Decision fatigue is when the quality of a prospect’s decisions diminishes due to mental exhaustion. It is a phenomenon studied in neuroeconomics and decision-making. Think about this:
Mental Drain is like a muscle that gets tired from overuse. The brain does too. Making decisions requires cognitive effort; this mental energy depletes after many decisions.
When suffering from decision fatigue, prospects might either avoid making further decisions, make impulsive choices, or go with the default or status quo option. This is why judges might give harsher rulings later in the day. Who wants to be #5 for dental surgery on a Friday afternoon?
This does not apply to just big decisions. The hundreds of small choices we make every day, from what to wear to what to eat, add up and lead to decision fatigue.
This is Relevant, Sales Pros. Understanding decision fatigue is crucial for 70% of the sale: Engagement and discovering the problem the prospect needs to solve.
Your prospects are humans, just like you:
We all have a Volume of Decisions to make daily, ranging from strategic choices that shape our future to immediate operational decisions.
Prospects have the Weight of Decisions. The decision and the consequence of their choices can significantly impact their employees, stakeholders,and reputation. The weight of the decisions intensifies the mental drain.
The Complexity of decisions has a wide range of factors and potential outcomes.
A Continuous Stream of Information bombards prospects with information, reports, data,and opinions. Processing and filtering this constant influx can be mentally exhausting.
Long workdays, frequent meetings, and after-hour events mean prospects rarely get enough sleep, further contributing to cognitive fatigue.
External pressures can be intense, with expectations, media scrutiny, and market pressures adding another layer of stress and urgency in decision-making.
Reflecting on my childhood, whenever I asked my father a question, he never gave a straightforward “Yes.” Instead, he’d say “We’ll see,” “Maybe,” or if he felt cornered, “Go ask your Mother.” While he was an outstanding foreman for power plant construction and adept at managing his team, his approach differed with us, his children.
How to help prospects with decision fatigue:
1. Most often, our business isn’t one of single-call transactions. A follow-up is almost always needed. Rather than being direct, and risk getting a counterfeit yes, consider asking, “Would you be against setting up our next meeting now?” Remember, a “yes” without a how means nothing.
2. For those times when you require statements, financials, or data from prospects to determine if you can assist them, change your approach. Instead of inquiring, “Would you be willing to gather your statements and send them over?” ask, “Would it be too much to ask for your statements before our next meeting?” Remember, tone matters; ensure you ask with confidence and a reassuring voice – unapologetically.
3. Refrain from pushing prospects for a “yes.” Lean into questions that invite a “no.” As Chris Voss, the former FBI hostage negotiator and author of “Never Split the Difference,” suggests, a “No” can often lead to a more open and fruitful conversation.
4. When dealing with a hesitant prospect, pose questions like, “Are you against sharing what is keeping you from moving forward?” or “Would it be absurd to suggest we meet next time with your business partner (or spouse)?”
A client recently asked me whether these techniques can be devious and manipulative.
My Answer: The ethical use of neuroscience and psychology in sales revolves around sincerity, respect (identifying the prospect’s values and rights), and genuine care for the prospect’s needs and best interests. When these principles guide your actions, not only will you foster trust, but you’ll also ensure long-lasting, positive relationships. Using these techniques manipulatively will fail. You need to have a curious mindset and a presence in your conversation.