Face it: the solution you’re selling isn’t perfect

“Transparency sells better than perfection,” so why not just own up to it? It’s not easy to admit to buyers that your solution has its shortcomings. But that’s often exactly what’s necessary to increase win rates.

People prefer transparency over perfection

Todd Caponi argues in his talk on Transparency, Decision Science and the Future of Sales that, as in the case with online sales, people are more likely to buy an ‘imperfect’ product or service than a supposedly flawless one.

PowerReviews found that 96% of people who make medium to high consideration purchases online read product reviews before making the purchase. An interesting finding is that 82% of buyers seek out the negative reviews first. People want to know what to expect and what risks are involved. Five-star reviews don’t give us that information. What was most interesting, however, is that 4.2 to 4.5-star rated products sold best!


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Why do people prefer imperfection?

The preference for imperfection has to do with the way we make decisions, especially under pressure. Various studies suggest we make emotional rather than rational decisions. Even our rational postures are emotional responses. Caponi quotes neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio, who states, we’re “feeling machines who think, not thinking machines who feel.” We’re more prone to back up what we already feel with logic that supports it.

We feel uneasy when we’re influenced or pressured into making decisions and won’t choose to buy something simply because we’re given facts about it or about the advantages it offers. So, what’s different when we’re presented with facts about a product’s imperfections?

This removes the feeling of being pressured into buying something, and helps us trust the seller. And that trust is the differentiator – because we feel like the person selling the product is on our side.

What does this mean for selling?

Caponi suggests something very similar to Jeff Thull’s concept of diagnostic selling. Be open to the idea that not selling to the prospect you’re talking to, is a positive outcome. In fact, begin by looking for reasons not to sell to prospects.

He tells the story of how, instead of telling a prospect about the advantages of his product, he began by telling him what his competitors are better at. Counterintuitive, right? Yes, he wants to communicate to prospects: “If this is what you’re looking for, let us not waste any more of each other’s time.” He continues that it’s about telling them what they’re giving up, to get what you do offer.

IKEA is put forward as a good example of a brand that is comfortable with its shortcomings, so that it can be great at what it does offer. There’s no one to help you with the buying process in store or transport what you’ve purchased to your car. When you get home to assemble the furniture you bought, you know you will struggle to put it together, and yet people keep going back to them. Why? They know they will get modern Scandinavian furniture at a very affordable price. Buyers are willing to give up some things to get other great things. And IKEA is upfront about it.

Every product and service has its shortcomings. Are you willing to be transparent about those? Every buyer gives up some things in order to get other great things. Will you tell them what those are?