Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Good, Better, Best

Given a choice of three price points, approximately two-thirds of those who make a purchase will choose the middle one. Because of this tendency, there is a school of thought that calls for all sellers to offer three solutions - a low-price version, a "right" priced version and a premium-priced version.

The belief is that most buyers will not choose the cheapest version because of their perception that they aren't getting a high quality solution. Some will choose the premium solution because they want the best and everybody else chooses the middle version.

Perhaps, this approach gained momentum because of the Sears catalog. Back in the day, for those of you under the age of 30 who have no idea of what I speak, there was a publication mailed by Sears to nearly every household in America. At least everyone in America that I knew had the Sears catalog in their house. In this catalog was every product stocked by Sears with a picture and a description. Imagine!

Anyway, besides children using the book as a step ladder to reach the cookie jar on the kitchen counter, folks of all types would actually consult the book to decide what to buy. This was long before the days where one could research products via the internet. There were no product reviews available at one's fingertips. There were no helpful legions of people writing about how they enjoy or despise products. No, but Sears, being aware of the need for some further guidance, provided a fool-proof system to guide the consumer toward the right purchase.

The system was Good, Better, Best. Here's how it worked. Let's say that you wanted to buy a circular saw. You would go to the tools section of the catalog and look at the pictures and descriptions of Craftsman circular saws. You might discover, for example, that the Good saw boasted a 7" diameter blade and used a 2 1/2 horsepower motor for $29.99. The Better saw may have used 7" or 8" blades powered by a 3 1/2 horsepower motor - plus it had a spring-loaded safety guard for $39.99. Finally, the Best saw had 7" or 8" interchangeable blades, a 5 hp motor, the spring loaded guard and a built-in leveling system for straighter cuts for $49.99, for example.

All the consumer had to do was pick the saw that best suited his needs, fill out a form with his Sears credit card number and mail it in. Or, he could call the 800 # for faster service. Simple, right?

Simple, but the problem was that many people didn't know which of the three options suited them because they weren't able to articulate their circular saw needs and then match those needs to the capabilities of the different saws. As a result, the choice was really a crapshoot. Should one go with the cheapest and hope that the saw was adequate or go with the most expensive and hope that they needed all the gadgets that made Sears Best worth the money? In the end, most people would simply go with the middle choice figuring that it was good enough.

The days of the Sears catalog are gone and gone with it are the days of Good, Better, Best. The professional seller should never offer a Good, Better, Best set of options because the professional seller should have done research on the prospect, asked the prospect diagnostic questions, developed their needs and presented a customized solution. The professional seller always makes a specific recommendation aka a customized solution.

There are those who will object and say that it is better to give prospects choices. I will have to disagree. The prospect already has choices. They could choose to buy from you or any number of your competitors. Your job is to differentiate yourself in such a way that the prospect chooses you as the professional seller with whom they want to do business. Once that decision is made the prospect will be looking to you for guidance and a professional recommendation.

Of course, it is true that there will be times when the prospect will balk at your solution. Probably most times. I am not suggesting that you be inflexible and unweilding. Just the opposite, really. Articulating your recommendation after getting a complete understanding of the customer's needs is a great starting point for negotiating a final solution with which the customer is satisfied. Adding on or taking off elements of your proposal to get it to that place where your prospect becomes a customer is just part of the way that sales works.

Offering a Good, Better, Best solution doesn't serve your customers in quite the same way and it is not the way of the modern, professional seller.

Sam Manfer delivers keynote speeches and in-depth selling workshops for those anxious to increase sales. His hands-on coaching turns individuals and sales organizations into selling whirlwinds. Follow Sam's C-Level Selling Blog for more insights.

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