Choices - Your Worst Enemy

I learned a long time ago what my worst enemy was. Your fellow sales people commiserate with your theory it is budget or price. Books you read say it is your own fears. Gurus will tell you it is your lack of self-worth. Your boss will insist it is your laziness. Your marketing department will inform you it is your lack or product knowledge.

That is all wrong. Your worst enemy is choice. When you give your customer too many choices, you will end up giving yourself a headache. Don't believe me? Watch this video (also embedded below).

How Is Choice Bad?

I know this doesn't quite make sense. You say, "I like being able to choose what I want. How can choice be bad?" Simple really. People are horrible at making decisions. Here's a test:

  1. Last time you asked your wife where she wanted to go out to eat, what did she say? I bet it was "I don't know. Where do you want to go eat?"
  2. Last time you wanted to watch a movie on Netflix, did you say, "There is never anything on Netflix."?

The reason your wife can't decide where to eat is because there are too many choices to pick from, and you can't find a movie to watch because there are too many titles to look at.

Here is what choice does:  it paralyzes people's ability to make decisions. Imagine choices as being data. Your brain has to output decisions based on the data input (the choices available to you). Your brain has limited bandwidth and processing power. When it gets overloaded, it shuts down, reboots, and is never the same until you defrag the sucker (use a Mac).

Why Choice is Bad.

So why does the brain shut down? Whether you realize it or not, your brain is playing out every scenario every choice you can make could potentially lead to.

Have you ever seen a movie about alternate realities? If the character decides X, then his life goes one way. However, if he had decided Y, then the train wreck of his life totally changes tracks. Imagine having the ability to comprehend your brain doing that for every choice presented to you in every situation you face every day. Wow! That would be unreal [and they say we evolved from bacteria locked in crystals brought to earth by interstellar comets - sure]. Eventually, your brain picks the scenario with the highest potential for positive results OR the lowest potential for negative results, typically depending on if your personality is aggressive or conservative.

When your brain is unable to determine the most positive and/or least harmful outcome, you are unable to make a decision. Decision paralysis ensues.

Conquer Your Worst Enemy

The strategy for overcoming decision paralysis is simple. No, it's not simple to do. The strategy is simplicity, being simple, limiting choice.

What if you woke up in the morning and all you had were 2 pairs of pants, 2 shirts, and 1 pair of shoes. No belts. No ties. No socks. No jackets. No handkerchiefs. Assuming the world had no other wardrobe options other than what was in your closet, how long would you spend picking out what to wear? 2 seconds? 5 seconds? Why?

You would make a quick decision because your brain can easily handle the 4 outfit permutations your hangers hold before you. If you live in a town that only has McDonalds and all other restaurants are hours away, your wife quickly decides your nice night out includes a Big Mac. If Netflix only had 5 movies each day to stream and that was the only way you could entertain yourself, you'd always find something to watch.

If you want your customers and prospects to make decisions, limit choice. Offering choices stifles decision. Limiting choices forces decision.

The 2 Facets of Decision Paralysis Brought on by Choice

In part, choices lead to decision paralysis because our brains are unable to process an overload of data. Another reason is expectation. Increased choices lead to increased expectation.

In our closet scenario, the reason it can take so long to figure out what to wear lies in the fact there is an expectation that with all the choices at your fingertips, you must to be able to find the perfect outfit. You keep looking until you satiate that expectation (or give up by settling on something that "will do for now because I got to get to work"). You get locked into the process of looking, picking, rejecting in an attempt to satisfy the expectation of perfection rather than being locked into a decision making process.

That's how choice is sneaky. You'd say, "I am trying to decide what to wear. Isn't that a decision making process?" I'd argue no. You are in a process of satisfying expectation, and the need to meet expectation is much stronger than the satisfaction of decision for most people. It's the difference between heroine and wine. One hit of heroine, you are hooked. It can take a lifetime of wine drinking to develop a real taste for it (I am neither a heroine nor a wine buff...I watch a lot of movies and, additionally, have yet to find any wine better than the stuff you get for free at Olive Garden).

How many times in business do all the options stifle forward movement because no one can pick which is the best? Both because there is too much to process and because there is the lure of discovering the perfect solution, if we look hard enough, amongst the infinite amount of choices out there. I would rather make a decision and deal with the consequences. Data overload and expectations are pure frustration.

Choices and Selling

Ultimately, I believe indecision only leads to the continuation of the status quo. Choices lead to indecision. If you want to change the status quo and get a new customer, sign a new contract, or lead your company in new business, then you need to eliminate choice and create an environment that encourages decision making. 

How? It all goes back to this:  Effort + Curiosity + Ability to Make Connections = Kick Ass Sales. If you are curious enough to really figure out what your customer needs, what their problems are, how they operate, what their mission is, and how you can help them, you will be able to make the connection for them to a meaningful solution in your sales bag. You don't have a portfolio of products so you can lay them all out on the table. You have a portfolio of products so, no matter what problem gets uncovered, you have a full set of solutions with which to connect.

I'm not sure if this is more about Curiosity or more about Making Connections. Those two parts of the Kick Ass Sales Philosophy go hand-in-hand:  Without the information your curiosity uncovers, you can't connect your customer's problem to your best solution. Without making a connection to your best solution, the information about your customer's problem your curiosity turns up is worthless.

You are the expert. Show your customer only what you think is best for them. Keep it simple. If they don't go for it, you probably weren't curious enough to uncover what they truly needed or weren't able to connect your solution to their problem in a way they understood. At the very least, you don't have to worry the plethora of choices you offered was the reason they didn't make a decision.

Kick Ass Call to Action

On your next sales call, when it is time to "show your stuff," refuse to show your prospect anything until they have given you enough information for you to be able to show them the one thing you know is best for them.