Give Options and Opinions – Not Advice

There aren’t many of us who take kindly to unsolicited advice about what we should do, buy, think or invest in, including potential customers. Just because a customer is asking about a product doesn’t mean they’re asking for unsolicited advice. Most are simply asking for more details or looking for what their options are. They want information, not your unsolicited advice. The key word here is “unsolicited.” When a customer asks for your advice, by all means give it. But wait for them to specifically ask for you to tell them what you think they should do.

There’s a big difference between saying “The advantages of the more expensive three-wheeled widget versus the lower cost two-wheeled widget are time, efficiency and sturdiness. The two-wheeled widget is a great bargain for someone who doesn’t use widgets much, but likes a dependable widget when they do,” and saying, “I think you should buy the three-wheeled widget. It seems to me like you’d be a lot better off with that model.”

The first kind of feedback gives the customer control of their decision, offers them two options to choose between. It also leaves the door open for them to ask for your advice or opinion if they want or value it. People like to buy, but not to be sold. Advice makes people feel like they’re being sold. Options make people feel like they’re choosing to buy.

Advice is very easy to give, and even easier not to follow, so I don’t fool with it at all.
Randy Pausch, Carnegie Mellon Commencement Speech, 2008

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