Too Many Choices Can Confuse Customers So Limit the Options

Close faster. Limit the options. The fewer the choices, the easier it is for a customer to make a decision.

“When you go to the market to buy two apples, why do you get disappointed when you find only two remaining?”, the advert used to ask, and then would give us the answer. “It’s because you want variety” Indeed, variety is the spice of life. But just like spices can also get too hot to consume, likewise too much variety can be annoying and can get ignored. Like we do the returns to a Google search-research says few people go past the first page of the thousands that appear.  When it’s too much, suddenly variety isn’t delightful anymore it is irritating. What does this then mean to the selling process?

First, the essence of product knowledge isn’t for the salesperson to share it exhaustively with the prospect.  No. It’s to be used as doctor does with the patient. Despite the deep well of knowledge the doctor has, he will offer his patient a sip of two of the water in it based on the symptoms the patient has shared. Imagine what would happen if the doctor emptied the entire contents of the well flooding you with what he knows. Dazed, confused and irritated you’d leave sicker than when you arrived. Likewise product knowledge is to be used by the salesperson to match the prospect’s needs to it. In a restaurant, few patrons are connoisseurs and will be delighted by the waiter who recommends a meal for them after a brief interview which goes something like, “would you like white or red meat?”, “White. Then you will love our fish or would you prefer the chicken, Sir?.” Going down the list of products or services available and how they work is little more than verbalizing the brochure or website-making your presence unnecessary.

Next, notice the options usually given are in twos. Warm or cold? Red or white?  With toppings or without? Such choices make it easier for the prospect to respond to, and hastens the movement along, the sales cycle. Making a choice from an option of two or three things is much more palatable than twenty two or twenty three things. This giving of two options also lends itself to closing. “Would you like to sign with the blue pen or the black?” or “Would you like to pay in cash or via card?”

Which brings us to the third lesson on variety. Notice that the questions asked in the examples are leading questions. Irrespective of how the prospect answers them they move towards a close.  The questions are also not entirely closed neither are they too open. If the prospect can’t meet you tomorrow at 2.30pm or the day after at 6pm, then he will not respond to your query for an appointment with a no, but will give other dates as an option; which still gives us what we wanted-an appointment.

But even limiting the options to two when elongated can be irritating as in this illustration. “Excuse me Sir, will the water be bottled or tap?” Bottled.  “Carbonated or mineral?” Mineral. “One litre or half a litre?” Half a litre. “Warm or Cold?” Warm. “Still or sparking?” Still. “Flavoured or Unflavoured?” Flavoured. “Mint, passion or garlic?” Mint. “Taking it away or taking it here?” Taking it here…

The selling process is fraught with numerous challenges relating to variety. Setting an appointment, settling on a solution, agreeing on delivery, determining how payment will be made and on and on. In all these instances, variety is best limited to being  acceptable without being suffocating.

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