Ray Collis

How To Influence The Buyer’s Choices

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Your customer will weigh up the alternatives and select the the best price-value mix, right?  Well, perhaps not always.



Research suggests that there is less rational-analytical dimension to the choice-making process.  More importantly it shows how the seller can use this to sway the buyer’s decision.


The New Science Of Helping The Buyer To Choose

Choice within the context of any sales pitch or proposal is a good thing.  Indeed, offering the buyer a choice rather than a single product-price proposition can boost success for many reasons (as listed in another insight).

Choices and how to influence them

Presenting the buyer with choices can help the him, or her to decide. That is the scientific reality based on cognitive research by experts such as Dan Ariely. It points out, for example, that most people don’t know what they want until they see it in context.

Could offering your customers more choice increase your likelihood of success?

The bottom line is that choices offered by the salesperson and how they are presented has an important bearing on the buyer’s decision.

The Theory Of Relativity In Buying

When it comes to making choices it is all relative. Our preference is not an absolute one – rather it is dictated by the range of options available, as well as how those options are presented.  Think of it as the ‘Theory Of Relativity’ in buying.

What is the context you are setting for your solution?

That is important for sellers because, it means that presenting the customer with the best option is not necessarily enough. It is equally important to put the selection in context.


6 Ways To Sway The Buyer’s Choice

The way that options are presented to the customer can be effective in nudging him, or her to select one option, over the other. Here are 6 strategies that the seller can employ to sway the buyer’s choice.


1. Frame The Decision

The seller can frame the decision by setting it in the context of other extremes.

For example:

– Option A produces 200 units per hour

– Option B produces 125 units per hour

– Option C produces 50 units per hour

We recommend Option B for you because it meets your requirements in terms of units per hour (with plenty of room for growth) and provides the best output-cost ratio of all 3 – a cost per unit of 25c compared to 70c for Option A’.

Do your quotations and proposals frame the choice in this way?


2. Offer 3 Choices

Research suggests that 3 options is better than two with their being an inherent tendency to go for the one in the middle  (as in the example shown below).

Too many choices can make a decision more difficult (as per the example shown at this link).  So, if the range of options offered is complex or confusing it probably won’t work.

Related to this the tendency is to focus on things that are easily comparable.  So, making the comparison straightforward is important.

Do you carefully manage (and limit) the choices that are offered?

3. Set A High Anchor Point For Price

The research suggests that the seller should start with the expensive option first.

The higher price can then serve as an anchor point against which the customer will gauge subsequent prices. For example:

– Our Platinum Package is $500 per month per user, which includes unlimited access, full customization, premium support and own-branding.

– We have a Silver Package which includes 20 hours of access per month, email support and a strong (but yet slightly less extensive feature set) for $120 per month.

The $120 per month fee is likely to be more favorably evaluated in the context of the initial price of $500 per month.

Do you anchor the buyer’s price expectation in this way?

4. Add Bells & Whistles

We can be swayed in our choice between alternatives by the addition of ‘bells and whistles’, so to speak.

Dan Ariely gives a nice example of this in an experiment regarding the choice of holiday vacations.

Consumers were offered the choice of a similarly priced and easily comparable vacation in Paris or Rome. It was only when one of the packages was amended to include ‘FREE breakfast’ that a clear winner emerged.

Offering a freebie or an extra (even it is not in reality worth much) can distract us from our rational analysis of costs and benefits.

What is the ‘FREE breakfast’ that could swing customers to option that you want them to chose?

5. Offer A Decoy Option

Some marketers offer the customer ‘a decoy option’.

That is a third option that serves no purpose other than to make it easier for you to choose among the other options.

The example is often given of the newspaper subscription which offered:

– Option 1: Digital Subscription – 59 per annum

– Option 2: Print Subscription – 129 per annum

– Option 3: Digital & Print Subscription – 129 per annum

Option 2 – the Print only subscription could be seen as a decoy.  It’s purpose was to create a preference for Option 3.

Do your quotes and proposals contain a decoy that nudges the customer in a particular direction?

6. Provide Social Comparison

There is a strong element of social comparison in terms of how we evaluate different options.

In short we are influenced by what is the most popular options chosen by others. That is the power behind the feature used by Amazon and others that says customers who bought this book also purchased these books.

Telling the customer what customers, or groups of customers chose particular options and why, can help them to make their own selection.

Do you provide your customers with a social comparison to guide their choices?

If you would like to read more on how choices can be swayed get a copy of ‘Predictably Irrational’ by Dan Ariely.  For more on how to build more choice into your pitches and proposals click here.

One Response to How To Influence The Buyer’s Choices

  1. Peter Viljoen February 26, 2014 at 8:33 am

    Great article Ray. We implemented a very similar structure into an e-mail template for auto retailers with great success, especially when the lead was from the internet.

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