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Sales Techniques – Tricks Used To Influence You To Buy

It’s probably no secret that there are psychological principles that influence human behavior. But did you know that they’re often used by professionals to get us to buy from them? I’m reading Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, and learning about how these principles are used in everyday situations.

Be aware of the following sales techniques, know when you get put into these situations, and learn how to not let it affect you unfavorably.

The Reciprocity Rule

The reciprocity rule says that we usually repay what another person has provided us. So if someone does us a favor, we try to do one for them in return. By virtue of this rule, we’re almost obligated to the future repayment of favors.

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For instance, the book mentions a time when the Disabled American Veterans organization sent a mail appeal for donations. The appeal alone only created an 18% response rate. However, when the mailing included the unsolicited gift of address labels, the success rate practically doubled to 35%.

The power of the reciprocity rule can also be found in the use of free samples. As a gift to the recipient, the sample engages the reciprocity rule. It creates a sense of indebtedness, while appearing only intended to inform. So if you send a gift card to someone for $10, they know the value and can even make money posting it on a discounted gift cards for sale website and get $8 or $9 in cash, so they should feel a sense of indebtedness to you.

Take Costco for instance. Everybody knows about the free samples of cheese, crackers, meat, and everything else imaginable. While there are some who just go for the samples, I’m sure there are also many others who actually buy the item that they sample. Otherwise, why would Costco continue this if it didn’t produce a profit?  Of course Costco has excellent customer service and a great returns policy, but the free samples help.

The Contrast Principle

The contrast principle says that if the second item is only fairly different from the first, we usually see it as more different than it really is.

Clothing stores tell their salespeople to sell the expensive item first. So suppose you tell a clothing salesman that you’re looking to buy a suit and a dress shirt. Normally, you may think that if you spent a lot of money on the suit, you’d hesitate to spend much more for the shirt.

But the contrast principle states that you should still sell the suit first. Why? Because when it’s time to look at dress shirts, they won’t seem as expensive in comparison to the suit you just bought.

So if you were just looking to buy a dress shirt, you may normally cringe at the thought of spending $40 for it. But if you just gave up $400 for a suit, an additional $40 for a shirt won’t seem as excessive.

The contrast principle also works in the opposite direction. If the salesperson presented the less expensive shirt first, then following up with the more expensive suit will make the suit seem even more expensive than it actually is.

The Rejection-Then-Retreat Technique

The author recalls an experience where a boy scout asked him to buy a $5 ticket to the circus. The circus was the last place he wanted to be, so he declined.

The boy countered by offering him less expensive chocolate bars for a dollar each. Guess what happened? The author bought two, even though he doesn’t like chocolate!

What happened?

The boy scout first offered the more expensive product, expecting to get turned down. Conceding this “defeat” but remaining unfazed, he moved on to the cheaper product – the product he wanted to sell all along.

Since the boy conceded defeat first, his “target” will usually feel obligated to concede something as well. In this case, the author turned down the first offer, so he was likely to concede and go along with the second offer.

How To Negate The Effects Of The Reciprocity Rule

Fortunately, you don’t need to let the reciprocity rule affect you every time. You can stop its effect by refusing to allow anyone to use it in the first place.

Suppose someone from the local fire department asks if you’d like to have your house checked for fire hazards, and to give you a fire extinguisher, both for free.

This is a favor that warrants a return favor.

But if the employee didn’t leave after his visit, but rather began a sales presentation for an alarm system, then his main motive was to sell you the alarm system.

Since a favor is meant to follow a favor, rather than a sales tactic, you can stop the effect of the reciprocity rule by redefining the event. By seeing the fire extinguisher not as a favor, but a sales tactic, you’ll be free to decline or accept his offer without being affected by the rule.

Have you noticed situations in which these techniques were used on you? How did you react?

This post was included in the Carnival of Money Stories at Complex Search, and the Best of Money Carnival at Green Panda Treehouse.

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