Helping Customers Make Decisions

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

Businessman picking an arrow making a decisionYour ability to sell is most often tied in to your ability to help customers make the best decisions for themselves and their businesses.

Having seen many salespeople try to persuade customers by telling them how good their products and services are, we have written many times of the need to put on the buyer’s mind-set, see things from their perspective and determine what makes them make the decision to buy.

How others make decisions was the subject of a study by Daniel Kahneman, who developed ‘prospect theory’ and won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2002.

Kahneman’s studies describe how people make choices in situations where they have to decide between alternatives that involve risk, e.g. in financial decisions. Starting from empirical evidence, the theory describes how individuals evaluate potential losses and gains. Interestingly, in its original form,  the term prospect referred to a lottery!

How does this apply to us? Well, here are six points from Kahneman’s work that help us understand how customers can be helped to make decisions:

  1. Anchoring. Do more or less than 15% of the population have life insurance? The question is anchored around 15% and you are getting your customer to start with that figure in mind. So, before you start dealing with figures, have an anchored figure set the tone for the discussions.
  2. Loss aversion. Losses to a customer could be rational and economic. How much would they lose if they didn’t take up your offer? Remember also the emotional losses they might encounter if they don’t go with you. How would they be made to ‘feel’ by their end-users or stakeholders if they made the decision to change?
  3. Social proof. Have you noticed that sports fans like to wear the same kit as their heroes? At the deepest level, they think ‘If it works for my favourite player, maybe it could work for me’. Show your customers how others have succeeded in using your services and the benefits they gained. This social proof is a good tool to get people to make a risk-free decision.
  4. Framing. Do you prefer savings and investment or cuts and spending? Basically, they’re the same thing, only the language is different. By framing the words in such a way that you are talking the same language as the customer, you enjoy a closer rapport and understanding.
  5. Repetition. Advertisers know this. By maintaining a stance on a subject, you use their convincer style to recommend a decision to the customer. Repeating an idea three times in a conversation hammers the idea home.
  6. Emotional credibility. Make your point relevant to the specific customer you are with. If the recession didn’t affect them, no amount of description of the economic situation will hit home. But if they had to close businesses and set up again, the recession will have a major credible impact. Persuade them from their vantage point, and you will have a good basis for decision-making.

Decision-making is emotional, and if you recognise this in your discussions with customers, it will help you to get to the decision-making point quicker.

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat
The UK’s #1 Authority On Modern Day Selling

MTD Sales Training | Sales Blog

450 sales questions free report

Originally published: 12 July, 2010