The Choice Paradox: Why Customers Want More And Less Simultaneously

Take out that cell phone from your bag.
 And look at the features.

It can tell time; it can be a stopwatch; it can keep diary appointments; it can help you pass time with ingenious
 little games; it can probably take photos; send text messages;
 maybe even double up as an mp3 player or a torch.

You could probably call the moon with your cell phone

Now let’s assume we zapped back in time a bit…

Let’s say you were in the phone store. To buy a cell phone (what
 else?) And let’s assume the salesman showed you a phone model that could only…um…take and make calls. Would you buy that phone? Or would you want to see another model, with..uh..more features?

It’s not that much different when customers buy into your services and products

They want the whole jangbangdoowahwholeshebang

. They know they can’t use all the features you offer in your
 service or product. But it doesn’t matter one itty-bit to a customer. And herein slips in the paradox of choice.

Customers want it all, when buying a product/service, and yet are appalled, even intimidated by the post-purchase scenario.

So how does the post-purchase scenario roll out?

 Let’s take an example, shall we? Customers buy a program like Photoshop for its myriad features. Then end up using just a few
 tools. They buy a VCR or DVD recorder that dances, prances, and
 schmances. But they use just the basic functions. And yes, just
 like you, they go for the cell phone that has the most tantalising features, but end up using a few, if any.

Ok so we’re a greedy race, but how does that make a difference to your marketing?

It’s the intimidation factor of choice

. We like to schmooze with the concept of ‘more for less’, but when we get more, we actually gulp. We don’t know where to start.

What to do.

Where to go.

And this is why you need to roll out two distinct steps to make the intimidation of choice go away.

Step One: Load up the wagons

. When you’re selling a product, don’t hold back. In your sales pitch, load up every single benefit and feature you can think of. Pull out every single bonus out of your bag. Stack the stuff high, if you know what I mean.

The customer will see what you’re offering. She’ll drool a bit. Her brain cells will go boppity-bop, and if the offer is just right, she’ll buy.

Which brings us to Step Two.

Step Two: Only show the customer the good stuff. 

Take step one. Strip out all the lah-dee-dah, and you have Step Two. In effect, in Step Two, you’re out to make darned sure the customer feels the least amount of intimidation possible. So your post-purchase note or instructions should stress only on the most important features.

Doesn’t make sense does it?

 But look at you when you go to a buffet.

Logically, ten thousand
 calories of over-eating shouldn’t make you happy. But your greed
 is a happy-chappie, and pulls you along to this smorgasbord of
 food. So you pay your pile of pesos, and in you go.

About five minutes later, you don’t know where to start.

Should you attack the lamb chops? Should you savour the pasta?
 Should you even bother with the salad? Should you? Should you?
 Should you?

Now imagine if there was a sign that said: Chef’s

Hmmm, what a helpful sign that would be, huh?

It’s no different if you have a product or service

. If you’re in consulting, the client wants the lamb chops on top of the pasta, with turkey and asparagus toppings of your service. Well, sell the darn thing to her. But once she’s in the system, only concentrate on two or three of the most important
 parts of your service. 

The parts that helps the client see an instant growth in income,
 or customers or whatever.

It’s the same if you’re selling a product

. Every product is bundled up with gizmos from here to the North Pole, but eventually what the client really wants to know, are the
 two or three most important things about your product.

Or in other words: The chef’s recommendations.

How does this work in real life?

Let’s see some examples shall we? 
1) Car Mechanic: You offer the works. You do the works when
 you’re servicing the car, but only point out the main two-three
 things when the client comes up to pick the car.
2) Web Designer: You offer a web site that can do it all. Yet on
 completion, you show the client the most important features to
 get the web site up and running.

3) Subscription or Membership: You offer all the bloo-blah before sign up. Then show the new member only what’s important to move around the ‘club’.

So does that mean you get rid of all the fancy features and benefits? 

No you don’t. If I’ve been promised the earth, I pretty much want the darned thing. You’re still delivering all you promised,
 plus the cherry on top. But to aid consumption of your productor service, you need to reduce the intimidation way down, by
 stressing only what’s important.

The biggest problem a business faces isn’t one of attraction. 

It’s one of consumption. Because as humans, we like small bites.
 You and I are greedy you-know-whats when we’re in the purchase mode. 

In fact, in most cases, we don’t even know what we’re buying. We’re just happy that it’s all bundled as part of our purchase. The scary part comes a little later, when we have to actually consume the darned thing.

That’s when you step in. And reduce the choice.

Yes, I bought because you were offering me more. But now that
 I’ve bought, make sure you show me less.

That way I can make my call on my cell phone without wondering about how to call the moon.

P.S. Do you have a question or comment? Write it here and I will respond.

Product Offers: Links you should visit

“I wasn’t sure Sean would have anything new to say or would offer
advice that would be easy to apply.


I was also concerned that I would be deluged with a lot of information and sales pitches that I would get overwhelmed and not be able to implement anything.

But after I checked out his site I was impressed by all the free offerings. And it seemed so well organized I didn’t feel overwhelmed or confused. I tried a few ideas out and was so happy with the positive results that I bought the Brain Audit.

After reading (and re-reading!) the Brain Audit I felt like a blindfold had been lifted off my eyes. It made so much sense and I kept thinking how it seems so obvious but no one has ever put all the pieces together like this before.

I am happily communicating with patients much better, and attracting more of my ideal type of patient.

So if you want to break through to get better results and are willing to do a little painless work, then do yourself a favor and get the Brain Audit.

Tyme Gigliotti, Licensed Acupuncturist
Baltimore, MD, USA

In your small business, how can you get reliable answers to your complex marketing problems?
Find out more at


Top Selling Products Under $50

1) You already know that 80% of a sales letter depends on your headline.
So what’s the remaining 20% that causes customers to buy? Find out more

2) Do You Often Hit A Wall Called ‘Writers Block’?
Learn how the core elements of outlining can save you from the misery of writing your next article.

3) Do you know that visuals immediately improve your sales conversion?
Learn how to create drama and curiosity and help improve your web page conversion with visuals.

4) Do your websites, brochures, presentations, etc… confuse your clients?
Put some sanity into your design, even though you are not a designer?

5) Chaos Planning
Year after year you sit down and create a list of things you want to achieve. Then suddenly it’s April, and you’ve not really moved ahead as you’d expected.
Learn Why Most Planning Fails: And The Critical Importance of Chaos in Planning.

NEW PRODUCT! Learn How To make your Presentation stand out from every other presenter.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Plus
  • Add to favorites
  • Print
  • Email


  1. says

    Greetings Sean, We’ve met at SWAP. I enjoy your wisdom capsules.
    At the NZ Institute we offer ten different kinds of writing courses. We offer heaps of ‘special help assistance’ services to around 200 students. One-on-one tutoring. Telephone advice etc. Yet 51,000 people flock to the gov’t correspondence school and moan about lack of personal service.
    Q HOW do we get the enquirers to sign up at NZIBS?

  2. says

    Sean, what an interesting post. So it really fits in with niching. If you know your niche, it’s easier to select a feature on which to focus.

    And when you select a niche, in effect you have to de-select other possible niches.


    • says

      Yup, kinda like dating. You want to find seventeen thousand features in a mate, but eventually if you’re smart enough, you’ll boil it down to seven.

      And then choose one :)

  3. Michael Schnell says

    How would this “less is more” How Customers Want More…… work into Real Estate. It all makes sense and I’d like a scenario for instance using it in a listing presentation. I love your news letter!!!!

    • says

      Michael: For instance a house has a ton of features. So just like any product, you first give them the bunch of features, but then at some point, you can drive home just one feature in great detail.

      For example, when we rented our house, there were several points.
      1) Prestigious neighbourhood.
      2) Dehumidifiers installed (Auckland has high humidity).
      3) Safe area
      4) Within “x” school zone.
      5) Blah
      6) Blah
      7) Blah
      8) Blah.

      So all of those facts are true and they’re exciting. But then you drill home one fact in great detail. In our case, it was “within ‘x’ school zone”. But what if the potential clients don’t have kids? That’s what the focus is all about. You’re looking for clients who have kids and who want that school zone. Which is why we got the highest rent in the area.

      Knowing what the features are, and then drilling down on ONE allows you to focus and bring home that point like never before. Clients don’t know what’s important, until you drive home that point in great detail. Yes, you can play safe and point out two or three things, but we’ve found that focusing on ONE really allows you (and the client) to hone in on one thing.

      The results are pretty amazing :)

  4. says

    Great post. Having recently and finally learned the new life skill “How to set up, host and create a WordPress blog” I find myself buying themes and plugins that promise the works, only to find that implementation isn’t as intuitive as I would have hoped. Then I find myself begging “Is there anyone anywhere on the planet earth whom I can pay good money (more than I paid for the plugin) to coach me on how to implement and get value from the main features of your multi-featured plugin? They all answer “no”. But there is no reason they couldn’t attach, as another bonus, a discount voucher for $50 off the $150 “hold your hand by screencast sharing” set up and coaching session (outsourced to an experienced user) – just in case you don’t want to read our easy-to-read instructions (written by our take-everything-for-granted) code writers.

    • says

      I know exactly how you feel, Jamie. I’m learning watercolours (well, I’ve been learning it for three years now) and it’s the same stupid situation. No one wants to help you in the way you need to be helped. And that’s frustrating, because when you think of it, it’s well worth the dollars for them (and for us as users).

  5. says

    Hello Sean,

    Interesting read. We recently spent some time looking into the Sandler technique of selling which was the total opposite to what you propose in that the initial contact is very much focused on the prospects ‘pains’ only when you know what specific issues they’re facing do you spill your feature/benefits on them, using questioning techniques, historical examples and equal rights between the seller and the prospect. Always good to know other techniques. thanks. Dan

    • says

      Well, in The Brain Audit we work with what is called a target profile. That target profile has one type of pain/problem. And that’s it. Instead of trying to solve every problem that a potential client could have, you actually highlight a single problem and drill down.

      We’ve seen clients improve their sales by 25% or more using this method.

  6. says

    Thanks so much for this enlightening post, Sean! I’m just about to start a grand renovation on A-List Blogging and I will put your suggestions into action.

    I’ve always been puzzled about the fact that people want is different from what they can cope with.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>