Canadian Vending

Features Consumer Behaviour Trends
Solution Selling: The Tidal Wave Sale

June 10, 2008
By Kelley Robertson


In a recent sales interaction with a prospective client, I offered
several solutions to his particular situation. I had asked him several
questions, and upon determining his needs, presented a variety of
different answers.

In a recent sales interaction with a prospective client, I offered several solutions to his particular situation. I had asked him several questions, and upon determining his needs, presented a variety of different answers.
I told the client about the corporate programs I deliver, recommended one of my public workshops, suggested that he register for my newsletter, and asked him to complete a questionnaire that would help identify where he and his team could improve. When I hung up the phone, it dawned on me that I may have presented too many solutions, too quickly. Sadly, I had fallen prey to using the tidal wave sales approach (please don’t chastise me and tell me I’m insensitive – it has nothing to do with recent world events). Unfortunately, I never heard from this person again, even though I tried to contact him by telephone and e-mail.

A tidal wave sale happens when you overwhelm your customer during the sales process. In other words, you bowl them over with too much information or too many ideas in an effort to close the sale. Here is another example:A homeowner I know met with an interior designer for some consultation on improving the appearance of her home. During their first meeting, the designer suggested several different options and ideas and, at the end of the meeting, asked for a deposit so she could begin the job. Although the ideas and solutions that were presented sounded good, the homeowner was hesitant to make a commitment to move forward because she needed time to digest and consider the multitude of ideas that had been presented. It was evident that the designer had used the tidal wave sales approach.

Many sales professionals, particularly SME’s (Subject Matter Experts) make the mistake of using this approach. They have the best intentions and truly want to help their clients and prospects but tend to get carried away. As a result, they offer all the solutions they can think of believing they are helping their customer. However, in reality, they actually make it more challenging for customers to make a decision.


Most salespeople don’t realize that they are using the tidal wave approach. They become so accustomed to telling people everything about their product or service, forgetting that too much information can actually be detrimental. They forget that most people can only absorb a certain amount of information in any period of time.

I remember looking for a new bed with my wife many years ago. We visited four or five stores and were told we should be looking for something different in a mattress by each salesperson. They told us all about the features of the beds they sold and by the end of the day we were completely confused and didn’t know what factors we should consider in our purchase. We felt overwhelmed and as a result, ended up postponing our decision for several weeks.
If the salespeople had asked us what was important in our buying decision they could have presented a solution that was more relevant instead of giving us all the information on their particular beds.
Customers look to you for help. They rely on your expertise to help them make a buying decision. You need to be careful how much information you give people, especially in preliminary conversations and particularly if your product is highly technical in nature. Keep your answers brief and to the point. Avoid giving too much information, too many answers, or too many solutions. Here is a final example:
When my wife and I purchased our house we planned to replace the carpet on the main level. The salesperson in one of the stores we visited spent close to ten minutes talking about under-padding. But most of the information he shared with me had little relevance to my situation. And, in several instances, I had no idea what he was talking about. It was obvious he knew a lot about his products but he didn’t know how to present this information concisely.

So, how can you avoid this?

The best way to prevent this from happening is to ask your customer or prospect a series of high-quality questions to determine exactly what they need and to learn more about their individual situation. Determine what solution is most appropriate for them. Limit your suggestions to one or two ideas; resist the temptation to offer several alternatives.

Remember that telling is not selling. Professional selling means helping people make an educated buying decision. That means you need to focus your attention on your customer’s agenda, not on closing the sale.

Kelley Robertson, President of the Robertson Training Group, works with businesses to help them increase their sales and motivate their employees. Receive a FREE copy of “100 Ways to Increase Your Sales” by subscribing to his free newsletter available at For information on his programs, contact him at 905-633-7750 or Kelley@

Print this page


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *