The wealth of information available with big data can be very useful in uncovering and delivering new insights to assist your sales teams with their sales engagement process. While it’s tempting to provide your sales teams with an in-depth view of available information, too much information can bring about decision paralysis. When insights are well thought out and delivered at the right time, they help foster deeper conversations, and assist you in defining and solving your prospects’ problems.

Sheena S. Iyengar, a professor at the Columbia Business School, spoke about choice and one of her field experiments in a TEDTalk (Nov 2011 TEDTalk, “How to make choosing easier”). While a graduate student, Sheena conducted a field experiment at an upscale grocery store in California. During random times throughout the day, consumers were presented with one of 2 versions of a tasting booth: a selection of 6 flavored jams, or a selection of 24 flavored jams. You might think that having more choices would yield better results, but the results were surprising.

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Although more consumers stopped to taste samples at the 24-flavor booth, consumers with limited choices were 6 times more likely to make a purchase. When faced with too many choices, “people chose not to choose” (Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice).

How can we apply the lessons from Sheena Iyengar’s studies on simplifying decision-making and choices? The recommendations in her TEDTalk are just as relevant to developing sales engagement processes and tools.

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It’s tempting to provide your sales teams with all of the available information about prospects – firmographic attributes, finances, market share, leadership team, etc. A better option is to engage with your sales organization to find out what they look for in prospects and deliver insights accordingly. What are the key 3-5 metrics they use to begin the engagement process? What information is critical versus ‘nice to have’?

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Where possible, apply visualization techniques to enable your sales teams to quickly assess options to move the sales engagement process forward. Use of color and varying sizes and shapes are preferable to tables or lists to highlight which prospects need attention, new areas of opportunity, or product fit.

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Sales processes generally become more complex as prospects move through the buying cycle. In the initial phases, discussions tend to take place at a higher level. As decisions are made, the discussions go deeper and can become more technical. Supporting your sales teams by disclosing information only as it is needed prevents both your sales people and your prospects from facing choices before they are ready to make them. Tools that allow your team to drill down from high-level to lower-level insights present complexity within a simple framework.

Too often, we don’t spend enough time simplifying the decisions our prospects are being asked to make at the different stages in the sales process. This can then result in complexity in which it is easier for prospects to delay decisions than to make the choices that result in mutually beneficial solutions. By incorporating these recommendations into your sales enablement tools and processes, you can reduce the likelihood of stalling the sales process.