Making a Decision to Buy: It’s About Tradeoffs
The following is adapted from Demand-Side Sales 101.
You’re in the store looking for something as simple as tissue. One generic product has 300 sheets — more than any others — and is cheaper as well. One is labeled “ultra-soft,” while another one even has lotion in it to soothe that sore nose. One, though, has a yellow box that would go perfectly in your bathroom.
You just came into the store to buy tissue. Which one do you choose?
One way people make buying decisions is through tradeoffs. Simply put, a tradeoff is when a customer thinks through a decision and eliminates the inferior choices to come up with the right product or service to buy. It’s choosing the best way to make progress, as opposed to just a compromise.
For instance, people either want thick crust pizza or thin crust pizza. If you mashed these two pizzas together to come up with a compromise, you’d get medium-thick crust pizza, and nobody wants that. By forcing people to choose thick or thin, you make it easier for them to decide. They like one or the other.
In sales, a tradeoff is more about helping people make better decisions than coming to a compromise. When tradeoffs are framed well it becomes easy to make decisions. When they are not framed well people can’t decide and they do nothing. Tradeoffs are the key to helping people buy.
People usually make tradeoffs during the decision-making phase of the buying process, but it can occur during other moments, too. You may finally decide to see a physician when your cold is not better after six days and your co-workers are complaining. You haven’t decided who you’re going to see yet — you haven’t made a buying decision — but you have decided to act.
But for the most part, it’s standing in the store trying to decide between those boxes of tissue. You’re down to deciding which product or service you’re going to fork over money for. Sometimes it can be something as small as tissues, and other times it might be a huge decision such as what house or car to buy. We go through the same process: eliminating choices in our mind and bringing a clear winner to the forefront.
When buying, there’s no ideal solution. Every customer makes tradeoffs. Part of the strategy in sales is understanding the tradeoffs your customers are willing to make. When I sold kitchen countertops, I had customers look at the low-end laminate and the high-end granite. These were clear reference points for people to compare our product to. Without these comparisons, people struggle to decide what to buy. People need to reject something before they can buy something else.
Realizing what people are willing to give up to make progress and solve problems in their lives is the most powerful part of deciding. People will say they want the top-of-the-line mattress or the best kitchen cabinets and countertops, but when it comes down to it, nobody gets everything they want. People make tradeoffs. You need to know what tradeoffs your buyer is willing to make.
You Can’t Have It All
Deciding is where people realize they can’t have all the choices. It’s also the moment in which they make tradeoffs between things they value. The expectations for satisfaction are set in stone, and they begin to define what value is to them. The customer begins to understand what quality, performance, and satisfaction are to them, and they measure everything based on the final expectations.
For example, the person needing medical care could see her family doctor, but it’s Sunday, and they’re closed. That’s an easy elimination. She could go to an urgent care facility, but it’s fifteen minutes away, and she’ll have to shower and get dressed to go, and she just doesn’t feel good. Telemedicine via video may be the option for her. She can see a health care professional from her own home and not go anywhere.
When faced with three decisions, people usually eliminate one immediately. The decision then becomes harder because both products have features and benefits that the customer finds appealing, and they can see both helping them. That’s where the tradeoffs start to happen. It’s what they value the most that takes precedence and usually leads them to a clear decision. Once they decide and pay for the item or service, buyer’s remorse is lessened because they know they’ve made the right decision.
As salespeople, we need to help them with that decision, to present them with contrasting products that they will react to. We can then find out what they like and don’t like and find a solution that best meets their needs — even if it is just a colorful tissue box in the bathroom.
For more advice on decision-making, you can find Demand-Side Sales 101 on Amazon.
Bob Moesta is a teacher, builder, entrepreneur, and co-founder at The Re-Wired Group, a design firm in Detroit, Michigan. Bob has developed & launched over 3,500 products and sold everything from design services, software, and houses to consumer electronics, and investment services. He’s an adjunct lecturer at Kellogg School at Northwestern University, lectures on innovation at Harvard and MIT, and enjoys mentoring at incubators. Greg Engle is a co-founder at the Re-Wired Group. Since the beginning of his career, helping people make progress has been part of Greg’s DNA. He’s worked in everything from food services and retailing, to construction, software, and now consulting services. Greg’s a native Detroiter and enjoys volunteering in the community, especially in local ice hockey leagues.