Do you want to confuse the heck out of your dog?

Do a little test.

Place two bones in front of your dog. And watch.

He'll sniff one bone. Then the other. Then go back to the first. And back to the second. Back, forth, back, forth and back again. Like he's watching the finals of the US Open.

You've just witnessed the curse of choice. And, not surprisingly, human beings are not a whole lot different from dogs.

Curious? I bet you are. Because the concept of choice can dramatically increase or decrease your sales. What are you doing wrong? And how can you fix it?

Done? Good!

Now do you realize what your brain just did? Your brain went through dozens of choices in one fraction of a second. It whipped its way through at least a dozen possible flavors. In a blinding flash it went through what is known as the “elimination factor.”

Contrary to what you believe, the brain doesn't think by choosing what it wants.

No it doesn't; the brain “eliminates” what it doesn't want.

Think about it for a second. When you're in the ice-cream store looking at all of those choices, you seem more confused than ever. You think you want choice, but when faced with one hundred-squillion flavors, your brain goes a little waka waka.

You become “the dog” all over again.

You struggle to choose, and finally when you do choose you actually do it through a system of eliminating what you don't want.

Ergo: more elimination means more brainwork.

It's logical, isn't it? If your brain goes through elimination to get to a single choice, then the more things it has to eliminate, the more difficult it becomes to choose one thing.

Often the brain just gives up. Yes, goodbye, sayonara and hasta la vista, baby! And customers faced with innumerable choices head rapidly for the “goodbye, see ya later, I need to think about it” door.

It's ironic, isn't it?

We want choice, but we don't want the nuisance of having to choose. Aaaaaaaargh, isn't this irony driving you bananas?

Now, now... don't get so antsy. No one is suggesting you do a Henry Ford. Henry, the inventor of the Model T, was probably discredited with a quotation attributed to him: “People can have the Model T in any color--so long as it's black.”

The truth is that the Model T was available in green, red, blue and gray. In fact, right at the start, black wasn't even available as an option. The switch to all-black cars was probably a move to reduce the time lost waiting for the various paints to dry. In fact, in 1926, colors other than black were once again offered in an attempt to rejuvenate sales.

So choice is a good thing, then...

Absolutely! Your customers hate to have a gun held to their head. They want choice, but not so much choice that they're totally confused.

But now I can see it in your face… you're the one that's totally confused. You don't want to alienate your customers—nor do you want to confuse them.

So how do you use the power of command with choice?

The only way I can explain this is to give you a couple of real-life situations, as played out sequentially on a Web site. Of course you can use this concept offline as well, but since you're already online….

Let's run through a sequential audit on a Web site.

Step 1: Visitor arrives at your Web site. Imagine prospective clients coming to your Web site. They've got half a dozen links to choose from. What should they do? There are at least six to seven links to choose from. Where do they go first? Can you give the client a choice and help the client make a speedy decision? (On the Psychotactics.com Web site, we actually tell you where to go next by putting a link in the text: “To start your journey, click here.”

Step 2: Visitor does some window-shopping. Let's assume clients then head to your products page. Do they have 25 products to choose from? Or do they have three? And do you have a command or suggestion in place? For example, a simple graphic that says, “Most-Downloaded Product,” sets off a chain of thoughts in a client's brain. They think, “Oooh, if it's the most downloaded or most popular, it must be good.” And that causes the client to choose the most popular one over the rest. Now hang on a second. I'm not asking you to be a nasty little crook. I'm not asking you to lie and try to manipulate your clients. All that this command is doing is simply allowing the client to not get confused with choice.

Step 3: OK, where's that credit card? Your clients scroll right down to the payment button—and are faced with several different options to pay. All good... but here's what you need to do. Make sure they get to choose between just one or two options. The other systems of payment can be clubbed under option 3. So Option No. 1 could be credit card online. Option No. 2 could be online check. Option No. 3 could be Other Options. And under Other Options you could list phone call, fax, postal order, etc.

Step 4: We're on the buying page. And let's say you're up-selling a product. Again, do you do the Amazon.com bit and give me 20 options, or just one more add-on product?

Step 5: The client gets the product delivered. Where do they start? On book 3 or book 4? One client wrote in and asked me just that a few days ago. We sell the Brain Audit off our Web site, and she was confused about which of the four books was the starting point. Ah, choice… again causing chaos.

Audit your way through your marketing.

Take a look at either your Web process or your sales/marketing process. Are you giving your clients too much to choose from? I know, I know. I cringe too. There are so many things to offer, yet choice only causes increased confusion. Eventually, it boils down to sacrifice. “Yes, No, Maybe” is hard enough without causing a client to go through “yes, no, maybes” across multiple choice products and services.

If you want your client to act, make sure you make the process nice and uncomplicated.

Oh, there's one more thing. It's called why.

As the Merovingian says in the movie Matrix Reloaded, “Choice is an illusion, created between those with power, and those without... Our only hope, our only peace is to understand it, to understand the ‘why.' ‘Why' [Read the ‘Power of Why'] is what separates us from them, you from me. ‘Why' is the only real social power, without it you are powerless.”

Less.

Less is indeed... more.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sean D'Souza uses age-old psychology, marrying it to modern technology, on his Web site, psychotactics.com. Can "psychological tactics" make a difference? Go there and find out.