It is easy to think that offering more choices in a sales process is a good thing. At least, we feel that more choices are demanded by our customers. Look at Lowes, Walmart, and Kroger. In each of these stores, one can find almost anything you would want. But how can smaller stores compete with this? While many options may work on a broader scale for these large companies, many businesses will actually see diminishing returns by offering more choices. In a time of more and more options, less is still more.
Very early in my career I found myself competing to sell mortgages on lendingtree.com. As you probably know, Lending Tree has built a model where a consumer can enter their information on their website and get bids from several different mortgage originators. As you can imagine, things become very competitive in this type of sales environment.
New to sales and the mortgage industry, I found myself overwhelmed with details. Our company could literally offer any one customer several dozen different product variations for mortgage loans, and this was a great benefit to the consumer. However, this often made things very difficult from a selling perspective. The result during the sales process was often an "information dump," meaning that extra information was literally dumped on the consumer. This usually resulted in confusion and an overwhelmed customer. No one wants dozens of mortgage loan options. In fact, most people don't know there are dozens of different mortgage loans available to them. At the end of the day, all someone really cares about is the rate they are going to get.
Over the years I have found that when dealing with a specific request it usually works best if you provide two or three different options for a customer to choose from, regardless of how how many options you have available. This works in all types of sales, not just mortgage sales. The fast food industry has continued to adopt this model in recent years.
Less than a decade ago, you could find the prices of each individual sandwich a fast food restaurant offered. Today, the menu strategy of most of the major fast food restaurants has evolved so that most of the individual choices have been eliminated and what remains are the packaged meals. Furthermore, the package meals are also usually limited to just a few options within each sandwich type: fish, burger, chicken, etc. The result is that if you are in the mood for a burger, you only have a few simple options to choose from.
Packaging meals into a few simple options helps to increase up-sales for the business through packaging. The greater benefit, however, is that there are fewer order options for the consumer. This results in quicker and easier decisions in the ordering process.
Another example of the "less is more" strategy is Jamba juice. I was traveling out of town recently when I saw a Jamba Juice store for the first time. I decided that I wanted some freshly squeezed juice and decided to give it a try. Having a juicer at home, I knew that juicing really has unlimited options - you can juice just about anything. As I was deciding what combination I might want, I was surprised to find that Jamba Juice only offered three options for freshly squeezed juice: orange juice, carrot juice, or orange and carrot juice. The benefit here is that these combinations are delicious, most people like at least one of these options, and the store only needs machinery to squeeze only two different foods.
In the restaurant turn-around shows, the host goes into a restaurant and often finds that the menu contains dozens and dozens of options. A large menu is difficult to manage and expensive to offer. In turning around the restaurant, the host usually consolidates the menu down to a few popular items that are perfected and presented in an excellent manner. Items that are greatly different from the other item can create a burden to maintain, so those are often eliminated. The end objective is to make the sales process simple for both the customer in selecting the option and for the restaurant in providing the meal.
Practical Tips for Simple Sales
- Ask what yourself what you would want. Instead of offering all products that may work, first discover the core needs of the customer. This alone should reduce the number of options.
- Find a Few Best Options. Once you know what your customers want the most, decide on a few of the best options to offer them.
- Eliminate products that are cumbersome. Work to find which products are confusing for customers or are difficult to create or provide to a customer.
What simple strategies have worked in your organization?