Creating the Mind that Buys

© Nikolais |

© Nikolais |

You’re watching the Super Bowl when one of those unforgettable commercials comes on. You grab your sides with laughter. How do they come up with these things?

The next day everybody at work is talking about that great ad for…for…

What the heck WAS the product?

We’ve all seen those ads—so packed with distracting wall-to-wall cleverness and funny characters that there’s no room in your head to notice and remember the one thing those three million bucks were supposed to make you remember: the name of the product.

The same thing applies to the sales process. Who hasn’t seen a salesperson, fresh from a seminar on cross-selling, suddenly spread a dozen different account options like a Japanese fan in front of the poor customer? Her expression falls into a blank and frightened stare. Heck, I’ve BEEN that woman.

The mess of options throws her mind into a tailspin. And why shouldn’t it? She can’t process all of the variables at once, she knows the salesperson is working from a different set of motivations than she is, and she doesn’t want to make a decision she’ll regret—so she goes into defensive mode to keep from making a mistake. People want to spend their money wisely, and it’s harder to think clearly about one option when it’s in a forest of others. So she stammers something about needing to check with her husband, and out the door she goes—possibly for good.

Ford Saeks put it best when he said a confused mind never buys. Have your sales and marketing people tattoo that axiom on their brains. Choice is a lovely thing, but give people too many choices and they won’t make one at all.

Barry Schwartz drives this point home in The Paradox of Choice—Why More is Less. More couples form in speed dating events with six options than with twelve. More customers bought jam from a street market vendor with four choices than from a similar stall with eight choices. I remember when I had eight choices for the color of my computer desktop. Then it went to 256. Now it’s 11 million. Is this really helpful?

Even if a customer does manage to make a choice, they are likely to be less happy about the one they selected because they know about the advantages they turned down in the other options. People who were offered a plane ticket to Las Vegas valued the gift more highly when it was offered in isolation than they did if it was one of several choices.

You confuse ’em, you lose ’em. So keep it simple.

Keep marketing pieces to a single central message. Make one offer per pitch. In the sales process, add additional options slowly, allowing the customer’s understanding to keep up. In the process, you will have made purchasing your product or service as simple as possible for the customer.

Hard to think of a better definition of successful sales and marketing.

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