How to (not) Oversell!

How often do you hear after a deal has been signed with a customer that people decide something has been oversold?

Overselling - Copyright penywise 2008
Hopefully not too often.

Overselling is when the customer experience post-sale doesn't meet their expectations of the agreement.  When you have the opportunity, make sure your customers are happy with the result, and that any step that they don't agree with is worked on in future sales.

  • They may say that not enough of Product Y or Service Z has been sold with Product X.
  • Some feature they thought was available is not included.
  • A product is actually something done by a service, or a previous customer did on their own.
  • A competitor's product did something, that they thought you could do too.
  • It doesn't work due to the customer's particular architecture
Many of these things could be found out if the right questions are asked, but it is a fine line between asking the right question and putting the deal in jeopardy.  Sometimes we don't know enough about a customer but they drive us along quickly.  Sometimes you think of a problem, but it isn't something for you to point out - and when you discuss it internally, its decided not to push that angle of it too far.

Ideally the your organization listens to the customer, you understand what they want and are able to present the vision for them to understand the solution. A commercial arrangement is made that both sides understand and sign up to.  The negotiations at the end don't take anything away that is necessary from the deal.

The job of the sales team is to offer solutions to the customer's problems, that if implemented as you propose it will result in the business problem being addressed.

There are a lot of unknowns in selling though.  Customers won't always let you know all of the answers - just as we won't tell them all our weaknesses.
  • What if the customer doesn't know their real business problem?
  • What if you hear their statement of the problem incorrectly, but they like your answer?
  • How do you tell the customer that they want the wrong thing?
  • Does the sales team understand what they are selling in order to recommend the right solution?
  • Can you accurately gauge the services and products that the customer needs to order?
  • Will the legal team strike some of the customer's needs out of the contract?
  • Will the product be implemented in the same way it was sold?
As your company gains more experience in the market, having a strong base of reference customers is very important, so it is important to try and ensure that customers will be happier with your offering.

This is not just about how things are sold, but also marketing, manufacturing, services delivery, support, and so on.

Over time your ability to understand and meet customer expectations should improve - and it is this improvement that will ensure that overselling declines in the long run.