The low-ball technique is a very effective persuasion and sales technique made use of in psychology and marketing. How does this technique work and what are the examples of the same, that is what we will tackle in this PsycholoGenie post.
DID YOU KNOW?
The low-ball technique is very similar to the switch-and-bait technique, however the latter deals with a larger market that includes lots of products as opposed to the former which is usually an interaction between two parties and mainly deals with money.
If one is able to track even a slight inkling of the way in which the human mind works and is able to manipulate or influence it, then one can be assured of persuading people and getting them to comply to the demands (or otherwise) that are placed on them. Which is why, there are several compliance and persuasion techniques that are made use of quite liberally, not only in the area of marketing and sales, but in general life as well. One such technique that is employed rather commonly is that of the low-ball technique, and it is known to garner excellent results.
In this PsycholoGenie article, we will understand what the low-ball technique means and provide examples of the same.
WHAT DOES LOW-BALL TECHNIQUE MEAN?
The low-ball technique works on the principle where the primary offer is made out to be extremely appealing and when the persuader has agreed to the sale, the price of the product is raised with the sole intention of earning a profit. Given its basic nature, this technique is often referred to as a manipulative technique and the name suggests exactly that.
For the technique to successfully work, however, there are certain criteria that have to be fulfilled, in that, primarily, the way in which the pitch has been sold, has to be perfect. The technique involves a 4-step progression process, which is as follows.
1. Make an offer to the customer or the persuader that you’re sure to be accepted given all its attractive features (make it sound like the best deal ever, being a great steal, make it cheap, easy, and/or quick).
2. Next, get some form of commitment from them like a down payment or a handshake. This gives it a serious turn.
3. Get them to understand that they are agreeing to this deal on their own free will and that there is no external pressure or otherwise that is being used.
4. Finally, change the agreement to the one you actually wanted to pitch, which involves more expenditure for the person. This may lead to some (or a lot of) complaining and displeasure; however, if the low-ball has been used correctly, people tend to agree to the changed sale as well.
WHY DOES THE TECHNIQUE WORK?
The low-ball technique plays on the psychology of the human mind to manipulate a situation and draw benefit thus. The reasons why people agree to the change in the sales pitch and agree to a deal that has finally turned out to be far less profitable than was originally promised are many.
► It usually has to do with the tendency of the human mind to want to be consistent with their actions. Thus, when they have once agreed to a thing, they want to continue to stand by that decision.
► So also, many people think that verbally committing to the deal or expressing interest in it is a final turn of events and award it a finality, something that cannot be undone or reversed. Thus, even if they have only shaken hands with the salesperson, they will take that as the final deal and want to continue with the purchase/promise.
► When the person agrees to the initial sale or request, it evokes in him feelings of extreme joy and happiness. If he does not agree to the changed sale, these feelings could very well be replaced by being sad, which he is not ready to deal with. So, since he has already made room for that product in his life, he goes ahead with the sale.
► The final argument that he mulls over is when he rationalizes with the fact that the increased price in this sale is not much higher than the offers made at other places. So instead of forgoing this sale now and finding another deal, he thinks it is better to simply go ahead with the ongoing one and walk home with the product instead of going home empty-handed.
► That is why the low-ball technique is so effective in sales.
► Along with these factors, one other factor that should be considered is that the second offer should not steer too far in nature from the first offer and ideally, the second offer should be made by the person who made the first offer.
Cialdini, Cacioppo, Bassett, and Miller conducted an experiment in 1978 to demonstrate the effectiveness of the low-ball technique. A group of students were randomly divided into two separate groups. The first group was asked to come to the university at 7 am to be a part of a psychology experiment. Only 24% of the students agreed to this arrangement, given that it was so early in the morning. The second group was first asked to help in a psychology experiment but no time was specified. 56% agreed to be a part of the experiment. The low-ball was then introduced and they were told that they would have to be at the university at 7 am. They were also told that they could opt out of the study if they so wished. Interestingly, none of them backed out and on the day of the experiment, 95% of the students from the second group showed up. Hence proving that low-balling works.
LOW-BALL TECHNIQUE EXAMPLES
The following examples have been given in the dialog form to help you understand this concept better.
Example – Store Employee to Customer
Original Pitch – With this store card, you will get a 20% discount on all the purchases made in the next 3 months.
Final Pitch – You will have to pay a sum of $50 to become a permanent member and then you’ll be granted this card without any extra payment.
Example – Friend to Friend
Original Pitch – How would you like to play with my pet dog for the whole day while I’m away?
Final Pitch – Before you play with him, you will have to feed him his food and get him to take his medicine. And if he gets sick you might have to take him to the vet.
Example – Jewelry Store Attendant to Customer
Original Pitch – This ring is a one-of-a-kind piece that has been priced at a very low $200.
Final Pitch – The manager says that there has been a lot of bidding on the ring and the latest offer on it is $250. Do you still want it?
Even though there is direct manipulation involved in this sales technique, it still works because of the psychology of the human mind and the varied ideals and thoughts that human beings harbor. No wonder then that masters of persuasion thrive well in sales and marketing.