“When I grow up, I want to be incredibly
Was this your aspiration as a kid? To
be just like everyone else when you grew
up? Not likely. However, while we often
aspire to be exceptional–at least in some
worthwhile way–the sociological reality
is that most of us don’t really want to
be better (or significantly different) than
everyone else; we want to fit in. We don’t
want to stay ahead of the Joneses; we
want to hang out with them.
This may or may not come as a
surprise, but what may be genuinely
surprising is the enormous opportunity
that this knowledge can present. If you
understand why people do what they do,
and why they buy what they buy, you can
significantly influence what they choose
to buy from you.
The middle of the road tends to be the comfort zone for consumers.
They like to feel that they are in the norm, and if they learn they are
outside it, will often take strides to adjust. Research proves this. An
interesting example is a study that involved monitoring homeowners’
power consumption. Homeowners volunteered to have their power usage
monitored, and they were then given the results. Those who learned
they were consuming more energy than their neighbors responded
by reducing their consumption by an average of 5.7 percent–not a big
surprise. However, those who learned they were consuming less than their
neighbors actually increased their usage by over 8 percent.
This demonstrates the power of the “magnetic middle,” the inclination
to gravitate to the middle ground. To be like others–average–as opposed
to being significantly different.
Keep this in mind if your selling style tends to target your customer’s
sense of pride and ego, and the strategy entails convincing them how
much more impressive their new system will be than anyone else’s in the
neighborhood, on the presumption that this will elevate the customer’s
desire. Understand that this is an uphill battle, and in fact, may elicit the
opposite of the desired result: they may be turned off to the idea, instead
of being fired up about it.
|Studies show consumers exhibit the power of the
“magnetic middle,” the inclination to gravitate to the
middle ground. To be like others–average–as opposed
to being significantly different.
This inclination extends beyond the big picture and right down to the
specific models people tend to select. Consumers gravitate to the middle
here as well; and this can actually benefit you enormously, if you have a
Williams Sonoma, a $3.5 billion retail corporation, discovered this
when they introduced an improved, more expensive bread-maker. The
result? Sales of the inferior model nearly doubled. Why? Because the
comfort zone for most consumers lies between the bare minimum they
need in a product and the most expensive option they can reasonably
afford. Therefore when the new, more expensive bread-maker was
introduced, the older model now became the middle ground, and people
suddenly found this model more appealing than before.
So how do you capitalize on this “middle of the road” mindset? The
secret lies in carefully considering what choices you present to your
customers. For instance, if you know that consumers are most comfortable
with mid-level products, does this mean you should avoid offering the
fancier, more expensive models? Absolutely not. In fact, the exact opposite
First, understand that there will always be an audience for the more
expensive high-end gear, and
not offering these items means
you’re forfeiting the increased
revenues and profits that these
Secondly, realize that while
most customers gravitate
toward the middle, you can
define where the middle is.
For instance, if you typically
present a pair of $2,000
speakers as your high-end
option and the lower end falls
around $500, then customers
will likely gravitate toward
the $1,000 models. However
if you routinely present a
higher-end pair of $5,000
(or more) speakers as your starting point, you’ll find that customers
will consequently find the “middle ground” $2,000 models much more
appealing, and your sales of these models will increase significantly.
As an aside, be wary when deciding how many options you offer
throughout the process of a system presentation. It’s true that when three
options are presented, the middle option tends to be the most popular
choice. However it’s also true that when faced with an overwhelming
number of choices, people tend to shut down and make no decision at all.
Therefore, carefully plan which system elements warrant offering multiple
options, and keep the other choices as simple as possible.
Building a successful book of business entails understanding and
mastering a vast array of skills and knowledge. It’s a science, just like
psychology or sociology. Taking some time to learn more about the
science that lies behind people’s behaviors–like the gravitational pull of
the magnetic middle–will better arm you to capitalize on these behaviors
and build a more successful business.