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  • Jamie Shanks

The Best Sales Teams Know When to Stop Selling

Can sales pros hurt revenues by over selling?

Anyone who has ever swung a baseball bat or golf club instinctively knows that the follow-through matters as much as the impact. It may sound counter-intuitive, but metrics show that the way you act after the sale affects the sale.

Social selling is about relationships and relationships are never easy. However, long-term relationships with customers are definitely worth the work as long as sales reps understand the risks of overselling. Overselling is the process of going right into upselling or cross-selling without a full consideration of the customer's status.


This is a complex problem but it involves countering two interrelated assumptions:

  • Not every customer is prepared for a cross-sell or an up sell.

  • Not every customer is a good fit for your company.

While it's natural for some customers to be more demanding than others, some customers actually have a negative effect on the company's ability to grow its customer base. Take a second look at the different types of customers you have and how each responds to overselling.


One of the essential indicators of a customer's long-term value to the company is their Net Promoter Score (NPS). Some companies have used NPS as little more than a replacement for the traditional customer satisfaction survey. That's a waste of effort and data because NPS can reveal much more than that.

NPS breaks customers down into three categories:

  1. Net Promoters, who are enthusiastic brand advocates within their networks.

  2. Passives, who are only temporarily satisfied and have a repurchase/referral rate 50 percent lower that Net Promoters.

  3. Detractors, who have lost faith in the company and account for 80 percent of negative word of mouth.


Understanding where each customer falls is critical because follow-through on selling has to be precise with each of these three customer types. Sales professionals can be far more successful at moving customers out of the lower two tiers if they know where they stand going into the interactions.

Net Promoters tend to view conversations around upsells and cross-sells as collaborative and proactive. They are eager to discover what else the company can do for them. For Passives, up sells make them skittish but they often respond to cross-sells with curiosity. For Detractors, honest attempts to better match company services to their problems are received with skepticism. They can still be moved by an outstanding customer experience, but sales reps have to approach the conversation like they are selling to a first-time prospect.

An understanding of these influences can take a great deal of mystery out of follow-ups that didn't go as planned. In situations where the CRM automatically sends out suggested actions based on aggregate customer timelines, sales reps can end up walking into a meeting unprepared for the reaction.


This is one of the main reasons that companies need to align their sales, marketing and customer service functions. All three should have access to the same information about the customer in real time. Sales reps need to be informed about the kind of content the customer has seen and the character of their interactions with the company.

Eventually, every company is going to run into customers relationships that aren't working. Customers that are a good fit for the company but fall into the lower tiers deserve priority treatment. It often takes a joint effort of customer service and sales to move the needle. The second highest priority should be customers that haven't spent heavily but do have a high NPS. Too often these customers are overlooked due to low revenue, but they have the greatest potential to influence their networks positively.

Jill Rowley emphasized the importance of this category of customers. Her observation was that a social seller's goal is not to fill up the pipeline with prospects, but with “future advocates.”

That's more than a just a change of terminology. It requires a complete change of mindset to give preference to customers who help build the strongest network over customers who promise the fastest close or the biggest sale. Both of those look better at first glance, but they tend to lead to a customer base with too many Passives and Detractors. That drives up churn and the cost of acquiring new customers as the company's reputation suffers.

Changing the selling mindset from the start means that companies gain the power to choose their customers with the same care that customers choose their vendors. Relationship-building can make sales leaders with hard-sell experience feel uncomfortable. That discomfort is a sign of growth, and it needs to be nurtured just as much as any prospect. Consider it the social seller's journey.

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