Today’s post is by David Hoffeld, CEO and chief sales trainer at Hoffeld Group, a science-based sales training, coaching, and consulting firm.
Imagine if salespeople could structure choices in a way that was aligned with how their prospects’ brains were wired to make decisions. Believe it or not, recent advances in behavioral science have made this a reality.
A large (and still growing) amount of behavioral scientific research has revealed the causal factors that influence our decision making. We now know that decisions are made contextually. This means that the way a choice is presented shapes how it will be perceived and acted on.
The science of how to structure choices in a way that is consistent with how the brain formulates decisions is known as “choice architecture.” This science matters a great deal to sales professionals, because decisions are the building blocks of the sale. When salespeople leverage the science of choice architecture, they instantly become more effective because they are presenting choices in a way that mentally prepares their prospects to make decisions.
Here are three practical ways salespeople can leverage the science of choice architecture to prepare a prospect to buy.
Priming exposes prospects to an idea that then shapes how they will respond to subsequent information. One of the most effective ways to prime prospects is to ask a value building question that is consistent with the choice you’re asking them to make. By guiding prospects and helping them think through and verbally confirm the value on which a choice is built, you are mentally preparing them to choose you.
For instance, a salesperson who sells widgets can ask a prospect, “Does it make sense why so many companies are choosing our widgets because of their strength and durability?” After positively answering the question, the prospect is now far more likely to make a commitment that is consistent with the value he or she just affirmed.
#2: When to Present
When you are meeting with a prospect to deliver a formal presentation and you know a direct competitor will also be presenting, should you go first or last? Will the sequence of presentations impact who your prospect will choose? Two behavioral scientists conducted research to answer those exact questions. The findings of their research showed that presentation order heavily influences which option will be chosen.
Whether you should go first or last depends on one primary factor: the time between the presentations. If you and a competitor are presenting back to back, you should go first because you will shape your prospect’s perception and create biases that will put your competitor at a disadvantage. However, if the time between the presentations is more than a week, you should go last. This is because the memory of your competitor will fade with the passing of time, while your presentation will be fresh in the prospect’s mind, increasing the likelihood that you will be chosen.
#3: Present Only a Few Options
Another scientifically validated principle of choice architecture is presenting only a few options. Extensive research has shown that the brain only has the capacity to process a small amount of information at once. When this threshold is surpassed, prospects become overwhelmed and confused.
Far too often, salespeople thwart their selling efforts by engulfing their prospects in a plethora of options. They mistakenly believe that providing more data will help their prospects make better choices. Yet science has conclusively proven that – contrary to this popular belief – the brain’s ability to make decisions is obstructed when given too much information.
For example, one famous research study found that, when prospects were asked to choose from among 24 options, only 3 percent of the prospects purchased. However, when only six options were presented, buying behavior skyrocketed – as 30 percent of prospects purchased. This and many other scientific experiments have concluded that limiting options boosts buying behavior.
The science of choice architecture provides salespeople with the research-based insights that will help them structure choices the same way their prospects’ brains make decisions. This will increase both sales effectiveness and productivity.