Every business’ objective is to make money by offering a fair value to their customers, thereby ensuring that it can continue to operate profitably. However, if a business takes advantage of its customers through overselling, customers will rightly turn away from the business, which is exactly what should happen in the free market system.
I have three dogs: Sophie and Bella, both black labs, and Hoover, an elderly Shih Tzu, appropriately named because he eats anything left on the floor. With all of these dogs, I spend substantial amounts of time in vet offices and I have been going to one for about 18 months now.
It seems as though every time I go in there for services, their fees increase without explanation. On one visit for example, I went in to get them to sign a document that stated my animals were healthy, and it cost me $30. They have even started to request that each of my animals have semi-annual checkups — a practice even my own physician does not suggest. Even now when I think about this, my blood starts to boil.
In the exam room, the shelves are lined with a ton of products the vet is promoting. The last time I was in there, I sat down on a bench to wait for the veterinarian, and there on the seat was a flip book trying to sell me on dental cleanings for my dogs. Three months ago they told me that my Shih Tzu needed his teeth cleaned at a cost of $300, and he only has four teeth. Bottom line, I felt that they were grossly overselling their services.
Clearly each and every business needs to sell its products and services, but if you push too hard, you risk alienating your customers. Obviously, this vet practice figured this out as I recently received a form letter from them saying that they were reducing the prices of some types (unspecified) of preventative care.
The line between good selling and overselling is not always clear, but with this vet practice, it was not just one thing that made me feel as if I was being taken advantage of. It was the unrelenting and continuous push to purchase some product or service.
I am not sure if the vets at this practice realize how this overselling is being perceived, but it would not be difficult to find out. One good way to do so is simply to ask your customers for their suggestions or improvements. Without customer input, the first time a business will notice that they are overselling is when they start to lose customers.
Another way to see if you are overselling is just to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and see how your business looks and feels through their eyes. I really do think if these vets would come out and take a look at what I see, they would easily recognize the magnitude of their overselling.
Now go out and make sure that you are not overselling your customers.
Jerry Osteryoung, the director of outreach of the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship in the College of Business at The Florida State University, the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship; and professor of finance, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.