Sales Tip: Frame your customers’ choices and watch your sales jump!

Here’s a quiz for you.  There’s a directive on a drivers license to indicate if you are an organ donor, in the event of accidental death.  In the year 2003 the rate of organ donation was close to 100% in Austria but only 12% in Germany. It was 86% in Sweden but only 4% in Denmark.

Why do you think that was? What could account for such huge differences between countries so close in geography and culture?

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedThe differences are in fact caused by the framing effect, which influences the way people respond to questions.  The high-donation countries completed a form that allowed them to opt out if they did NOT want to be an organ donor, so they had to proactively check a box to say no.  The low-contribution countries completed an opt-in form, so they had to check a box to say they wanted to donate. 

So we know that the best single predictor of whether or not people will participate in organ donation is how the default option is created, rather than their concern for their fellow humans.  Saying yes means doing nothing.  To say no you have to check a box.  That’s all there is to it.

In his 2008 outstanding book “Nudge,” the economist Richard Thaler cites numerous examples of how social programs can be enhanced to benefit the population through the use of these carefully designed “nudges”, which encourage people to do things that are in their best interest.

One quick example.  You get a new job, and the choice to join a pension plan is presented to you as the default option.  You can always opt out if you want to, but joining is the default. More people sign up as a result and that is a good thing for society. People regard the default as the right thing to do, and fewer opt out.

This process is known as “choice architecture” in that you can be intentional about the way you frame choices for others. If you are in sales, you should already be thinking about how choice architecture can benefit you by influencing the way your prospects or customers make buying decisions.

Framing is very powerful.  Which of these meats are you likely to buy:

“Our meat is 90% fat-free!”

“Our meat contains 10% fat!”

Same meat; different framing. If you’re like most people, you saw the first choice as being healthier.

In my work I often help financial institutions sell services to their customers.  Let’s suppose I’m explaining our checking account services to you, and I say, “Our checking account comes with fraud protection, an online statement and a credit card, all for one low monthly fee.”

When framed this way it is then awkward for customers to ask how much it would be if they didn’t get fraud protection. In fact, in previous posts I’ve written about how powerful a driver loss aversion is. No one ever says, “Oh don’t give me any of that fraud protection. I’d like my identify to be stolen!”

The bundling of products and services is commonplace for this reason, and you can think of many examples in your day to day purchases, such as razors that “come with” a starter supply of blades to get you started on a revenue stream for the company.

If you sell a product or service that has a number of add-ons, or additional services you would like to cross-sell, consider how you might bundle them to create a framing opportunity in the presentation.  This is far superior to saying, “And for just an additional ten dollars a month you get…”

Think Like Your Customer

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at

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