Increasingly, we are learning the key to our success, as sales people, is to be helpful. Too often, however, what we intend as “help,” actually isn’t helpful.

Recently, I was sitting in on a call (it’s easy to do that on Zoom, these days). The customer was looking at an IT solution. It was a very complex tool, the customer had some understanding of the area–but not nearly the depth of knowledge the sales team from my client.

The call started well. The team discussed what the customer was trying to achieve, why they needed to implement a new approach, and their requirements. As the discussion continued, the sales team could see the customer really didn’t understand the problem area we were discussing. The customer had a surface level of knowledge, some of what they asked made it apparent they had been talking to the competition.

The sales team wanted to be helpful. they tried to be collaborative, asking questions, helping the customer reframe what they were trying to do and what they might do.

As the call progressed, I saw the sales team was just piling on, they kept adding information, data, talking about how complex the solution space was—-and demonstrating that complexity with the sheer amount of data they kept sharing with the customer.

As one point, the customer stopped. We could tell they were frustrated. They thanked the sales people, they said they had a lot to think about and that they would get back to the sales people after they had discussed the meeting and what they had learned.

As we debriefed the call, the team realized they had made a mistake. They had done two things wrong. First, they wanted to prove how knowledgeable they were. Second, they were reacting to the positioning of the competition. They felt they had to provide more information, covering both what the competition had positioned but adding much more on top of that.

Too often, in our attempts to be helpful to customers, we are actually unhelpful. We want to demonstrate our expertise, we want to make sure they understand everything we think they should. As a result, we tend to pile information on. Thinking more is better. If the competition has provided some information, we have to provide more, showing that we are better than the competition.

Over the course of the buying journey, we keep piling on thinking more is better.

Sometimes, we use this in malicious ways, we create Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt. We do this thinking, the customer will turn to us for help, when in reality, we have adversely impacted their confidence in what they are doing.

In reality, our customers are overwhelmed, they are confused. And more just increases their confusion.

Almost always, less is better. Helping the customer simplify. Rather contributing to the efforts of piling on, making things more complex, we help them identify the things that are most important to them.

Too much information, too many choices is confusing. It’s not being helpful. Too often, less is better. We are most helpful when we help the customers determine what is most critical to their success, and eliminating everything extraneous to that.