write down the details of your first order!

If you like what you’ve just read or have any comments/questions please share your thoughts below.

Northern Munkee.

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