Seller Beware and Transparency Rules Sales in 2013

We’re all well acquainted with the concept of “buyer beware”; that the onus is on the buyer during a sales transaction to ensure that they’re not taken advantage of. However, a subtle change has crept in over the last decade which every business needs to be aware of. Doing business in a world of ever-present internet connections and a smart phone in virtually every pocket  is now giving rise to the term seller beware!

This is something that author Dan Pink articulates very well in his latest book called To Sell Is Human.  In it which he presents the concept of “seller beware” as the approach that businesses need to adopt to continue to survive in a world rife with information.

So why the shift from “buyer beware” to “seller beware”? Up until fairly recently, there was an inequality when it came to information.

If you wanted to buy a car for example, chances are that the salesperson knew more about cars than you in general…or more about their particular brand of cars than practically anyone else. They were the de facto ‘expert’ and you either had to take them at their word or spend your time tracking down the opinions of others who knew more than you.

Since the sales person had all the information and you didn’t – you were at a distinct disadvantage. Was the price being offered a good one or were you being taken for a ride? You didn’t really know for sure did you?

In the end you often had to go with your gut and hope that you made the best choice that you could with the little bit of information that you had. If you had a fair and honest sales person or were blessed enough to be born with a hyper-sensitive “bullshit detector” then you ended up with a good buy.

Otherwise, you may have been sold a not so great deal or even been ripped off with little recourse but to suck it up and be wiser for the experience next time.

That was the old way. Now it’s different.

With the internet we now have access to a glut of information that would have been impossible to access 20 years ago. You can now conceivably walk into any dealership on any day of the week and be even more informed than the person who’s trying to make the sale.

That means the old ways of selling are going extinct.

Manipulating the prospect with dishonest pricing or playing a game in order to persuade someone to buy the product you want to sell rather than the one the client actually needs can have dire consequences.

Rather than getting a nice commission and the prospect being none-the-wiser, you will now most likely miss out on the sale altogether… and that’s just the beginning of what could happen.

Today’s consumer is becoming too savvy for unethical  or just plain lazy sales practices. They can source the same car and get multiple prices often just as easily as the sales person. If you want to mess around with the price they can easily walk away and shop elsewhere.

Beyond that, people are also more connected than ever, so when they tell everyone they know on Facebook about the shark salesman, or leave a negative review on sites like Yelp…the business can be permanently scarred in no time flat.

So what can you do about it?

Well, as much as you may wish to dial back the clock to the good old days (just like the music industry) – that just isn’t going to happen. So plan B is to admit that your customer may be a lot smarter than you think and (if you haven’t already) start being more transparent in your dealings with them.

Pink offers several ways to sell more easily in this new climate without having to pull a fast one on your clients.

One study he shares reveals that the best deals by a significant margin are worked out for both parties when the salesperson focuses on what the buyer is thinking. By doing your best to get into the customers headspace and forget about your personal interests…you end up solving the customer’s problems. They become the focus instead of you; and by putting the customer’s needs first oddly enough you’ll tend to sell more.

Don’t forget that the important thing is that both the buyer and the seller benefit from this approach; the buyer has their problems addressed with the best possible solution and as a result is a customer who’s more likely to do repeat business and/or refer more customers to the seller in the future.

So, have you seen sales start to drop?

Have you noticed old sales techniques no longer being effective in your business?

Is it a fluke or is it a part of the shift to the information age that we’re going through right now?

The time to adopt “seller beware” selling techniques and provide more relevant solutions in a transparent manner for your clients, is now.

Not only is this the ethical thing to do, but it is proving to result in a win/win situation for clients and businesses alike. The focus needs to be more about creating a higher lifetime value with your customers than focusing on any single transaction.

If you’re worried about losing potential sales this way, consider the cost of attempting to repair a tarnished reputation after the fact. The saying that “bad news travels fast” is truer now than at any other point in history. With Twitter, Facebook, Yelp and hundreds of other social vehicles online, there is more than enough places for word to get out if you’ve mishandled a customer.

You can either get the customers on your side saying great things about you, by taking the “Seller Beware” approach, or you can gamble that outdated sales tactics will still work and hope the tide doesn’t turn against you before it’s too late.

Do you know of anyone that is relying on outdated sales techniques and is experiencing a downturn of business? Share this post and maybe you’ll help them to turn things around.


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