B2B sales – is more better?

How many reasons should you share with the customer to purchase your product?

How many reasons should you share with the customer to purchase your product?

When selling, how many reasons should you use to produce the most positive impression of a product or service?  Is there a magic number? Or, is it simply more is better?  Or, is it all depends?

According to Kurt Carlson and Suzanne Shu (of Georgetown and UCLA respectively), the answer is 3.  In Carlson and Shu’s study, more claims were better – until the 4th. When you reach the fourth, customer skepticism begins to rise. [If you want to read a brief summary of the study, you can find it in the New York Times.]

But, as is always the case, it’s wise to examine the study details.  And, as usual, this yields a word of caution.  The professors constructed six persuasive scenarios and had hundreds of undergraduates read the scenarios and play the buyers role. Each scenario was then followed by one to six reasons to buy in.  But the study was about B2C sales.

Because of the type of sale and the buyers, the study construct does raise some flags about its applicability to B2B selling.

However, when we turn to our observations from hundreds of sales calls over the years, we believe there is merit to the argument.  Although we would quibble with the general notion of finding an exact number, all too often, we’ve seen salespeople just throw out product features – believing they’re benefits – assuming the more reasons introduced, the stronger the argument and the more likely they are to close the sale.

In reality that idea is a good example of a myth.  A myth that is still being repeated time and time again even in B2B sales.  But back to our study, we  agree with the authors that at some point the value of adding more reasons (whether features or benefits) turns from positive to neutral to negative (skepticism).

The takeaway is the strength of your proposition can be dilutedValue can be eroded unless every feature of the product being offered matters to the customer. So no, more is not necessarily better.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum®


About Janet Spirer

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
This entry was posted in Sales Best Practices, Sales Call Execution, Sales Training, Selling Value, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to B2B sales – is more better?

  1. Brian MacIver says:

    Great article, avoiding ‘argument dilution’ in Negotiating is important,
    but in Sales its essential. Never give them a reason NOT to buy.
    Thanks, Janet.

  2. Cy Khormaee says:

    I love this research – we don’t have nearly enough of it in the sales space. Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

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