Reader’s Report: From a Former TV and Stereo Salesperson

“For quite a while, I worked for a major retailer in their Television and Stereo Department. Salespeople in this department are paid on a commission basis; however, continued employment was, and still is, based on the ability to sell service contracts rather than merchandise. Company policy was that, for every ten sales you made, you had to sell at least four service contracts. Failure to bring your service contract sales up to expected levels for two consecutive months resulted in threats, relocation, or termination.

“Once I recognized the importance of meeting my sales contract quota, I devised a plan that used the rejection then retreat technique, although I didn’t know its name at the time: A customer had the opportunity to buy from one to three years’ worth of service contract coverage at the time of sales. Most of the sales staff attempted to just sell a single year policy. That was my intention as well, since a one year contract counted just as much toward my quota as a three-year contract did.

Initially, however, when making my sales pitch, I would advocate the longest and most expensive plan, realizing that most people would not be willing to spend that much (about $140). But this gave me an excellent opportunity later, after being rejected in my sincere attempt to sell the three year plan, to retreat to the one year extension and its relatively small $34.95 price, which I was thrilled to get.

This proved highly effective, as I sold sales contracts to an average of seventy percent of my customers, who seemed very satisfied with the purchase while others in my department clustered around forty percent. I never told anyone how I did it until now.”

Notice how, as is usually the case, use the rejection then retreat tactic engages the action of the contrast principle as well. Not only did the $140 initial request make the $34.95 request seem like a retreat, it made that second request seem smaller too.

This is a short sample from the national bestseller Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini, PhD. There are many ways to influence people, whether it is in the sales arena or any business venture. When we want people to accept what we are offering (selling), we must find ways to get them to the Yes. Sometimes shooting for the stars yet landing on the moon is the way to go.

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