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The more choice the better, right? Not necessarily. In sales, asking the buyer to choose between several options can actually work against the seller and doesn't always lead to the best result.

There are a number of points during a sale where a seller can either offer the buyer a number of choices or present them with the best option, which I believe is the best way to do sales. Allowing the buyer to choose not only lengthens the sales cycle, but can also cost you in sales and future revenue streams.

I guess in some ways it comes down to how one views their role as a seller. I consider my role as a seller as that of a subject matter expert; a conduit to best practices that gives me a broad and deep understanding of how people derive value from the product and/or service I sell.

A good sales representative may not know as much about a single given company as the owner or executive does, but because they work with hundreds of companies, sales people have a much better knowledge of best practices, trends and developments, what works, what doesn't, and more. Their value-add is their expertise, especially in a world where leading products have a 90 per cent overlap in features and functionality.

Once you take on the mantle of subject matter expert, rather than just a peddler of goods and services, you are in a position to make sound recommendations to your buyers. Offering more options diminishes your standing, as well as the value of your opinion and solution. You either know, or it's a best guess scenario; the equivalent of a professional estimate and a 'guestimate.'

Buyers and business owners are looking for expert advice in ways to improve their business, and you are in a position to do that. But if you offer several choices, rather than the best choice based on your expertise, you leave the buyer to have to figure things out for themselves. And if they're left to their own devices, where's your value add? On their own, they will either take a longer time or take the easiest path – which may be no decision at all Some ask me to guide them: explain why one is different or better than the other, for example. But why not do that in the first place and save everyone time and grief? Others do it to avoid pricing discussions – the theory being that given three price points – most people will opt for the middle:

1. Best: most complete, most costly;
2. Middle in every way;
3. Bare bones: least complete – lowest cost;

But why not offer the best choice, and align it with the requirements uncovered during discovery and sell the value? If they don't go with that, you can always 'negotiate' down to number two, taking some components of the offering out to rationalize a reduced price. Selling off a menu is more of a business-to-consumer self-serve practice, not a professional business-to-business approach. Present and focus on the best solution, then adjust (price/offering) based on the buyers feedback. The alternative is throwing proposals against the wall and seeing what sticks.

Another point where some sales people offer options when they shouldn't is earlier in the sale, when setting appointments. A typical example: I'm available on Monday at 9:15 AM or Tuesday at 2:45PM; which time do you prefer? Offer one time and one time only. Many tell me they want to accommodate the buyer, "I don't want to jam or box them." You're not, you're creating focus by giving them one time. And if that doesn't work, they'll let you know.

Choice denotes lack of confidence and diminishes your expertise. Many buyers consider choice as the salesperson abdicating her role. Some buyers have even told me that they expect a seller to have conviction in her recommendations; after all, she's about to impact their clients' business. By offering choice, some clients think that a representative may be trying to absolve herself of responsibility for the outcome: "I presented the options, but you made the choice."

Now this may be an extreme view, but it's not as uncommon as you may think. So as a salesperson, why allow it to happen when you have the choice not to?

Tibor Shanto is a principal at Renbor Sales Solutions Inc. He can be reached at His column appears once a month on the Report on Small Business website.

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