In multi-step sales, hold back a benefit or two
  • sales
  • Blog post

In multi-step sales, hold back a benefit or two

Let’s say you’re in the early phase of a multi-step sale. You know your buyer is talking to several vendors. “Tell me why I should buy from you,” the buyer says.
So do you leave it all on the field? Do you cite every benefit you think will sway the buyer or give you an edge over the competition?

Maybe not, according to a recent study. Researchers set up a sales simulation and found that it was better to hold back one or two benefits until later in the sales process.

The simulation involved two steps. In the first step – the “screening” step – buyers narrowed down their choices from four offers to two. In the second step – the “final decision” – they chose one of the two.

The most effective sales strategy was to provide enough benefits in the screening step to make the cut – but to hold back at least one favorable attribute until the second step. When a new benefit was introduced at that point, it carried a lot more weight with buyers.

Of course, there’s a danger in holding back, because you might get eliminated in the screening step. But the researchers found that the benefits outweighed the risk.

Also, it doesn’t have to be your biggest benefit. A minor benefit, added late in the game, actually changes the rules of the game, the researchers found. For example, if you present evidence that your company gets high ratings for customer service, buyers are more likely to focus on customer service when they’re making their final decision.

The bottom line: If you can, save a surprise for the end. You may catch your competitors napping and get buyers more focused on the benefits where you have an edge.

Source: Ge, X, et al. (2012). What to say when: Influencing consumer choice by delaying the presentation of favorable information. Journal of Consumer Research, 38, 1004-2001.

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