Make Choice Simple

I’ve blogged before about my occasionally tormenting ‘Choice Paradox’.  I believe in two strands that at first glance may seem mutually exclusive.  At the one possible pole, I believe you can generate more sales by always thinking up one more product offering, yet at the other potential extreme, I also believe that by eliminating the decision trauma of multiple choices, you can also generate more sales.

The reality is that there’s no pure linearity between the two positions, so different circumstances allow for differing solutions.  Whereas I would be happy to make the generalisation that almost all salespeople keep the Alternative Close in high regard – the world after all is an easier place to inhabit when you can suggest “blue or red?” – the trick unsurprisingly is to nail the right solution to the relevant circumstance.

So I was intrigued to read two similar articles on a so-called music 2.0 blog I read connected with a web endeavour of mine.  From their ‘associate editor’  Kyle Bylin, hypebot report on an American professor, Barry Schwartz, and his latest work, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less.  Here’s two wonderful examples of his thinking:

Here’s what we know happens when people are overloaded with choice. First, they get paralysed into indecision, and choose nothing. Second, if they do choose, they simplify the decision, either falling back on habit or choosing on the basis of what is easiest to evaluate ….

.… if people overcome paralysis and do choose, they get less satisfaction from their choice than they would if the choice set was smaller. In part, they spend their time thinking about how another option would have been better.

Reduce the choices, and you make more sales.  It seems a clear message from him.  I wonder what he makes of my theory that by cheekily adding a premium, higher-priced, jumbo-type option in your Prop, you actually make more sales because you make the standard offering you’ve been plugging all along more attractive?  Any of us that have had to slave over detailed Proposals will know the merits of this approach.  (Digressing a touch I know, but perhaps he’d create a formula that works out the optimum number of choices you should make available given certain constraints.  Throw in to the mix variables like whether (and by how much) competitors are cheaper or dearer, the number of similar and dissimilar alternatives also vying for the spend, and the prospect propensity to buy from you, and you could envisage a formula giving you a number of options that you must offer!)

The other remarks that struck me on this were from Stumbling on Happiness, where Daniel Gilbert concludes that people generally imagine incorrectly what will make them happy and also tend to repeat the same errors.  Not only does this insight re-inforce the make-choice-simple mantra, but it also suggests a useful fear-uncertainty-doubt style objection handle to use when you’re trying to persuade a prospect to do something a little bit different or for the first time.

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