The Sales Push: “When Push Comes to Nudge”

Have you ever been pushed before?

Whether it’s delivered by a person or a strong gust of wind, being pushed feels unsettling. That’s because it’s throws us from center of gravity against our will.

I bring this up because I talk to a lot of salesmen who often use the word “push.” They’ll talk about their patented “aggressive sales push” to convince a hesitant customer. Or they’ll institute a “product push” to clear unwanted inventory.

On the outside, it doesn’t sound very appealing. On the inside, a sales push can be hell.

Streamers and balloons in all corners of your periphery. Sales staff lurking around every corner. Loudmouths on the public address system emphatically speaking in hyperbole.

It’s a mess of desperation. And customers are smarter than that.

So when or if you ever think you need to push your services on prospects, think again. There’s another method that drives more sales while dually supporting a customer’s freedom of choice.

“Nudge,” a book by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, presents the idea of “choice architecture.” In an interview with, Thaler and Sunstein explain what it means.  

Choice architecture is the context in which you make your choice. Suppose you go into a cafeteria. What do you see first, the salad bar or the burger and fries stand? Where’s the chocolate cake? Where’s the fruit? These features influence what you will choose to eat, so the person who decides how to display the food is the choice architect of the cafeteria. All of our choices are similarly influenced by choice architects. The architecture includes rules deciding what happens if you do nothing; what’s said and what isn’t said; what you see and what you don’t. Doctors, employers, credit card companies, banks, and even parents are choice architects.

We show that by carefully designing the choice architecture, we can make dramatic improvements in the decisions people make, without forcing anyone to do anything. For example, we can help people save more and invest better in their retirement plans, make better choices when picking a mortgage, save on their utility bills, and improve the environment simultaneously.

In their book, Thaler and Sunstein say that most people spend more time picking out a new TV than they do choosing the health plan or retirement investment strategy. This is for two reasons.

First, they say people tend to procrastinate more when the decision is a tough one. Too much information can overload them, causing them to delay the decision further or just say yes to the default option just to get it all over with.

And second, Thaler and Sunstein said that high stakes situations or complicated decisions can create tension and anxiety in some people, causing them to pursue and/or prefer an “auto-pilot” lifestyle.

OK, let’s apply this to your business.

What choices do you give your prospects? “Yes” and “no” are not enough.

Do you bombard your prospects with every possible perk of every insurance plan on your menu? That’s a fatal mistake.

Do you encourage them to purchase the plan that best suits them? Or the one that is most profitable to you?

Are you attending to their hesitancy? Or are you ignoring it hoping that it’ll blow over?

The point to all this is to remind you that you are selling a product that will have a big effect on your prospects’ lives. You need to cater to a prospect’s indecision by creating a comfortable atmosphere and making each of their choices digestible.

John McCarthy
Managing Editor,


Related Articles:

“Listening” – The One Crucial Sales Skill that Every Agent Can Improve

4 Ways to Prepare for a Crucial Client Prospect Meeting

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Brian J. Kay, Executive Director, Leads4Insurance
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