Not too long ago we talked about the Foot-In-The-Door principle where the sales person makes a small request of a prospect and, once that’s granted, follows up with a larger “ask.”
Just the other day I came across an almost opposite influence strategy called The Door-In-The-Face – DITF.
Here, the seller begins with a very big request that’s rejected on the spot, like having the door slammed in their face. The seller then immediately follows up with a simpler and more reasonable request that’s much easier for the buyer to go along with. Fundraisers often use DITF quite effectively.
Right out of the gate they ask for a large contribution with the assumption that there’s no way people will be willing to comply with that request. When the potential donor politely refuses: “Joe, that kind of money is way out of my league,” they straightaway ask for a much smaller amount, which the donor happily agrees to contribute.
What’s actually going on here?
Researchers point to different psychological mechanisms behind the DITF effect. The compliance effect, self-presentation, or subtle guilt may all be involved. But basically, people are motivated to reciprocate favors. We’re universally inclined to give something in return for getting something – in this case, the fundraiser’s more moderate request.
That works well for charitable contributions, but how could we effectively apply it in the realm of sales?
Insurance agents might use the DITF technique by initially asking if they can review the coverage for a prospect’s entire business enterprise – the basic package, workers’ comp, commercial auto, right up to Employee Benefits, 401k, etc. When that rather presumptuous request is rejected out of hand, the agent then asks if they can at least quote on a portion of the upcoming P&C renewal. The prospect is relieved, and concedes to that much smaller wish.
Agents might also use the DITF technique to secure pricing or coverage concessions in their negotiations with insurance company underwriters.
Start big, ask for the stars and the sky, and when that fails, regroup and request something much smaller and more reasonable.
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