Is Too Much Choice Killing Your Sales

Let’s get straight to the point here……..

Some of us are comfortable with making decisions in our lives and some of us will pack up our bags and leave town to avoid making them.

So after watching one of my friends take two weeks to make a decision, that most people would make in a couple of hours, this week I am going to show you how the range of options and information you give your clients can dramatically affect the way they make decisions about your products and services.

It’s commonly thought that more options and choice are a good thing……………. but it’s simply not true!

A growing body of work has begun to uncover, that far from increasing sales, giving your client far too many choices can actually be more detrimental sales.

Look, as humans, we are programmed to crave freedom and choice. It the very thing that helped with our survival, but it’s a double edges sword.

You see, there comes a point, when having too many choices actually causes indecision, increased unhappiness, and paralysis, as you become consumed with the fear of making the wrong choices.

In addition, if we do make a decision, there’s an increased risk of trying to second guess the outcome of the decision or simply feeling that I could have made a better decisions.

In his book, the Paradox of choice, Barry Schwartz, a professor of psychology from Swarthmore College in the US, explores the inverse relationship between increased choice and the happiness of the person making the choice.

Simply put, Increased Choice leads to decreased Happiness.

So how does that affect me I hear you ask?

Well, here goes, we all living in a world we are surrounded with information every minute of our waking day.

It’s been estimated that the level of data that an adult today deals with in a single day is the equivalent of the information that someone living in the 1800s would have to deal with in a year.

As the  estimated 14.7 Billion internet pages mushroom by the hour and we are presented with more TV/radio channels, the constant bombardment of 24/7 news channels leaves more and more people feeling like they are “drowning in a sea of information”.

Even the most mundane of tasks, like buying a sandwich or grabbing a coffee have become more complex, as companies try to seduce us with a bewildering range of choices.

What’s more there’s an even more subtle effect that kicks in when you are presented with an increased level of information.

Take that simple coffee choice.

When presented with more choice you begin to assign far more importance to the decisions than appropriate and you begin to devote way more time to the decision making process than you should be for this low level outcome.

American economist Alfred Kahn, first described this effect in his essay “The Tyranny of Small Choices” in 1966.

This is set to become a very real problem for you and your business, if you don’t begin to control the level of choice available to your clients.

“One option is no option, two options is a dilemma, 3 options is a choice” Tony Robbins

To determine the right level of information for your clients, you first need to understand how people decide when presented with a number of choices.

This process happens at two distinct levels:

  1. The conscious (rational) level
  2. The subconscious (emotional) level

Each exerts its own distinct influence on your decision making process.

So let’s consider each in turn……..

At the conscious level, the decision making process goes something like this:

  1. First you decide on your desired goal or outcome
  2. Next you look at all the options and alternatives you have available to you, in order to move you towards your goal or outcome
  3. Now you begin to weigh up the options and decide which is the best option for you
  4. Then you decide which the best option is and make your choice
  5. Finally you evaluate how well the decision was in moving you towards your outcome

This is great, but what we also need to realise is that at the unconscious level, as this process is going on, we are unconsciously filtering out all the options and information that do not fit with our beliefs and values.

These “decision making criteria” allow us to make decisions quickly and make us feel good.

Ask anyone how they knew they had made a good decision the last time they bought something and if you dig deep enough, it will boil down to the simple fact that the decisions left them feeling good about themselves in some way.

So when it’s essential that whenever you are trying to convince somebody, you first establish the criteria they use at a subconscious level to make their decisions (more on this in a future blog post).

Ok so now we have the framework, the next thing to do is to decide just how much information is enough.

There are no hard and fast rules but anything more than 3 options will quickly lead increased complexity for anyone making the choice.

Look for opportunities to give your clients the illusion of choice – i.e. in situations where the activity is in their benefit, get them to opt out of something not opt in. This has been used to great effect in some countries for organ donation.

Examine all your sales and promotional material and cut the message back to the three most important benefits to the client and make sure these align to their buying criteria.

Avoid the all or nothing style of marketing, this places far too much pressure on your client to make the perfect answer and in doing so elevates both the time to make the decisions and information they feel they will need to make the decision.

And finally get you clients to concentrate on the benefits of making the decision and not on the decision making process itself.

In today’s sales world “less is definitely more”.

Until next time

To your ongoing success