How You Can Be Convinced to Buy Anything


Ryan Ong



This is about the tactics that convince you to buy anything. Let’s pretend I write for consumers only, and not the MoneySmart readers with a sales job. Yes, that’s right, I’d never advise you on how to manipulate buyers. Just like I’ve never told a lie since the day I was born. Now, for those consumers who have the self-control of an addict in CNB’s confiscated narcotics room, I present you with a limited defence. Learn to dodge these sales methods:


1. Starting With The Expensive Product

Salesmen work their way up right? They’ll show you the cheap stuff first, then convince you to trade up. Well, that breed of salesmen aren’t around any more; they’re too busy stealing dog biscuits from SPCA kennels to survive.

Successful salesmen start with the most expensive item. They know you’ll turn it down, which is when they’ll lead you to a cheaper version. Which, by way of contrast, will look a lot cheaper. It’s called the Perceptual Contrast Effect.

Turns out the human mind is pretty lazy; we don’t put every purchase against a baseline measure, but make limited one-to-one comparisons. So if a car salesman shows you a Ferrari first, a Lexus suddenly seems like a bargain. At least, until you’re brain’s had time to wake up.


Expensive latte
$6.50. Or you want our $1.20 kopi? (Got you. It’s ALL overpriced!)


Another example: Just after buying a MacBook, you’re more likely to buy a $150 cover than an $80 one. It’s a rare individual who stops and thinks: “Hold on, $70 can buy me lunch for 15 days!” That $70 just vanishes from sight, because you’ve been dealing with much bigger numbers.

So what can you do about it? Take a minute to cool off. Pick up the two cheapest products, and mentally evaluate them. Then compare them to that expensive gimmick you want.


2. DITF Technique

The Door In The Face (DITF) technique is something we should be grateful for. And yes, that’s the actual term in social psychology.

It exists because our brain is wired to accept compromise. If it wasn’t, UN meetings would consist of Barack Obama trying to curb stomp Kim Jong-Un into a coma. In order to avoid fistfights every three seconds, our brains are rigged to become co-operative when the other party lowers their request. But it also works for sales. Here’s how:


Broken Nose
Then you slam the door in their face again. After the third time, they’ll either buy or the police would have arrived.


A durian vendor offers you an XO durian for $50, and you need to breathe or die laughing. He then comes back with a second offer, a $20 “normal” durian.

Yes, the perceptual contrast (see point 1) starts to kick in here. But besides losing track of the price, a part of you wants to respond to the compromise. People love to bargain. We’d rather make a counter-offer than walk away; that would feel rude.

So you counter-offer, and ask for $15 instead, and so forth. But no matter how you bargain, it probably results in victory for the durian seller: He’ll make his sale.

How do you get over it? Walk away and don’t get into a bargaining match. The longer you bargain, the more obliged you’ll feel. Take a look at the other durian buyers: no matter how low they bargain the price, almost none of them get away without buying.


Man sitting in front of durian stall
Dude, I got some great deals on these durians. Also, we need to rent a truck.


3. Force of Branding

People like to defend choices they’ve already committed to. Take a look anyone buying 4D numbers: Before they buy the number, they’re not very sure. After they buy the number, they’re a lot more confident. Everything from bird droppings to car accidents “affirms” their number selection was correct.

Think hard about that, and you’ll realize why Apple and Razer fanboys are the way they are (Not that I have anything against them; freedom of religion and all). See, when a fanboy commits to buying a more expensive device, he becomes much more certain those devices are superior.


Alienware mockup phone
Oh yeah? Well my phone costs so much, it means I have a bigger…


Yes, it’s brand loyalty. And if you’ve already made that first commitment, you need to shake it off. Otherwise, it’ll reach a point where said brand can gift wrap dog poop and you’ll stand in line to buy it.

The best way to break out of it is to know the product market. Test drive other brands, or borrow devices from friends. Don’t feel obliged to avoid other labels. Once you start shopping around more, your sense of brand loyalty will erode.


4. The Indirect Salesman

You know what after-sales support is? If you said “the guys that fill the warranty” or something, you’re wrong. After-sales support is the most deceptive name ever, because it’s a sales team.

Now and then, you’ll find after-sales support being extra nice to you. Say you bought a purse, and the zip broke. Instead of just replacing it, they prostrate themselves like Tang Dynasty peasants who’ve run over the Empress in a bullock cart.


Tech bar
In addition to replacing your laptop, I’d like to offer you my daughter’s hand in marriage. Or just for a fling.


You get gift vouchers, another purse, and an option to execute the manager via lethal injection. All because of a broken zip. Well…they’re not doing it to make you stop complaining. They’re doing because they want you to be stunned, and run out telling your friends: “This is the BEST company EVER.”

Instead of being complaint case #176, you are now a human advertisement. You have become their best salesman, highly motivated and working for free. And you will sell their stuff to your friends.

But you should know you’ve been deceived. Not everyone who complains will get the same treatment. Often it’s a single random case, picked out as a sales stunt. So the next time a friend comes running to you with “the greatest after-sales story ever”, take it with a whole shaker of salt.

Judge from your own experience, not from word of mouth. And follow us on Facebook for more consumer tips!

Image Credits:
brad montgomery, Calgary Reviews, femerenda, zolierdos, quinn.anya, j.o.h.n. walker, I See Modern Britain

Have you ever been convinced by one of these tactics? Comment and tell us about it!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.