SELLING TECHNIQUES (2/4): The New York Street Seller’s Engagement Technique

Here is a second formidable and little known selling technique I have learned in New York
next to the Rockefeller Center, thanks to a street seller.

Many manipulators who exploit the difficulty of people to contradict themselves use it.

The New York Street Seller Example

We all know how difficult it is to decline the offer of a street seller with whom we
initiated a conversation.

This is why we generally avoid any kind of contact since we know that we are trapped simply
by saying hello.

The reason is that changing an attitude is difficult.

If you decide to be friendly with the street seller, turning down his offer that follows
would make you contradict yourself.

That is why manipulators push us first to accept an offer that doesn’t involve us so much,
and then propose immediately after another offer requiring a bigger investment.

This is the technique used by sellers who hand you postcards or books in the street.

By accepting them, it becomes harder to decline the offer that comes next, which often
implies giving money.

That’s exactly what happened to me when I was strolling around the Rockefeller Center in New York.

A street seller started to walk next to me, holding a stock of CDs in his left hand.

He was selling a CD of rap music he recorded.

When he asked me my name, I decided to answer him, which instantly put me into his ‘sales
funnel’.

Then, he took out a black marker and wrote my name on the CD jacket saying:

“Let me dedicate it to you.”

Since I decided to be kind by telling him my name, I felt a little bit trapped and as if I would
contradict myself if I refused his offer, and I bought his CD.

In fact, this street seller knew perfectly the power of this technique, since the signature
could be erased simply by rubbing it lightly with a finger. The same jacket could be used
again to hook another passerby.

In short, you got the idea:

The technique consists in engaging the victim in an action that doesn’t cost him much (like
saying his name), in order to ask him just after it money or to buy something. The trick is
that it leads the victim to contradict herself should she decide to refuse the offer.

The Hare Krishna sect generates millions of dollars every year using this technique.
Followers give flowers to passersby, and then ask them a gift. Before using this strategy, the
sect was on the verge of bankruptcy.

A Survival Technique

If one day you have the misfortune to beg in the street, this technique can save you.

A study showed that when someone asks a passerby the time before asking him money,
he could multiply his revenue by five.

The rule is the same: it is much harder to turn down a request when we have already said
yes before, even if it was only for a basic thing like telling the time.

How to Use This Strategy In Your Marketing

Many sellers use this technique, from free tastings in hypermarkets to trial offers.

Here again, the most advanced strategies are those of door-to-door sellers.

Here is an example related in the book Influence from Robert B. Cialdini:

A door-to-door saleswoman proposes to people a survey about the spare activities practiced
in their neighborhood.

Since the saleswoman was pretty and dressed sexy, many men let her in.

Then follows a long series of questions:

“Do you often go to the cinema? What sports do you practice?”

At the end of the survey, the saleswoman says something like:

“Given your answers, you could save a lot of money per year by subscribing to our discount
card.”

And shows a contract to be signed. By accepting the survey, the customer is trapped.

Worse, some victims even change the reality claiming they often go to restaurants or have
an intense social life just to be perceived as more attractive by the woman (who is sexy,
don’t forget).

Refusing the offer at the end of the survey would make them look like either idiots or
liars.

What Implications In Everyday’s Life?

Once we have committed to something, it is difficult to step back. And the more efforts
the initial commitment requires, the more difficult it becomes to contradict yourself.

That is why we often try to convince ourselves that a disappointing product we have spent
much money for is not that bad.

The same thing happens in a relationship.

Even by being unhappy for years, many people will never end a relationship because their
commitment was too important. It would be like accepting that all the years spent with the
person have been a failure. And they would contradict themselves too much.

Despite the evidence, these people try to convince themselves they are right, because
thinking the contrary would be like calling into question all the previous efforts they made.

And the more important these efforts were (in time, personal involvement, money etc.), the
harder they could accept the reality.

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