As business owners, salespeople and customer service reps, our job is to create the clearest communication possible. Yet we often confuse, and sometimes alienate, clients and prospects when we present their options tangled up with our opinions.
How do options and opinions get tangled up together? How can we prevent this confusion in our communication?
Options refer to “something that may be chosen” (Merriam Webster). These can be viewed as a list of actions, products or events that your customer can consider and then decide on one or two or more that they want to purchase or accept. While the customer’s decision may be based on some emotion on their part, communicating options is a logical process.
You might present options as a numbered list, or in a particular order based on things like price or date or location. You are providing your customer or prospect with facts, based on your discussions with them, and then stepping back and allowing them time and space to make a decision.
No matter what the client or prospect decides, you learn something about them, their needs and how to grow your relationship. Even if they don’t choose any of the options you present, you still learn more about their needs.
Opinions can be defined as “belief stronger than impression and less strong than positive knowledge” or “a formal expression of judgment or advice by an expert” (Merriam Webster). Sharing your opinions with customers and prospects is often important and very valuable.
An opinion is best expressed with a preamble such as “Based on my experience …” or “What I’ve noticed …” or “My preference is …” or “What others are sharing with me …”. While this information may indeed be logical, it also includes your personal, and sometimes emotional, biases.
When we mix options with opinions we can create confusion, annoyance and often lose the opportunity to grow a relationship with a client or prospect. For example, a service provider sent me an email with several options for our next step. Beside each option, they included an opinion:
*We could do this for this result, but I have heard that this can add some time delays …
*So we could do this, but perhaps we want to do something else entirely …
The options are there but they are entwined with other bits of information that muddied my decision making. I had a cranky reaction to this bit of communication and felt a bit manipulated. Either the company wants to work with me and provide me with options to consider, or they want to work with me but not be straightforward with facts and their thoughts.
In the end, I chose to walk away … and write this blog post. Now I’d love to hear your thoughts.