Don’t give your customers too much choice

Part 1 of “6 lessons about selling print learned from a visit to the pub”

What’s the first thing you do when you enter a pub?

Most people head straight for the bar and choose a drink? And at the pub I visited, there was plenty of choice! I counted at least twelve beers on tap, plus bottled beers.

Naturally, that left me with plenty of decisions to make. They included:

  • Dark or light beer
  • Cask or keg
  • Weird fruity flavours or something more standard
  • A nice easy session beer or blow your head off strong

Many people assume that lots of choice in a bar is a good thing. But actually, for the pub, this isn’t necessarily the case.

Too much choice can lead to long drawn out buying decisions

Giving customers choice can mean they don't buy

Giving customers choice can mean they don’t buy

I had a lot of beers to choose from! That meant I spent a lot more time at the bar than the pub might have liked me to! The bar staff were very patient. Indeed they had to be very patient with most of the customers who appeared to have the same decision difficulties that I did! They also helped me by giving me some samples to taste.

However, this all led to extra costs for the pub. They needed more staff to serve the customers. They had the expense of giving out the free tasters. Some people were also probably put off by the queues at the bar and decided to go somewhere less crowded for a drink.

The print industry often gives customers too much choice

For starters, customers have to choose size, paper, how many colours, what finishes to specify and how they want the delivery carried out. When I train people in buying print they learn 21 elements they can include in a quote request!

This can be very off-putting for people who want a simple brochure of business card. They need a lot of guidance through the specification process. This means a lot of expensive sales time. You may also have to send the customer a lot of samples before they make their mind up.

So what’s the solution?

Sometimes it is better to give the customer less choice

I would have been very happy to drink the majority of the beers at the bar. Reducing the choice to four beers would have let me make my mind up a lot quicker. The bar staff could have served me much more speedily. They would have had more time for all the other customers. It may even have been possible for the pub to have less staff.

It’s the same with print. Most of the time your customers will be happy to be steered towards a small number of products or services that you have specified for them. They don’t need to know five types of finishing for a business card, for instance. They will normally be quite happy with a standard and a luxury option. That leaves you with more time to service the customers who do need a more complicated (and often more profitable) solution.

Here’s how to apply this to your sales process

Create a set of products or services that you or your team can sell. Make sure that people at your company are directed to focus on these products. It will make your production more efficient too.

Remember my indecision at the bar? Do everything you can to avoid this with your customers!

Too much choice wasn’t the only problem when it came to choosing my beer

Discover the next lesson print sales people can learn from a visit to the pub in my article next week: “It’s easy to be too clever when you sell”.
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