Lots of my clients are what we call maximizers; they are always seeking “the best”. They spend a lot of time researching (even when it doesn’t serve them) and get frustrated by how long it can take to make a decision on something like a pair of noise cancelling headphones. For a maximizer, there’s often no clear end to the research; you can always learn more, and so time gets out of control pretty quickly.

On the other side of the spectrum are the satisficers; they might have a high bar, but as soon as they find something that meets their criteria, they take action.

Now, just like most spectrums, it’s not better to be one or the other, but knowing where you tend to naturally be on the maximizer/satisficer spectrum will help you be more discerning about where you spend your time.

And since maximizers often feel they spend too much time on decisions that aren’t that important, I wanted to share the process I help my clients embrace when they are evaluating a product or service, and want to make a good decision in a reasonable amount of time without getting sidetracked by marketing speak and shiny objects.

And here’s a warning: If somehow you didn’t realize how nerdy I am, you’re about to! I think in spreadsheets. And evaluating products and services is a fantastic use for them even if you don’t think of yourself as a “spreadsheet person”. (Hey, no formulas involved! You can do it!)

So, the next time you need to make a big purchase, follow this process:

  1. Define your criteria
    1. Break out that spreadsheet. No, you don’t need Excel. If you’ve got a Gmail address, you’ve got access to Sheets (for free!) and that works just as well.
    2. Across the top row, in each cell enter all of the “must have” criteria or features (and you can also enter the “nice to haves” after).
    3. The lefthand column will represent the various options (products or vendors).
    4. Doing this exercise first will help ensure that you don’t get swayed by marketing for features that you don’t need or aren’t important to you.
  2. Narrow down the options
    1. Next, you have friends or colleagues who may have used or purchased this service or product in the past, send a quick email or post something on social media asking for recommendations.
    2. Additionally, do a Google search for the product and see what the top options are.
    3. Once you have recommendations from friends/colleagues/Google, enter them in the lefthand column, one per cell.
  3. Gather the data
    1. Now all you have to do is fill in the blanks! You can do this by checking out the company’s website and/or product page, by emailing their sales folks, or both.
  4. Evaluate the options
    1. Now you’ve got all the info you need to make a decision.
    2. Review your spreadsheet and eliminate any contender that’s missing one (or more) of your must-have criteria.
    3. Of the remaining options, which one has the most of your nice-to-have features?
    4. Is there a significant price differential between the option with the most nice-to-have features and one of the other options? If so, decide if that price difference is worth the extra features to you.
  5. Make a decision and move forward!
    1. Now you get to bask in the glory of knowing that you did your due diligence and that your efforts were comprehensive without being overkill.

Want a couple of additional pro tips. Here ya go!:

  • For services, turn your list of feature requirements into an email template and send it to the sales email address for each vendor so they can do the work of filling out the details.
  • Many companies have a “one sheet” comparing their product or service to others on the market. Ask for (or Google) this document to make quick work of filling out your requirements spreadsheet.