When you are struggling to sell your higher-end products, introduce less expensive options. You may be surprised to discover your clients still purchase the more expensive goods.

Why? Because you're employing a psychological phenomenon called the "Law of Contrast." When two options are presented side-by-side, the law of contrast has shown that people will choose the preferred option, even at a higher price.

This tendency can become a special friend in these days of 1970s lumber prices and 21st century operating costs. It did recently for Kevin, a sales manager for a Midwestern building materials dealer.

Kevin's builder clients, like many nationwide, were trying to make their new houses more appealing to prospective home buyers by selling them cheaper. The builders sought to do this the old-fashioned way: putting less-expensive materials into the product. That desire got to Kevin, who in turn asked my opinion about bringing in a lower-grade window line.

Kevin's organization was reluctant to do that. As a supplier of high-end windows, Kevin's company feared it would bastardize its high-margin product line while potentially jeopardizing a relationship with its valued supplier-partner. But if it didn't do that, the company felt, it would have to reduce prices on high-end products–with disastrous financial implications–or else lose business.

I recommended a third option: bring in lower-priced products that would enable Kevin's clients to compete better while permitting his company to hold margins.

The implementation of a traditional "good, better, best" product alignment made sense for Kevin's company, and it does for yours as well. In the end, Kevin's window sales benefited from the presence of more options, and his sales of high-end product have not suffered.

When your salespeople follow Kevin's example, remember to use three simple tactics:

1. Lead With Your Best. Nobody wants to buy an inferior product. Thus, you should always lead with the option that provides the most value. This is the product the end user wants and the product upon which your clients build their reputations. If it fits into the budget, they will want to use the product that helps them sell their homes and remodeling projects.

2. Introduce Your Alternative Options Proactively. Don't wait for the client to push back on the price and force you to scramble with numbers on an alternative product. That's a psychological letdown for your clients. When given only one choice, they will feel forced to shop alternatives. In the end, you will not be the alternative of choice. Provide your clients with alternatives that still keep them shopping their various options with you.

3. Believe In Each Product. The key to your success with this kind of sales program is the belief in each product. If you become emotionally attached to the qualities of your best products and feel your better and good lines are inferior choices, your clients will sense this emotion. The reality is that some people have budget constraints. You should help them buy the product that offers the most quality possible within those confines.

As a provider of materials, your role as a product broker is to shop the market and provide options and recommendations. This is a good practice for times of economic challenge as well as abundance. You may not sell your top-tier products every time, but you will at least hold your margins and keep your clients satisfied. Moreover, the law of contrast has a potent psychological effect that directs people to choose the best option in spite of potential costs. By using the law of contrast, your clients will buy the more expensive product. And your profits will improve.

Rick Davis is president of Building Leaders, Inc., a Chicago-based sales training organization. 773.769.4409. E-mail: [email protected]