How to double your chances of making the sale

If you've ever watched a group of soldiers march, you've probably been impressed with how perfectly in step they all are. Their arms move to the same rhythm and their steps are perfectly matched.

There's a good reason for all of this. Marching in perfect step shows the discipline instilled in the group, increases their confidence, the feeling of belonging to a group, and it impresses the heck out of anyone watching—including potential adversaries.

What has marching in step got to do with doubling your chances of making the sale?

The answer lies in the things we don't always know.

In April 1831, the Broughton Suspension Bridge in England collapsed after a brigade of soldiers marched across it in perfect step. According to the onlookers, the bridge just broke apart, and several soldiers fell into the water.

The Broughton Suspension Bridge in England, circa 1883. Source: Wikipedia
The Broughton Suspension Bridge in England, circa 1883. Source: Wikipedia

The reason this happened is because the steps initially caused the bridge to vibrate, and subsequent steps caused those vibrations to amplify, eventually becoming so big the bridge collapsed.

How does this relate to doubling your chances of making the sale?

One of the things we don't always think of when offering our services to our clients is that everyone's needs, wants and budgets are different.

Very often, we start our work with a client by figuring out just what the problem is, and how we can help. After some back and forth, we eventually put together a proposal and present it to them. And then we hope and pray that we've hit the mark and they will accept our proposal.

The problem is that we don't know what they're thinking about

As hard as we work with a client to figure out just how we can help them, there's always stuff we don't know. For example, we may not know that:

  • their budgets are limited;
  • they don't want to break a relationship with an existing vendor; or
  • they're just not that convinced (yet) that we're worth the money we're charging.

Unless we're privy to everything that happens in their business, we don't know all the things that will influence their decision.

How do we double our chances of making the sale?

The answer is deceptively simple:

Offer a choice so they can choose the option that makes the most sense for their needs, budget and confidence in you.

If we present our proposal with a single choice, the only choice we're giving them is a yes or no. Effectively, you have one chance of making the sale—the option you've presented to them.

But let's say you present your proposal to them with two options, say a "small" and a "large" option.

Now, they can say yes to the first option, or yes to the second option, or no to both options. You've effectively doubled your chances of getting a yes.

This may seem like such a simple thing to do, but from my own experience, and from what I've seen working with entrepreneurs over the years, this technique works really, really well.

How do we offer a choice?

Every proposal you put in front of a client has a number of parts. Those "parts" include the work you will do and the deliverables or outcomes they will get.

By making some parts "optional", or part of a more expensive offering, you're giving your clients a choice.

Let's say you're a web developer and you're offering a website makeover to your clients. Instead of just lumping all the things you will be doing for them together, give your clients the chance to select the options that makes the most sense for their needs—and their budget.

So you can, for example, offer (at least) two options.

  • The first option includes all the "must do" things to have a decent website.
  • The second option includes everything from the first option plus two or three training sessions where you will teach them how to make minor changes to the website themselves.

The second option is obviously a bit more expensive, so they have a choice.

Let's look at one example of how this works in practice.

Example: Shopify's pricing tiers

Here's a partial snapshot of the pricing page on Shopify's website:

The Shopify pricing page
The Shopify pricing page

Shopify has three pricing tiers, each with different options. Depending on your needs, you select the one that works best for you.

Instead of being faced with just one option, you have multiple choices, and therefore the chances that you will select one of them is better.

(And note how easy it is to compare the options. On a desktop computer, you can easily compare what's included in each pricing tier because you can compare the check marks or numbers side-by-side.)

How many choices should you offer?

It's tempting to want to offer lots of different options so you cover all the eventualities, right?

The truth is that too many options can reduce your chances of making the sale.

I usually recommend that you offer at least two choices but no more than three.

If you offer more than three options, your clients will find it increasingly difficult to make a decision. The more options you have, the more difficult it becomes for them to figure out what's included in each option, and what not.

So don't be tempted to offer too many choices—always offer at least two, and try to stick to no more than three.

Options reduce haggling

One of the unexpected benefits of offering choice is that it reduces the likelihood of haggling over the price.

When clients are presented with a clear choice, and they can see how the price relates to what they get, they are far less likely to want to discuss pricing. They can clearly see what's included in each option, and how the price relates to the value they will be getting.

If you offer one choice only, they can say yes or no—or they can try to get you to bring the price down so they can afford all the good stuff you're offering.

So when you offer a choice, they're far less likely to want to talk price. And if they do, you can avoid the price discussion by pointing at the options you're offering them.

Of course there will always be clients that want to see if they can get a better price, but in my experience most will choose the option that works best for them now.

We don't know what they need to think about

When the Broughton Suspension Bridge collapsed in 1831, it was because there was an unexpected side effect from a large group of soldiers marching in step across the bridge.

Once the lesson was learnt, it became standard practice to "break step" when crossing a bridge.

When you present a proposal to your client, you know a fair bit about the problem you have to solve and the conditions under which you have to work.

But you don't know all the things they have to consider.

So give them a choice, so they can select the option that works best for them. I've seen this work in practice—both for myself and for many other entrepreneurs.

These choices are your Product Ladder

In the Tornado Roadmap we call this sequence of offerings, or choices, your Product Ladder.

A product ladder is a way of presenting your offerings, ranging from least to most expensive, each "step" on the ladder including more features, benefits or deliverables.

A Product Ladder not only gives them a choice (increasing your chances of getting the sale), but it also makes it easier for them to come back for more.

And one final note: when you do offer your options, make it clear to your clients that they can easily "upgrade" from one option to the next. In practice, this usually means paying the price difference only.

Good luck building your business.

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