Biggest Selling Mistake? Overwhelming The Buyer. Here’s How To Keep It Simple.

Randy Illig

We came to the dealership to buy a car. We left after an awkward lesson in one of the most common mistakes in selling — the failure to keep it simple.

My wife and I were excited to test drive a new family vehicle. On the dealer’s lot, she sat in the driver’s seat while I waited my turn in the back. It was a hot day, but the air conditioning was blasting. We were ready to hit the road.

Then the salesperson launched his pitch. He went on. And on. And on.

The seller apparently wanted us to be impressed with his mastery of every detail of the car’s automation system, and the million variables of climate control, and the track record for long-term reliability.

We, however, just wanted to test drive the car.

Make it easy to buy

Too many sellers foolishly focus on their memorized pitch at the expense of the buyer’s specific wants. They bombard their customers with extra stuff that isn’t needed to make a decision. They make the sales process too long, too complex, and too overwhelming. The poor client becomes frozen in a blizzard of choices.

Good sellers spend time learning the buyers’ situation and needs, then help the buyers make good decisions in their own best interest.

I understand the motivation for some sellers to make things complicated. They are experienced, they know their stuff, and they think it’s important to show the client a depth of knowledge.

But knowledge is less valuable than wisdom. If you have the expertise, then use it to trim and simplify the menu of options. No sane buyer wants to be information-rich, but decision-making poor. The seller should focus on the few specifics most important to the buyer — and screen out the rest. 

Tips for greater simplicity

The first tip is to put your “stuff” aside. Don’t think about your goods and services — the real priority is to figure what your customer is trying to accomplish. Knowing the customer’s top goals will help you streamline the sales process.

Second, determine the criteria that the customer will use to make the decision. How will the customer choose among alternatives? If the customer is all about the safety record of a vehicle, then don’t waste time and confuse the issue with talk about 0-to-60 acceleration records. 

Third, dump the boilerplate. I’ve seen too many proposals that have been developed with an eye toward efficiency while sacrificing relevance and value to the customer. It’s too easy to type the client’s name into a template and end up with a snazzy proposal that tells them all about your company but nothing about the client’s. 

Let’s be honest: Customers don’t want to read about sellers. They want to read about themselves. Boilerplate proposals make everything sound alike. And if your product starts sounding the same as the alternatives, then the final choice inevitably will be determined by price — and the customer will often choose the cheapest.

But if the customer can be shown that your proposal is a solution tailored to their specific needs and wants, then the customer is likely to choose you and may pay a premium.

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Important versus thorough

Some sales may be too complex to be broken down for the customer into just one or two key decisions. Maybe you’re selling a contract over time. That’s when it’s crucial for a seller to streamline the process by putting the key decisions in a specific order. 

Perhaps the wise seller, based on smarts and experience, knows there will be 10 or 12 key decisions over a certain period. What’s important is to break down that process so you don’t overwhelm or confuse the customer. Make it less intimidating. Instead of talking about 10 or 12 key decisions, make up a schedule to show the customer the decision-making journey over time. 

Just about every seller has been trained to be thorough. I think thorough is the enemy of a good seller. The friend of a good salesperson is importance, not thoroughness. You don’t need to check off everything – just the things that are important to the client in front of you.