Merely Requesting (Not Requiring) a Favor from Consumers to Seal the Deal
Closing the deal with a prospective consumer is always a challenge and buyers often are skeptical about the salesperson’s motives. When a salesperson has provided his or her best offer, the consumer may still be uncertain about the quality of the deal and often believe that the salesperson may be holding out. Typically when salespeople are ready to close the deal with consumers, they tend to persuade buyers with convincing arguments and often offer favors for consumers (“Wait, there’s more!” and “Here’s a freebie!”). Yet, all these arguments and extra favors either come at a cost or are dismissed by consumers because in their minds whatever a salesperson does must be self-interested.
In our new research, conducted with Jamie Hyodo of Pennsylvania State University, we propose a different way by which salespeople can influence a buyer “pull the trigger” during negotiations. The strategy is called the favor request. Here is how it goes.
Imagine you’re the owner of an art gallery and a customer approaches you to negotiate for a painting that is listed at $100. After negotiating with the prospective buyer, you make your best offer at $80, making persuasive arguments and letting the consumer know it is the best you can do. As the consumer is pondering the offer, you then add the favor request: “In fact at this price I hope that, if you do purchase the painting, you’ll consider recommending the store to a friend looking for art.”
You do not sweeten the deal by offering an incentive (e.g, throwing in a discount for a future purchase), you don’t promise owing them a favor, and you do not require the consumer does a favor (e.g., write a Yelp review write now!). Rather, you merely request the consumer consider doing you a favor. Across five studies, including one where participants had financial incentives to negotiate the lowest price possible, we found that this additional request for a favor (e.g., writing a positive review, recommending the store to a friend) increases acceptance of offers by about 50 percent.
Why does it work? The price discounts that sellers offer are generally interpreted as ploys to close a deal. The default view from consumers is that salespeople are competitors with whom they must fight to get a fair deal. So, sometimes offering a lower price does very little to alter their confidence that they are getting a good deal.
The favor request changes how consumers perceive the interaction with the salespeople; the buyers now view the interaction as one that is more reciprocal or cooperative, and in that light, make the inference that the salesperson must have offered a good deal.
It should be noted there are many things that can make the favor request backfire. For instance, requiring the favor from consumers is not recommended, but when done right, the favor request may not only help a salesperson seal the deal at no additional cost, but may even eventually get them a favor!