From 1915 through 1975 it was the largest grocery store chain in the United States. Today you probably never heard of it. It was called A&P. Only a few A&P stores remain open today. One mistake in particular accelerated their rapid decline: they underestimated the importance of choice. They made a management decision to primarily stock stores with A&P brand products. When deprived of the ability to choose, their consumers went elsewhere.
Salespeople who deliver choice will increase their value for customers. Salespeople are in the business of selling choice. This is because customers rely on salespeople to expand their range of choices. Some products are sold simply on the basis of providing choice. For example, people will pay more for airline tickets that can be rescheduled without penalty. Products offering limited choices are less attractive. For example, iPods at one time were a huge seller. However, you won’t find them being sold anymore. iPhones came into the market and offered more choices, so iPods became undesirable. The same principle applies for salespeople. Customers don’t like salespeople who limit their choices. When buying insurance, would you prefer to speak with a salesperson who represents one company, or talk to a broker who represents many?
A very effective traditional sales technique is called the “choice close.” It involves rephrasing a request to buy into a choice. For example, an insurance salesperson may try to close a deal with a client by saying, “Do you want to get the $100,000 policy today?” When using a choice close the salesperson would rephrase that same request into a choice. The salesperson could say, “Do you want to pay for the $100,000 policy with your personal account or with your business account?” The fact that simply rephrasing a request into a choice is so effective, speaks to the importance of choice for buying.
The reason why choice is such a powerful tool for salespeople is because choice is what makes us uniquely human. Choice and free will are gifts that the human race has been uniquely endowed with. This is why customers will ask salespeople questions without requiring a salesperson’s prompting. These customers are engaging in the natural decision-making process. Salespeople may find it annoying when customers think they need more information than the salesperson provided. Salespeople shouldn’t take this personally. When customers raise objections and want to do more research—they’re not trying to give salespeople a hard time. It’s so they can feel good about the decisions they’re making.
Salespeople add value by providing choice because it improves the quality of their customer’s decisions. For example, a parent could bribe a teenager with money in order to to get him to attend church, but this cultivates a lower quality decision than if the teenager’s motivation to attend church was due to his own personal beliefs. It’s a lower quality decision because the teenager will stop attending church as soon as the parent stops paying him to go. Offering a bribe involves external motivation. Following one’s beliefs involves internal motivation.
Salespeople must appreciate the difference between internal motivation and external motivation in order to fully utilize the power of “choice.” This is because a customer’s decision process itself is internal. Customers don’t buy so they can make their salespeople happy. Customers buy because they think having the product will make them happy. This is a good thing. In the long run, internally motivated buying decisions are higher quality decisions.
Higher quality decisions are more sustainable. We can refer back to the previous example of the teenager who discontinues going to church when Mom stops paying him to go. Salespeople must rely on customers to act on their own volition after the salesperson is gone. Once the salesperson leaves, customer still have to decide on their own when to use the product. Customers need to place re-orders on their own. Customers are on their own when they recommend the product to others. Internally motivated decisions secure a higher degree of conviction from customers. Salespeople who make the effort to cultivate higher quality buying decisions create more motivated customers, because it creates customers who own their choices.
Salespeople can help elevate decision making quality by providing choice. Choice shifts the customer’s motivation from external to internal. When salespeople offer customers a choice, it gets customers to introspect. Customers check in with themselves in order to decide which option they really want. Since buying is an internal process, the ability to focus a customer’s attention inward is an important skill for salespeople to master. The more internal a decision is, the higher quality that decision will be. Highly internalized decisions seamlessly integrate into a customer’s personal beliefs and values. A powerful example of this happening is when one customer was so impressed with his Remington razor that he bought the entire company!
Salespeople may sometimes run up against customer pushback when attempting to provide choice. This is, in fact, an interference which originates within customers themselves. Since decision-making is internal, the most disruptive source of interference is also internal. It’s the customer’s self-limiting beliefs. One of the most valuable things salespeople can provide are insights that eliminate their customer’s self-limiting beliefs. It expands a customer’s thinking and broadens the range of options customers can choose from. For example, a textile salesperson may present a line of extra heavy fabrics to a clothing manufacturer. The clothing manufacturer may express a self limiting belief such as, “That looks like a great fabric for the price, but I can’t expand into the heavy overcoat category. I don’t have the marketing savvy to compete.” The salesperson could dispel that self-limiting belief by sharing an insight. He could say, “You say that every time I present a fabric in a new category. Once you get started you always discover the competition can’t match your marketing ability. You end up dominating the category within a year. Think of how small your business would be today if we actually paid attention to those initial doubts of yours.”
The customer’s self-limiting beliefs offer a golden opportunity for salespeople to create value. The value of sharing insights to expand a customer’s thinking cannot be overstated. There’s no greater contributor to one’s quality of life than the quality of the decisions we make. Our careers, our education, the friends we have, where we live, have all resulted from the quality of our decisions. We fondly recall the people in our lives who influenced our decision-making by introducing new choices. By creating choice salespeople dispel self-limiting beliefs and elevate the quality of decision-making itself. Through the power of choice salespeople provide customers with one of the most valuable gifts anyone could offer, an expanded sense of possibility.
Pipeliner CRM empowers salespeople to provide choice.Get your free trial of Pipeliner CRM now.