I once worked with an account executive who was a master at getting clients to approve projects in an amazingly short amount of time. One of his most effective techniques was narrowing the number of choices the client had to make.
For example, consider a new ad for placement in a newspaper. Each ad has at least dozen elements that need to be reviewed. Beyond the general concept, the headline and the body copy, there’s the overall design, the visuals, and a multitude of small elements such as additional visuals, product logos, prices, small type — you get the general idea.
When that ad is presented to client, he or she often doesn’t know where to look first. In seconds, the client is forced to take in all that information and make a decision about whether to approve the ad. So what tends to happen is that clients gravitate toward what they feel they know. Perhaps they agonize over the carefully crafted body copy. Perhaps the image seems a little smaller than they’d like. Maybe they want their company’s logo to have more prominence. They key thing is that if you simply ask, “So what do you think?,” they’ll probably find something to change. And what they change may impact the ad’s effectiveness.
When this AE would present materials to clients, he’d never open the door with as broad a statement as “So what do you think?” Instead, he’d give a client a clear decision to make about some element. “Here’s what the creative team worked up for the promotion,” he’d say. “I think it’s right on target, but we weren’t sure whether the product photos were in the right order. What do you think?” The client would devote his or her full attention to the order of the product photos, make a decision, and then say, “The rest of the ad looks great. Let’s go with it!”
His approach wasn’t deceptive in any way. It was actually easier on the client. Often, people feel pressured to make decisions they’re really not comfortable making. By narrowing the choices, he reduced the discomfort and allowed the client to focus on what really mattered.
When what you offer has a wide array of choices, make decisions easier for your customers by turning that array into smaller, simpler decisions. They’ll feel more involved in the process, and you’ll succeed more often.