Learn About Classic Sales Techniques

selling wine
Using classic sales techniques.

Savvy salespeople know how to use psychological techniques to help keep a sale moving forward. These strategies work by breaking down or sneaking past your prospect's natural resistance to be sold. Since all of these approaches are manipulative, you'll need to take care in using them. For example, don't use such a tactic to sell something that isn't really a good fit for a prospect. However, using these techniques to gently nudge a prospect out of their inertia is usually fine.

Foot in the Door

This very old sales approach is based on getting the prospect to agree to something small, and then asking for something bigger. The classic example would be selling a small product at a very low price (also known as a loss leader), and then later selling the same prospect something more costly. This technique is most useful for non-profit sales and many charities use this technique, asking for a small favor or donation and then gradually requesting more and more assistance. Foot-in-the-door is less useful with for-profit sales but can still be effective if the initial request and later requests are closely related.

Door in the Face

The opposite of the foot-in-the-door technique, door-in-the-face starts out with a large request that you know the prospect will decline followed immediately by a smaller request (the second request being what you really wanted the prospect to do).

It works for two reasons: first, your prospect will often feel bad about having to refuse your initial request, and will be more inclined to agree to the smaller request in order to make it up to you; and second, in comparison with your very large request, the second request will seem insignificant.

Door-in-the-face works only if the second request is made immediately after the first when the feeling of guilt and the contrast between the two is the strongest.

And That's Not All

Familiar to infomercial viewers, this technique involves rattling off a series of gifts or concessions. There are several possible variations to this tactic. You can tell someone all the things you plan to do. (“Not only will we get the product to you by Tuesday, we'll ship it at no charge and we'll even install it for you for free.”) You can list an increasing number of discounts. (“As a corporate customer we'd normally give you 10% off the list price, and since you've also been with us for more than a year we'd make that a 20% discount, but in this case I'm going to knock a full 30% off the price.”)

Or, you can start with a high price and then list a series of reductions. (“This item is priced at $2,000. Since we have an overstock, we're selling it for $1,600. But because you are a loyal customer, I'm going to reduce the price to $1,500 for you today.”) And-that's-not-all works best if you don't give the prospect a lot of time to think about it, so making it a limited time offer is far more effective.

Break and Fix

The break-and-fix technique knocks your prospect out of his normal mindset and makes him more willing to agree to what you say next.

It involves saying something odd or disturbing and then immediately following it with something rational. In one study, psychologists told one group of customers that a pack of eight cards cost $3.00. They told a second group that “a package of eight cards costs 300 pennies, which is a bargain.” Listing the price as 300 pennies disrupted the customers' normal train of thought and made them more agreeable to the following statement about it being a bargain. In the study, only 40% of the first group bought the cards but 80% of the second group made the purchase.

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