Trying to sell too much

“If eighty percent of your sales come from twenty percent of all of your items, just carry those twenty percent.”
—Henry Kissinger

I got a flier in the mail for a local restaurant that I’m probably never going to visit. Why? Well, the flier lists their menu. Here are just a few of the categories:
• PizzaToo many items to sell
• Pasta
• Wings
• Subs
• Salads
• Burgers
• Seafood
• Mexican
• Greek
• Indian

While I like all of these foods, there’s no way one restaurant can do all of them well. Odds are, it doesn’t do any of them well. So I’m not going to risk it.

If I want pizza, I’ll go to a place that specializes in pizza. If I want Mexican food, I’ll go to a place that specializes in Mexican food. Because a place that specializes in one kind of cuisine is likely to be better at it than a place that doesn’t.

That goes for all businesses. If your offerings are too broad, you’ll have a hard time developing a reputation and people will be suspicious of the quality of those offerings. By contrast, the more you specialize, the easier it is to become known for your specialty and the more easily prospects will trust you. (And the more you can charge, by the way.)

more items, fewer salesIt’s one of the mistakes I made early on in my speaking business. When I first became a professional speaker, I spoke on lots of subjects, figuring the more topics I had available, the more likely someone would hire me.

Didn’t work so well.

Over time, I got clearer and clearer in my focus, to the point where now everything I do—seminars, workshops, training, coaching, keynote speeches—is on a single topic: sales. There are sub-topics I speak about—networking, negotiating, customer service—but they’re all related to, and under the umbrella of, sales. I don’t speak about leadership, change, team building, creativity, life balance, diversity, time management, or any other topic not directly related to sales.

Could I conceivably deliver a speech or a seminar on one of those topics if I absolutely had to? Sure. I know something about each of those subjects and occasionally I’ll even build some of them into one of my sales programs. But I wouldn’t consider myself an “expert” in those subjectsfood for a professional speaker

More importantly, I can’t convince the marketplace I’m an expert in all those subjects. No one would believe it. And if they don’t believe, they won’t buy.

That’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the years: Whatever the product or service, people prefer to buy from an expert.

Perceived expertise increases buyer confidence and comfort. While specialization may shrink your potential market, it boosts your perceived expertise among your remaining market segment. That boosts the likelihood they’ll choose you over your competitors.

Which brings me back to my original question: Are you trying to sell too much?