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If you are in sales, I’m sure you’ve heard the adage “If you confuse them you lose them.” This has never been truer than today, in a time of information overload.

Last week I heard Daniel Levitin, New York Times bestselling author of “The Organized Mind,” speak about the subject to a sold out crowd in Northern California. (You may have noticed by the last name that we’re related. I am his proud sister).

Dr. Levitin shares some interesting facts about how much information the average American takes in today, and more importantly about how it affects our ability to make decisions.

Levitin informs us, “During our leisure time (not counting work), each of us processes 34,000 gigabytes worth of information per day. That’s the equivalent of 100,000 words. Between 1986 and 2011 we’ve increased the amount of information we‘ve take in by five times. In 1986 the average supermarket stocked 9,000 products, today that number has ballooned to 40,000.”

With so much information, and so many product choices, we have trouble ranking the importance of decisions… and our brains don’t automatically do this.

In his book, Levitin goes on to say, “Recent research shows that people who were asked to make a series of meaningless decisions, for example, whether to write with a ball point pen or a felt pen – showed poorer impulse control and lack of judgment about

subsequent decisions. It’s as though our brains are configured to make a certain number of decisions per day and once we reach that limit, we can’t make any more, regardless of how important they are.”

So what does all of this mean for salespeople?

• Don’t ask your customers to make too many decisions in the sales process. You don’t want to tire them out for the big decision you’re going to ask them to make at the end.

• Getting a series of yeses is one thing, but asking them too many difficult questions and trial closes, in this day of information overload, can and will burn out your customers.

• Remember the conventional wisdom of “know all you tell, but don’t tell all you know.”

• Find out what’s important to your customer, and focus on sharing only your top three features and benefits so as not to overwhelm them.

• Make your own biggest decisions at the beginning of your workday. Our President reported as saying he makes his most critical decisions in the morning when his mind is the sharpest.

In the age of Information Overload, be careful to take in that information which is most important to you and filter out the rest. Prioritize your decision-making and remember: whether it’s a product, a decision, or your attitude, you do have a choice!


  • Alastair Bartlett says:

    You know Shari, I think I recognised that information overload existed but I’d never really thought about it properly until I read this, so thank you. I’ve been on a ‘research’ tip recently (specifically on how to get more clients :)) and I realised that I was reading about 6 different websites on each subject I was looking for – and perhaps not reading any of them properly! It think with this article being nice and short and to the point, it’s helped me see where I’ve been going wrong. So thanks again. If we can help you in any way, please don’t hesitate to ask 🙂 Alastair from ACT Mobile Solutions.

  • Shari Levitin says:

    Thanks very much for your comments and so glad you liked it!

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