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Make the Logic Clear for a Reluctant Shopper

Posted by: Today's Tip Contributor on January 20, 2011

Let’s say we’re dealing with a reluctant shopper. After identifying the product or service that we’re convinced will best meet the needs of both the shopper and the business’s bottom line, the shopper is hesitant to buy right then, but seems ready to be convinced.

Recognizing this, we say, "What do you see as the two features you like best about the alternative I’m recommending?" In response, the shopper gives us two reasons, but still seems reluctant to make the purchase commitment. So figuring we’re moving in the right direction, we say, "O.K., what are six more of the features you like?"

Whoops. We meant well, but according to research findings from New York University, we probably just made the product or service less appealing. Why? Because generating two reasons to buy is easy. Generating six more takes substantial effort. When shoppers have a tough time completing a longer list, they start questioning whether the item is really what they’re looking for.

So, what’s a better way to deal with reluctant shoppers?

You definitely want to ask them to generate their own reasons to buy, as this provides you information about what they consider important and allows you to customize your benefits statements so they’re most meaningful to each particular shopper. But keep the analytical logic straightforward.

If shoppers seem to struggle to build a list of reasons to buy, say something like, "I can understand it’s difficult to come up with lots of reasons when there are so many distractions and all the time pressure going on right here, right now." The New York University researchers found that pointing to the situation as the cause of their difficulty helps keep a positive impression of the product in their mind.

As soon as the shopper seems comfortable with purchasing an item, ask for the sale. A substantial amount of research finds that purchase decisions made with just-sufficient consideration are usually more satisfying for the customer than purchase decisions made after prolonged deliberation. Shoppers are likely to end up being pleased with a purchase if—after doing enough thinking to make themselves comfortable—they decide to take the plunge based on intuition or emotion.

Bruce D. Sanders
Consulting Psychologist
Vacaville, Calif.

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