Option Paralysis

The goal of any sales process (whether that’s face-to-face or online without any real contact) is to get your prospects to make that buying decision and place the order.

There are great many factors that will affect the buying process, both in terms of how quickly decision is made and also what that decision will be:

  • How well does your product or service match their need/desire?
  • What alternatives are available?
  • Is the cost of your product or service seen as value for money?
  • Does your potential customer have the budget available?
  • And many more…

We’re taught talk to listen to our customers, identify their needs and work to offer a solution that meets as many of them as we can, however, we need to be careful how me make that proposal.

Choice is a good thing, but it can also hinder progress

When a customer goes out into the marketplace looking for a solution they will have options, there will often be a variety of products or services available that could meet their needs, each with their own advantages and disadvantages, and a potential customer can often be left not knowing which to choose. They struggle to make a decision as they can’t decide what’s the right option for them.

This is what I call option paralysis, and what’s the worst thing about option paralysis, well as the name suggests it stops any decision from being made at all.


I will always remember many years ago when I was getting physiotherapy for a back injury that I had sustained whilst competing a power lifter, that the problem was not with my core but with the intercostal muscles in my spine and was prescribed a range of exercises that would need a gym ball.

No problem I’ll just go online and buy one. My physio told me I should get one of a certain size but was not allowed to recommend as that was against practice policy. Initially I didn’t think that was a problem but as I started to search online I started to get more questions than answers.

Some cost as little as £15, some were over £50. Okay I like to think I’m shrewd enough to not be suckered into spending more than I needed to by one of the bigger sports brands but there was more.

Somewhere anti-burst, some were smooth but others had either a rough or ribbed surface to aid grip (and you don’t want to be sliding off the ball mid exercise), indeed some websites were recommending a different size ball based on my height.

I wished my physio had simply told me which one to buy, I was struggling to make a decision and guess what, I ended up not buying one.


Option paralysis can occur in a wide range of buying situations, especially if the decision isn’t seen as time critical and can be put off.

If your product or service can add value it’s not hard to create a desire for it. You can educate your customers about your product or service to the point they want it, it’s even possible to change their mind should they already have selected a potential solution.

However, it’s a different story trying to make them buy it any quicker than they want or need to, but it’s VERY EASY to slow the process down, and stall or even stop the buying decision being made at all.

Stamp your authority on the situation

Sometimes complex sale is unavoidable but often you as the seller have a choice. Maybe you could offer 15 different options to ensure you have every base covered but that can be the worst thing you can do!

You have their attention, and as the vendor they are looking to you as the expert. You know your product / service, you should know what’s best for them, indeed like me when I was at the physiotherapist your customer may want to be told what to buy.

What’s worse, by not telling them what’s best for them, you are missing out on an opportunity to stamp your “authority” on the situation, you could even be seen to lack a full understanding of what they need.

Make the buying decision an easy one

Keep the options short but listen! Keep listening during the negotiation as you don’t want miss out because you didn’t offer the right solution (especially if you have it available in your arsenal).

It might sound a little like sales 101, but sometimes the most basic steps are forgotten as we rush from one task to the next and feel the pressure to win the order.

They say the old ones are the best and this is no exception. Keep it simple, don’t make the buying decision any harder than it needs to be, and you’ll close more sales in less time!


If you’d like to explore this further or would like some help ensuring your proposals hit the bulls-eye, feel free to drop us an email or give us a call.

Happy Hunting.