How to Help People Make the Right Choices

By Jeremy Blake on May 16, 2016

Everyday you are confronted with choices. Which shirt to wear, which shoes, what to have for breakfast, whether you should put a wash on or hang out the washing; and this is before you have even left the house.

You will make a huge amount of these decisions on your own. Things may influence your decision, a song on the radio, the weather, any number of factors. When another person gets involved in the choice you are about to make, it will affect you in three ways.

You are either:

    Asked helpful questions – supported.
    You receive their opinion.
    You end up having an argument!

After all, everyone has an opinion. The validity of their opinion is what is in question.
Even an expert’s opinion is often not valued if we are not in the right frame of mind to receive it.

And that’s the expression we must look closer at - Frame of Mind.

Imagine you are in an art gallery and looking solely at a single painting. You are in The National Portrait Gallery looking at The Execution of Lady Jane Grey. Your thoughts are kept inside the frame, and your mind is focusing on the story, the historical event being depicted by Paul Delaroche, which he committed to canvas in 1833.

Your opinions of the image, the style, the colours, the characters are all within that frame. The frame acts as a border to your thinking. When you move your eyes away you move on to making other choices.

Whenever you are asked questions in a professional capacity the customer has begun a conversation that allows you to either win or lose their business. It could be a short sales cycle for a consumable product or a long sales cycle for a business service or manufacturing project.

What most salespeople do is start to give their opinions, or they classify their opinions and the opinions of their customers. This is designed to reduce the decision making time of the customer. What they really need to do is get inside the customer’s frame of mind.

If you ask a New York waitress, “What do you recommend?” You can be met with; “Well the signature dish is the Ragu from a recipe made by Tony our head chef, the most popular dish is the Calzone and my personal favourite is the Pepperoni Pizza!”

A strong three-part structure that gives advice and still leaves the customer with a choice to make. They may ask more questions. Discover that the waitress has worked there for ten years, has had two kids with Tony. All of these factors may now have an influence over the customer’s choice.

Now let’s turn to the far harder job of you beginning the conversation, if you like, selling.

We'll use a true story about a waiter I once knew, who was in the habit of not only getting into his patrons' frame of mind, but also trying to frame it with influence of language, tone and non verbal language.

The waiter in question is in Soho, it is the early 90s and he has some marketing support material to support his sales skills, commonly known as menus.

He looks at a couple dining. They have had their starters, and their main courses.

The waiter approaches the table having seen the couple take a cursory glance at the dessert menu. He notices the relationship is a new one, they are still uncertain around each other and are impressing each other with their attentiveness.

Smiling he says, “Which puddings have caught your eye?”

Still unsure to commit to rounding off the savoury experience with something sweet, they look at each other, if one of them orders are they greedy or an expensive date?...

Lowering the tone now, the waiter, having let this scene play out says, “Which dessert would you love to share?”

Love... They are falling in love. Share... They are beginning to share things together.
Perhaps soon they’ll fall in love and share their life together. The waiter is playing cupid in a small way, helping to cement the unspoken.

They order the cheesecake…

Helping People Make Choices - 5 Major Influencing Principles:

1. It is never a question of If people will or people won’t. Start with the premise that it is simply a case of Which choice they will make.

2. Ask Open Questions to help people make a decision. Which, What, How?

3. Not Do? Are? Have?

4. Avoid using Why? It makes people defend their decision or worse their values.

5. Wrap up 3 choices in a structure like the New York waitress.