Sales: Commitment and Consistency

Many of us humans are very concerned about our image or how we appear to be to other people.

We do not want to look "flighty", "fanciful" or like a "flake".
We want to be perceived as someone who has intelligent, thought-out views that we hold to and as people that keep our word.

This issue is about using the human desire to keep Commitments and appear Consistent to help us influence them in the sales process.

Many of the examples in this issue come from the excellent book "Influence" by Robert Cialdini which I have summarised in my webpage
influence summary.

A study done by a pair of Canadian psychologists uncovered something fascinating about people at the racetrack. 
Just after placing a bet, they are much more confident of their horse's chances of winning than they are immediately before laying down that bet.
Of course, nothing about the horse's chances actually shifts it's the same horse, on the same track, in the same field; but in the minds of those betters, its prospects improve significantly once that ticket is purchased.

What is happening here? 
It is, quite simply, our nearly obsessive desire to be (and to appear) consistent with what we have already done. 

Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment.
Those pressures will cause us to respond in ways that justify our earlier decision.

Let's look at another example.

Large toy manufacturers have their big sales season around Christmas.
Of course, after Christmas sales go into a slump. 
Their problem is in motivating post holiday spent-out parents to reach down into their pockets for the price of yet another plaything.

How do the big toy companies jack up their January and February sales?

"They start prior to Christmas with attractive TV ads for certain special toys.
The kids, naturally, want what they see and extract Christmas promises for these items from their parents. 
Now here's where the genius of the companies' plan comes in.
They undersupply the stores with the toys they've gotten the parents to promise.
Most parents find those things sold out and are forced to substitute other toys of equal value. 
The toy manufacturers, of course, make a point of supplying the stores with plenty of these substitutes.
Then, after Christmas, the toy companies start running the ads again for the other, special toys.
That juices up the kids to want those toys more than ever.
They go running to their parents whining, 
"You promised, you promised," 
and the adults go trudging off to the store to live up dutifully to their words."

Having made the commitment these parents had little choice but to live up to their word otherwise they would appear inconsistent in the eyes of their children.

So, as salespeople we look to get our prospects and customers to make commitments.
Isn't that what a trial close does? 
"If I could get the items to you by Friday would you place an order now?"
"If the price was reduced by 10%, you say you'd buy more from us, how much more would you buy?" 
Of course, when the customer answers if you drop your price by 10% they are obliged to place an order for the bigger amount.

Lets look at another example of how this principle works, 
(example once again supplied from "Influence" by Cialdini)

A marketer "called a sample of residents as part of a survey he was taking and asked them to predict what they would say if asked to spend three hours collecting money for the American Cancer Society.
Of course, not wanting to seem uncharitable to the survey taker or to themselves, many of these people said that they would volunteer.
The consequence of this sly commitment procedure was a 700 percent increase in volunteers when, a few days later, a representative of the American Cancer Society did call and ask for neighbourhood canvassers."

Did you note that number, a 700% increase!!

When you get your customer to sign a contract or a sales agreement there are certain terms and conditions on that agreement.
Later on, if there is any problem, (say for example the customer was late paying or was using substantially less product than agreed to), you would show the agreement, point to their signature and say, 
"You agreed to …, that is your signature, isn't it?"

Another example of how this principle works is the strategy is to obtain a large purchase by starting with a small one.

This is used a lot on the Internet these days. 
You will be given the opportunity to purchase a very cheap item to sample the wares of the site.
Of course, also available on the site are an array of other products that steadily increase in price.
You will, at some time, be invited to buy the next most expensive item.
When invited you may be reminded of the "special deal" you were given on the first item.
By the way this is an attempt to use another of Cialdini's principles of influence, namely Reciprocity 
(I've done something for you now you are obliged to do something for me in return). 
Any small sale will start the process. 
Often, the first sale may be at a loss, because the purpose of that first transaction is not profit, it is Commitment.
Further purchases, even much larger ones, are expected to flow. 
It's called the foot-in-the-door technique. 

How can you use this technique in your business?

I challenge you now to sit down and think about where you could apply this principle in your business. 
You would already be applying it in some way but think of a new more proactive way to use this principle.
Then do an experiment.
If you are about to embark on a sales campaign, market some of the items without applying this principle and market the others applying the principle and measure the difference in results.
Let me know what differences you notice.

Here's to YourSalesSuccess. 

Click here for another article on Influence like Persuasion article No32