The pace of life today (both professionally and personally) and the abundance of choices have forced us to look more at the behavioral aspect of buying. In the past, many decision/sales processes were designed around features and benefits. It was more about the value exceeding the price. While these formulas and techniques are still valid, they are not enough to get your clients off the dime.
Today more than ever, your greatest competition is not other businesses doing what you do, it is your client — your client’s fear of making a mistake; your client’s ignorance on the subject matter; your client’s overwhelming amount of choices. All of these issues have nothing to do with your product or their interest and desire in your service. They have to do with the client buying process.
Many years ago, I began studying “the power of three.” The premise is that by using and mastering the techniques of the power of three, you not only address the sales or buying process, but you also save time and see a higher close rate.
This concept wraps around the dynamic of choices. If your client is presented one choice (assume the very best one), you risk having them make a decision to proceed with you based not on you, but on the choice that you presented. You and your company could be a perfect fit, but by only showing one choice they may find a minor element is not hitting the mark and you could lose the business.
If you present two options, then human nature (if it is an important decision) is to ask, “This is great, but is there another choice?” This not only risks the prospect wanting to see what another company has come up with, but it is also a waste of time for you to research more alternatives. There is a natural doubt that needs to escape.
If you present them with four or more alternatives, you will paralyze them. Now they are overwhelmed. Now they have to think about it given the complexity of the decision. Generally you are not losing the business to someone else; you are stalling the project completely. Your client now wants to move on to another priority in their lives.
The answer to this dilemma is in the power of three. Three is a magical number in many ways, and by providing prospects with three choices, you will see several positive things. First, they feel like they properly considered the options. Second, they are not overwhelmed with too many choices. Third, they respect your skills as a professional. Fourth, you will save time by not going back and forth. And finally, your close rate will increase, resulting in increased sales.
The power of three is a technique that is relevant with many other uses, too. You can frame the client decision with three option levels (i.e., good, better, best). It can be used to describe three types of companies doing what you do to help a prospect understand who they should work with. And when setting goals or priorities, we generally can handle three pretty well.
By using the power of three in most things that involve choices, you have a formula that you can master. Success is all about mastering. Remember, this is about addressing the prospects’ buying process, not necessarily finding three prefect choices. There may be only one or two good ones.
The bottom line is that we all want to feel good about our decisions and choices as much as what we actually decided on. The power of three gives you a technique and a process to make it more predictable.
Mark Richardson is co-chairman of Case Design/ Remodeling Inc. and the Case Institute of Remodeling. He is a member of the NAHB Remodeling Hall of Fame and a Fellow at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Richardson is the author of the best-selling book, “How Fit is Your Business?,” and a forthcoming book, “Business Themes to Live By.” He can be reached at email@example.com.