My previous post Odd ways to increase your sales  seems to have interested a lot of people, so I thought I’d discuss a few more techniques to increase sales. Before I begin discussing compliance techniques, I should point out that they will neither guarantee you a sale, nor convert a firm “no” into a sale. All they do is make it easier for someone who has not made up their mind to make up their mind in your favour. This is important as their commitment is still their choice and you are not forcing them into it (Freedman and Fraser refer to it as compliance without pressure). As someone trying to get a sale, you need to always respect this, and if someone says no accept that as their decision. These techniques are distinct from those involving obedience, where there is an authority or power imbalance, and conformity where there is no direct request to do something.

Foot-in-the-door technique

This is where you make a small request which is likely to be agreed to and then a larger request which is what you actually want to achieve. Agreement to the initial (small) request makes people more likely to agree to the (larger) target request than would have been the case if the latter had been presented on its own.

I joke that my wife is the master of this technique – she claims it’s always unintentional, but I’m not so sure. For example, she’ll ask me to put her coffee mug in the dishwasher, then after I’ve agreed, tell me I’ll need to empty it first and might want to also load all the other dishes from the sink. And yes, despite knowing how I’ve been goaded into it, I still do all the tasks.

Some research studies which support the effectiveness of this include Freedman and Fraser (1966) who canvassed a residential neighbourhood in Palo Alto, California where they asked women to complete a brief survey about the range of household products that they used.

After a period of three days these same women (the experimental group) were asked if they would allow a team of researchers to catalogue the types of household products they had in the house for a 2 hour period. In this instance 55% of the women said yes compared to 22% in a control group who only received the target request.

In a separate study Freedman and Fraser asked some people to sign a petition or to place a small sign in the front window of their homes for “Keep California Beautiful” or for a safe driving campaign. Most participants agreed to this initial request. The residences that were bypassed during this process became the control group.

Different researchers returned to the neighbourhood two weeks later and approached all of the households and asked to put a large safe driving campaign sign in their front yard. Those who complied with the initial request had a compliance rate of 54% for the larger request, in comparison to the control group whose compliance level was 16%. Think about that. They obtained a 337% increase in people displaying what was termed “an ugly billboard” in their front yard just by asking them to put a small sticker or sign a petition first.

As an author you could use this by having a cheap promotional item which you get people to purchase and then ask them to buy something bigger from you. I’m experimenting with using Mug Punter like this – it’s only 48 pages long and cheap to produce, but if someone has bought that from me, then I can follow up with asking them to buy my full-length books.

Two other compliance techniques are Door-in-Face and Low-balling. They are discussed in my next blog post compliance techniques part 2.