How to Confuse Prospects and Lose Business

The following article was written by Scott Nussinow, MAS of ArtworkServicesUSA.


In reading an industry chat board recently, I came across a quote that gave me some pause; “a confused mind doesn’t order.” I thought it interesting enough to Google, and then read some of the articles and commentary that came up in the results. These articles illuminated many ‘tried and true’ ways to not win opportunities. I’d like to say that I’ve never committed any of these offenses, but embarrassingly, I have.

Have you ever…

…overwhelmed prospects with data, references, and explanations?

I’m guilty, as charged. I’ve written letters, created flyers, and even engaged in one-on-one conversation where I’ve tried to explain all the details, nuances, and value propositions. Big mistake.

…provided prospects with too many options and variants?

A confused or overwhelmed mind cannot make a decision. Period. In my best effort to convey value and relevance, I’ve likely confused the prospect with a veritable smorgasbord of options. There is also an interesting study on the ineffectiveness of offering too many choices. I’ve placed the link at the end of this article if you'd like to take a look.

…bored prospects with abstract, hard-to-grasp references – and used too much jargon?

I love my words, and though I feel I may have chosen the best word(s), did I lose the prospect because the message was no longer simple enough to fully understand? Was my use of jargon used to educate – or was it to impress? Was my reference to a value proposition specific and understandable – or was it too abstract?  

To be effective, communication needs to keep the listener engaged with a message that is easily understood. Is your message or story something that the prospect can visualize? Have you kept it lean and mean, so they’re better able to understand it? Is this message relevant or helpful to the listener, or are you wasting their time? Some thoughts and suggestions to make sure you're on the right track include:

Tell your story in living color! Paint a picture, use a metaphor, and help the listener create a mental image. It’s not always possible or even achievable, but when it is, make every effort to reference things that they can identify with and visualize clearly.

It’s often better to deliver bite-sized nuggets of information, and then shut-up. If the listener wants more information or clarification, they’ll ask. If they don’t ask, then periodically ask if they have any questions.

Consider limiting options to three or less, if practical, and then help guide prospects to the best choice. Be prepared to support your recommendation with rationale that’s important to the listener.

Keep the conversation conversational. No one responds well "to be talked at." You may be the expert, but you’re still a person talking with another person.

Take cues from the prospects response – or lack thereof. Body language is valuable, but on a call or chat, it’s invisible. Don’t go on and on. Take pause to check in. Ask a question, solicit an opinion. Keep the listener plugged in and part of the conversation.

Finally, remember that simplicity is important and clarity is essential.  According to Confucius, “If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone.”

NOTE: The blog post I referenced above regarding giving your client's too many choices can be found here.  Do you have thoughts on this subject?  If so, we would love to hear from you.  Please share your comments below!