Managing Dissonance

In the rarity of English sunshine last Sunday, three of us were ambling around a village in Pennine foothills when the woman among us decided it was ice cream time.  Clearly, there’s no argument when a lady demands such a treat so I was forced to join the hunt.

But then semi-disaster.  The shop we found only had two types of lolly left; Malteser & White Magnum.  I ventured that this didn’t matter to the her, as I remembered a time when she pined for being the Malteser product manager.  Even so, she spent the next ten minutes debating whether she’d made the right decision.

Just like the cognitive dissonance experiments suggest, the vast majority of this time was spent justifying her choice, through comforting ooohs and arrrhs, despite an admiration for the clearly more blokey Magnum.

As she was once a Business School Marketing lecturer, we got to talking about the difference between the aforementioned dissonance, in this case post-purchase, and buyer’s remorse, for I’d long since forgotten any distinction.  Her answer was a useful reminder on how to help corporate buyers approach a solution purchase decision.

Buyer remorse is plainly where someone regrets what they select.  Dissonance on the other hand considers how people struggle to determine between two choices, each of which has merit. ( I think a major point is that these merits are different perhaps even contradictory).  Then after deciding they will typically frame their feelings to amplify the merits of the selected item, and lessen those of the discarded, ie. they will try to prove their decision right.

It’s worth remembering that people can choose one item, yet still find key elements of the alternative that appeal.

For a solution seller, the consequence of this is to avoid slating the competition, to understand where you’re hot or not in this context, and make sure your heat outcooks the opposition.

As I spend most of my time helping salesteams who’s product is not the cheapest, one core way of doing this is to trot off the tried-and-tested old chestnut of; “Price, Quality, Service – Choose Only Any Two“.  If you can get them resolving their dissonance in your favour well before they realise they’re about to finally ‘buy’, you’re more than half-way there.

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