Are You Driving Customers Away?

Joe Weinlick
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Turning visitors into customers is at the heart of the sales industry. Whether you're working in public-facing retail or inside sales, the imperative to increase sales volume is inescapable. Given this emphasis on ever-increasing customer conversion, missing out on potential sales is the worst failing a professional in the field can have. Fortunately, many of the reasons customers might be driven away are under your control.

Coming on too strong is one of the more common ways a sales professional can go wrong. This is especially true in many parts of the retail field, where sales staff are often under a lot of pressure to increase sales, but customers usually expect to be allowed to browse in peace without feeling pressured to buy a product. While it's true that visitors to your car lot expect to meet someone whose job is to increase sales, or that callers to your brokerage expect to be encouraged to invest in certain financial products, what you perceive as simple enthusiasm for your product can be felt as unacceptable pressure by your customer. Overselling a product or service often makes customers feel as though they're caught in a trap, and the natural reaction people have to traps is to escape.

Nothing about this means you have to tone down your enthusiasm for a great product of course. On the contrary, your joy in sharing the news about your company's offerings can be infectious and increase sales on its own. To avoid crossing the line into overselling, try to refocus your enthusiasm on the product itself. When you catch yourself drawing answers out of a customer, or sliding into hard-sell territory, you're at risk of cornering your guest and activating the fight-or-flight mechanism that ends with a quick retreat without the sale.

Underselling is just as destructive to sales as overselling. A sales rep who doesn't believe in the product being offered can be spotted from a mile away, and it tips off customers that something is wrong with what's being offered. You can undersell your company's services without knowing it if you forget to mention an important feature, or the benefits it brings to a customer's life.

To avoid this pitfall, start by knowing your products intimately. Study up on what your company offers during your downtime—it's an investment that pays off the first time a customer asks you a question you couldn't have anticipated, and you deliver a five-star answer. Knowing your product also entails knowing its accessories. Even a customer who buys from you can be counted as a missed opportunity if you don't offer an upgrade or extra item that people usually buy alongside your product. A good example of this would be to offer a term-life insurance customer an upgrade to whole life. Even if the offer is refused, it won't be because you didn't mention it.

The driving purpose of a career in sales is to increase sales volume. It's important to be careful though, overselling a product can do as much to harm customer conversion as underselling. Each practice is harmful in its own way, but each can also be avoided with a little care. Sailing a true course between too much pressure and too little will help you increase sales overall.


(Photo courtesy of jscreationzs /


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