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Reinforcing the customer’s decision to buy

Today’s consumers are faced with more choices than ever. At first glance, that would seem desirable. But it may be proving otherwise and it’s likely affecting the response we’re getting from prospects and customers in our showrooms.

Business Week calls it “choice overload!” It’s impacting nearly all buying decisions and it’s not good. The results can be buyer frustration leading to abandonment of the intent to purchase or buyer’s remorse immediately thereafter. In other words, as consumers we are finding even simple buying decisions turning complicated, time consuming and anxious.

Years ago, consumers rightly demanded more choices. The classic illustration of that era was Henry Ford’s quip about his Model T: “They can have any color as long as it’s black!” But today, there are an estimated 1,100 models of cars to choose from and for each model a buyer must pick from a host of options and packages.

But there’s no better example of “choice overload” than the neighborhood supermarket.
There, the number of items has doubled every 10 years since 1970 to 40,000 products!
How about choosing between 80 pain relievers; 85 crackers; 120 pasta sauces; 150 lipsticks; 285 cookies; 360 versions of shampoo! No wonder we can get frustrated with even simple purchases. When people face too many choices, they will frequently reject all of them, because the decision just becomes too hard!

I’m convinced “Choice Overload” is a big reason many prospects sit down with a sales person, send clear signals they want the boat, but don’t write the deposit check. In the back of their mind is some nagging voice saying: “You haven’t, yet, made the best choice – there’s a better one out there.” And, the truth is as the number of choices increase, the odds actually increase that a better choice does exist.

So, how do we confront “Choice Overload?” Answer: Head on! While you can’t change the fact of so many choices, you can remember that when selling, your job is to help the prospects have freedom from fear of making a less-than-the-best choice. It’s that fear that stops them. But you can counter, for example, by carefully packaging products so the anxiety in the number of required choices is greatly reduced. You do the homework.

Perhaps most important, a good salesman will consistently comment on the “great choice” the prospect is considering and give reasons why: “It’s the best boat for your style of fishing” or “I can see you know that model is the ideal one for your family” and similar encouraging and reinforcing comments.

Finally, one of the best ideas I’ve seen is this: Help them have freedom from fear of making a bad choice by giving them immediate benefits of their choice — something that positively re-enforces their decision to buy. It can be as simple as immediately giving them branded shirts or tees or sweatshirts. It will immediately help them take ownership. Put the clothing on right there and take a digital photo of them in the boat to take home.

The point is you’re giving them immediate pleasure from their decision to buy. If “choice overload” is making the buying harder, we must deliberately put reassurance and enjoyment back in the process.


5 comments on “Reinforcing the customer’s decision to buy

  1. Tom Hada

    Great advice! I have noticed this reluctance for some time with customers actually telling me – in so many words – that they want to have the confidence in their decision to buy my product that it is the right and best decision for them. This needs to be done with care, not appearing like sales pressure, but with true matching of customer’s wants and needs and your product meeting and exceeding those attributes.

  2. Jay Eltom

    Thanks Norm…The fear of buying then the horror of discovering “a better deal” applies to most major purchases. Today the customer often is almost as educated as you and mostly needs assurrances given a 1000-2000 cost difference with your “competition”. You can bore your customer with your vast tech knowledge, blah, blah, but it is surprising how far a little emotion goes. Thank-You

  3. Ken Hilderbrandt JR

    There is no doubt that today’s boating consumers are far more educated and choosy then yesteryears’ especially when it comes to big ticket items and life style choices like a boat purchasers. The boating industry for the longest time has been able to sell there product with a simple test drive and even as simple as sight on seen at a boat show. Today’s consumers want to know they are making the right decision before signing on the dotted line. This falls true for other industries, not just boating. In fact my friends car dealership encourages there sales people to let prospective purchasers try the car, not just test drive the car. Take the car home for the weekend, take it to the supermarket, out to dinner, to grandmas’ house, use it, like it – buy it. Heck – even the housing market is using this way to sell. They are letting prospective purchasers stay in the house or condo for a couple of days so clients can feel at home. At we get a lot of requests from clients who are looking to purchase certain boat models but wanted to try the boat first. I had one client who even flew to the Bahamas and spent a weekend on a boat because that was the only location we had that model. This led to an idea. Give the prospective boat consumer the ability to rent the boat of there dreams, like you say “giving them something that positively re-enforces their decision to buy.”
    We started a program at and that allows boat owners, brokers and dealers to list there boats for sale and or rent. They generally make the rental rate significant enough to persuade the sale after the rental. If the renter decides to purchase the boat, part or all of the rental price is taken off the sale price (excluding fuel, guide or captain and other expenses). We do not recommend just letting anyone operate a boat. They need to be pre-approved financially, can be require to have a captain or a guide (Sales Person) to at least take them to a destination, leave a security despite and even take a insurance rider out. We have found that properly introducing clients into boating by supplying a guide to enforce a safe and fun introduction into a new boat and boating can promote future sales. I have seen to many new boat owners get turned-off from boating because they were not properly introduced.
    It’s a free listing, we make money on the rental only not the sale. I think its a different approach that needs to be explored. I hope you feel the same.

  4. dave boso

    The more a customer looks the more confused he is, and will tend to not buy the right thing. I have always used the tactic that; most all boats are the same with minor diffrences, what you need to do is to buy from the guy you trust and will give you great service after the sale. The boat is half of your purchase the other half is the guy you buy from.
    When a customer come in and starts asking how much is this or that, I start worring if this guy even needs a boat. now I have a job, overcome the price barrier with quality and service. And to be frank; some guys just can’t afford what he wants. Do I do a service to sell him a boat anyway, or do i harm boating overall by making a sorry boater that will spread the story of ” boating is too expensive?
    I dunno.

  5. Jay Eltom

    Good comments Dave B…you have a conscience, so do I, however..what is that old saying?? If you don’t sell him someone else will. Rock and Hard Place??? Yup!

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