How Commitment and Consistency Can Make or Break Your Buying Decisions
After back-to-back blogs discussing reviews (How could 65,688 people be wrong? & Why You’re Really Trusting Strangers with Your Money!) and how they affect our buying or selling decisions, I thought it would be great to write a blog about social proof, which includes reviews. But I decided against it.
Instead, having just gone through the process of buying a new truck, I thought it made sense to write about one of the principles Robert Cialdini outlined in his book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”: commitment and consistency. I figured this recent experience would provide a real-life example of how car dealers use this principle to “close” the deal.
Hopefully, understanding this principle can help protect you when you aren’t ready to buy an $80,000 truck or to help you strike a deal you feel good about or persuade your customer/client to commit to something they want/need when they are having a moment of “paralysis by analysis.”
That’s right, the principle of commitment and consistency may seem like manipulation on one hand but can be a matter of simple persuasion on the other. It all depends on your point of view or goals.
Cialdini writes, “Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment. Those pressures will cause us to respond in ways that justify our earlier decision.”
Here’s how it works: once you have done your research online, you head out on one of the most miserable experiences of your life, probably the second most miserable experience of your life, after a root canal, to buy a car or truck. You get to the dealership, step one towards commitment, and faster than your pet fish, Dory, is on a Tetra Flake, you are met by a salesperson. I mean they are on you so fast you would have thought they could still be working Ms. Cleo’s psychic hotline vs selling cars.
Finally, you find the model with the trim package and options you wanted, so you ask the salesperson for a test drive, step two towards commitment. That’s right, that joyous ride where you get to enjoy the car or truck at its most valuable point; before you buy it, and you don’t own it. But that test drive changed your life, and it moves you one step closer to committing to your new matte black Mercedes with white leather interior.
Still high off the new car smell, you step inside to talk numbers.
Is this another step towards commitment?
After what seems like a lifetime, they come back with an offer for a payment you can live with. You start imagining that for the low, low price of $737.28 since a month for 84 months you can drive that car every day! You start thinking you are stealing it from them at that price! “How can they sell it to you for that?” And all you have to do to catch them at their most vulnerable point is sign this piece of paper that shows the price, payments, down payment, etc.
They are going to tell you “It isn’t binding”, because it isn’t, but your mind will tell you it is.
“You have COMMITTED! You are DOING THIS!”
After yet another millennium, the paperwork is ready for your signature, and it is off to the finance department.
Even as you start to sweat, have second thoughts about the deal, you begin to think they are under paying you for your car, and it seems as though the payments you “committed” to are somewhat fluid, your brain is telling you, “You committed, and you want to be consistent, don’t you?”
Now you start to feel like you are on season 47 of Survivor: hungry, dehydrated, skinnier and as if you have bug bites all over you, yet you finish the deal and drive away in that 2023 Dayglo Yugo with denim interior, feeling like you were the first person on the jury, but at least you are consistent.
That’s the principle of commitment and consistency.
Well, it’s not exactly like that, but you get the point.
Anyway, think about the products and services you buy. How was this principle used to help you decide? A free 30-day trial, a free session with a trainer, or a freemium app on your phone?
If you provide products or services, how can you help your clients or customers commit to their wants and desires in an ethical manner and become happy customer/clients? Could you provide a “test drive”, a free portfolio analysis, or another “carrot”?