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Why giving people choice results in fewer sales

What has selling jam got to do with selling print?

If you want to learn a valuable lesson about sales it is worth looking at a study carried out in 2000 which was based on selling jams. The research focussed on buyer behaviour at a jam stall in a local market. At some periods the stall displayed 24 varieties of jam. At other times it displayed only six varieties. 

These two scenarios resulted in very different buyer behaviours. The stall with 24 different jams had around 40% higher engagement, based on people who stopped at the stall. But the stall with only six varieties actually had nearly eight times as many buyers. There’s a valuable lesson for every seller here:

Too much choice paralyses the buyer

Printing companies that offer their prospects and customers too many products or too many decisions are more likely to create less buying relationships. Too much choice will mean they create a less powerful sales pipeline. They will achieve less sales.

Printing companies that guide their customers to an easy decision are the ones that are likely to achieve better sales. As we will see, their sales lead times may well be shorter. And they are likely to have happier customers (follow on research from the jam study showed that too much choice also lowered customer satisfaction).

Here’s a case study

I remember the first time I received a presentation about multi-touch marketing. Within a few minutes, I was having complex software shown to me. Everything in a campaign was completely customisable. But a decision on each customisation decision had to be taken by me, the buyer. And I didn’t really understand the software or the purpose of each decision. There was no way I was going to get involved in such a complicated process.

One printing sales person that I know sells this type of campaign in a very different way. They explain to the prospect why they are losing results by not using this type of campaign. Once the prospect has bought into the idea of using multi-touch marketing, they then present the campaign that they will run for them. The only decision that has to be made by the buyer is whether to proceed or not. It results in higher sales, a shorter sales lead time and, because it’s a standard product, a lot less estimating time.

It’s the same with sales calls and letters

I am often approached by sales people who tell me all the products and services that they offer. Firstly, it is too much for me to take in. I remember the look of panic on my prospect’s face when I made one of my very first sales presentations which contained far too many services. 

More importantly, it makes it very difficult for the buyer to continue the conversation. The sales person often gives a wide range of options and then asks the prospect what they are interested in. Which product or service should they be talking about when they continue the conversation? It is easier to end the conversation than to make a decision.

If in doubt, focus on one product or service.

Don’t get caught in a sticky situation

Remember the lesson from the jam study. Don’t be the printing company that offers to print everything. If you do, you may end up being the company that prints nothing.

This article is adapted from my latest book “Done For You Sales Scripts”

Searching for inspiration on what to say or write to prospects and customers? This book covers all sorts of sales situations. The article is an extract from one of the bonus articles that come with the premium version.

This pdf book comes with a cast iron 30 day money back guarantee.

Here’s the link

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