Article: Part 1 – What Should I Buy? A Look at Choices and Options in Selling

victor antonio sales trainer atlanta georgia

Victor Antonio, Sales Influence

We’ve all struggled when trying to make up our minds ordering food from a menu. See if this sounds familiar:

• The more choices we have the more anxious we feel about our choice. 

• We can usually narrow our choice down to one to three options. 

• We then ask ourselves that question that eternal question, “Hmmm, what am I really in the mood for?”

• No sooner than you make your selection and place the order you feel this little pang of regret that you should’ve chosen one of the other options.

• When the food comes you look at what you have and then compare it to what others have. At this point you’re either satisfied or somewhat remorseful of your decision.

• If the food is great the remorse goes away with every bite and you congratulate yourself on a great decision.

• If the food was fair, you feel some regret and dissatisfaction with your choice and then remind yourself that next time you’ll choose one of the other items.

(Note: If you were eating alone you’d probably enjoy your choice more since you wouldn’t have anyone or anything to compare it with.)

Early studies on choice selection pointed at achieving customer satisfaction by offering more options. The reasoning seems sound; the more options there are, the more likely a person will be able to find a match with what they want.  But subsequent studies have put a new wrinkle in that line of thinking.  More recent studies show that too many options may cause the buyer to ‘defer’ (i.e., not make) a decision when purchasing a product.
In the context of ordering from a menu in a restaurant though, it’s highly unlikely that a patron will be so overwhelmed by the menu that they’ll leave.  In this context, the patron, by entering the restaurant knows that they have committed to making a choice or what’s the point in even going out to eat.
But in the case of buying a product (service) where there are many alternative or choices and the buyer has not committed to buying something, too many choice will cause the buyer to defer choosing.
One study conducted put a variety of jams on display to see how buyers would react when the choice sizes were varied. One display had 30 options the other had only six options. The study showed that the likelihood of a buyer making a choice to buy increased significantly when only 6 items as compared to the 30 items were displayed (Iyengar and Lepper 2000).
More options can create buyer anxiety which may be driven by Buyer’s Regret; the feeling of regret one feels after chosen one option over another option. To minimize this feeling of regret, buyers may ‘choose not to choose’ in order to avoid this negative feeling (i.e., loss aversion).  
In selling, too many choices may ‘Jam up’ (sorry, bad pun) the buyer so this raises some newer questions:
• How many options are too many options?  
• And, is there a way to help a buyer ‘rationalize’ a decision thereby increasing the chances of getting them to buy from you?

In Part 2 What Should I Buy – Practical versus Pleasurable Options, I’ll explore these questions and along with some research studies on how to position your product in such a way as to help the buyer ‘rationalize’ why buying from you would be a good move.


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