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How Many Options To Include In Your Consulting Proposal?

How Many Options To Include In Your Consulting Proposal?

Liston Witherill
Liston Witherill
4 min read

What’s your favorite kind of jam?

Whatever the flavor is, you can surely find it in the store. If you enter a supermarket and you go to where the jam lives, you’ll find dozens or even a hundred of varieties of jam.

People like having choices. My favorite jam is raspberry because it’s obviously the best fruit flavor across the board (I dare you to disagree).

But maybe you like strawberry. That’s why there are so many flavors available.

But here’s the thing: more choices are not necessarily better. As in, you’re actually less likely to buy jam as the number of jam flavors on the shelf goes up.

Our brain works the same whether it’s a jar of jam or aconsulting proposal we’re sending to clients.

We like having options, but too many options can be stifling to making a decision.

So, including one option in your consulting proposal is ok, three options are great, but ten is just plain too many. One of the reasons for this is something called cognitive load. The more choices we’re faced with, the more our brain hurts and the less likely we are to defer or forego the decision entirely.

And imagine how your client feels when you plop down a consulting proposal with 10 options, or even 50 itemized services you can provide. Why are you making them do the work?

Limiting your options is the key, and developing packages based on outcomes and value is what you should strive for. What’s the right number of options?

Read more and find out how to find out how many options to include in your proposal.

What You’ll Learn In This Article

  • How Many Options Are Too Many?
  • How Many Options To Include In Your Consulting Proposal
  • Why You Should Package Your Options

How Many Options Are Too Many?

Let’s go back to jam, shall we? Good, I love that subject.

When I go to the store, I often get either orange or raspberry jam. Even when confronted with other different fruits or brands, I usually buy raspberry jam. Especially if I’m in a hurry or not in a great mood, I make a quick decision and then move on.

Finding something new and making a decision takes brain power. Having more options to sort through actually makes the decision a lot harder.

Your clients experience it, too. Too many options create demand for brain power, and who wants to expend all of their energy on a single decision?

Showing your clients just a few options in your consulting proposal, based on the outcomes they want, will work better than showing a single option or way too many options (i.e. more than 5).

That’s why I think your proposals should be a bit of a Goldilocks solution. Don’t give your clients only the option they’re most likely to choose. Instead, try to find a number of options that do the best job of helping the client get additional value.

This also means helping your clients understand the best way to work with you. This is often your middle- or highest-priced offering. Just don’t stuff your proposal with an overwhelming number of options, or your clients may decide they don’t need any jam after all.

How Many Options To Include In Your Consulting Proposal

I mentioned the Goldilocks number, but how does that apply to a real proposal?

Simply put: The Goldilocks number is the number of options that, when you include them in your proposal, cover only the most important and desirable outcomes for your clients.

Plus, going from one option to three or four changes the client’s perspective of what you can offer.

If you offer just one option, your client will probably ask themselves: “should I work with this person?

But if you offer multiple options, your client may instead ask: “which option should I pick?”

If you offer a single option, the client can either work with you or not. You’re giving them a 50/50 decision. On the other hand, with three options, your client has now three options besides not working with you. Three options with three different levels of value and the option of not working with you.

That, of course, doesn’t imply that more options are always better. There’s a limit to “more” before you create (quickly) diminishing returns. Make sure that you include 3 or so options in your proposal and make them all concretely different so it is a clear escalation and value.

And when I say value, I mean the value your client experiences, and also the price. This model also helps your clients make an informed decision that’s in accordance with what will really help their business.

Why You Should Package Your Options

Packaging means offering certain solutions based on the situations your clients are most likely to encounter.

But to do this effectively, you need to learn about your clients.

Think of questions like:

  • What is your client experiencing?
  • What can you offer to help them, based on their experience?
  • What’s a low, medium, and high level of help you can offer?

You have to gather intel about them to nail your packaging. If you’ve prioritized learning about your client during your conversations with them, you’ll know exactly what to offer.

Another important thing to keep in mind when packaging your options is that people are more likely to choose the middle option, so you have to make that option attractive while making it obvious when and why someone would choose the lower or higher package. Your job is to create packages that give your clients a clear direction on the best way to work with you; that’s why you don’t want to create infinite options.


Key Takeaways

The more options we have after a certain threshold, the more confused we get. That’s why finding just the right number of options can be a tricky business.

But if you’re like me, you’ll probably focus on showing the client three options with scaling levels of value. By doing that, you’re giving the client more choices while increasing your chances of getting that job.

Without options, it’s a 50/50 chance of nailing that job, but with three options, you’re increasing the odds and giving your clients a greater sense of value

Last, I hope these handy tips will guide you to find your own Goldilocks number of options.

  • Even when clients are looking for options, they have an idea of what they want
  • Always prioritize learning during your conversations with clients, not selling to them
  • Focus on showing your client the value of working with you
  • Packaging your options is a great way to quantify the value of your service options
  • Try to profile your clients and create packages based on their needs