Today’s consumers are faced with more choices than ever. At first glance, that would seem desirable. But it may be proving otherwise and it’s likely affecting the response we’re getting from prospects and customers in our showrooms.

Business Week calls it “choice overload!” It’s impacting nearly all buying decisions and it’s not good. The results can be buyer frustration leading to abandonment of the intent to purchase or buyer’s remorse immediately thereafter. In other words, as consumers we are finding even simple buying decisions turning complicated, time consuming and anxious.

Years ago, consumers rightly demanded more choices. The classic illustration of that era was Henry Ford’s quip about his Model T: “They can have any color as long as it’s black!” But today, there are an estimated 1,100 models of cars to choose from and for each model a buyer must pick from a host of options and packages.

But there’s no better example of “choice overload” than the neighborhood supermarket.
There, the number of items has doubled every 10 years since 1970 to 40,000 products!
How about choosing between 80 pain relievers; 85 crackers; 120 pasta sauces; 150 lipsticks; 285 cookies; 360 versions of shampoo! No wonder we can get frustrated with even simple purchases. When people face too many choices, they will frequently reject all of them, because the decision just becomes too hard!

I’m convinced “Choice Overload” is a big reason many prospects sit down with a sales person, send clear signals they want the boat, but don’t write the deposit check. In the back of their mind is some nagging voice saying: “You haven’t, yet, made the best choice – there’s a better one out there.” And, the truth is as the number of choices increase, the odds actually increase that a better choice does exist.

So, how do we confront “Choice Overload?” Answer: Head on! While you can’t change the fact of so many choices, you can remember that when selling, your job is to help the prospects have freedom from fear of making a less-than-the-best choice. It’s that fear that stops them. But you can counter, for example, by carefully packaging products so the anxiety in the number of required choices is greatly reduced. You do the homework.

Perhaps most important, a good salesman will consistently comment on the “great choice” the prospect is considering and give reasons why: “It’s the best boat for your style of fishing” or “I can see you know that model is the ideal one for your family” and similar encouraging and reinforcing comments.

Finally, one of the best ideas I’ve seen is this: Help them have freedom from fear of making a bad choice by giving them immediate benefits of their choice -- something that positively re-enforces their decision to buy. It can be as simple as immediately giving them branded shirts or tees or sweatshirts. It will immediately help them take ownership. Put the clothing on right there and take a digital photo of them in the boat to take home.

The point is you’re giving them immediate pleasure from their decision to buy. If “choice overload” is making the buying harder, we must deliberately put reassurance and enjoyment back in the process.


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