Have so extreme that the person walks away

Have you ever agreed to purchase an item at an attractive price, only to end of paying much more for it than you initially intended? Learn more about the low-balling technique from examples and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Definition

The low-balling technique is a persuasion tactic in which an item is initially offered at a lower price than one expects in order to get the buyer to commit; then, the price is suddenly increased. The low-balling technique is commonly used among salesmen and advertisers.

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Example

Susan goes to her local car dealership to buy a car. She is initially offered a new SUV for $14,000. She believes that this is a steal, so she agrees to buy it. The sales manager goes into his office to gather the paperwork. When he comes back, he informs Susan that the SUV is actually $16,000, not $14,000 as she was told. The increase in price is due to several upgrades that the car company has installed, including tinted windows, OnStar navigation, and satellite radio. Susan is upset with the price increase, but agrees to pay it.

This is an example of the low-balling technique.

Research Study

The low-balling technique was first demonstrated by Robert Cialdini and colleagues in the 1970s. In this study, one group of people was told up front that the experiment would start at 7 AM. Another group was not told the starting time until after they had already agreed to participate in the experiment.

Only 24% of the individuals who were told the time upfront were actually willing to participate, compared to 56% of the individuals who agreed to participate before they knew the time. Over 53% of the individuals who agreed to participate before knowing the time actually showed up. Cialdini and colleagues concluded that this experiment proved the effectiveness of the low-balling technique.

Why Low-balling is Effective

Low-balling works by insuring a person’s buy-in at a lower cost. Once a person agrees to make a purchase or carry out an activity, they are inclined to accept the higher cost because they have already made a commitment. The key to a successful low-ball is to make the initial offer attractive enough to get the person to agree to it, but not make the second offer so extreme that the person walks away from the commitment.

Lesson Summary

The low-balling technique is a persuasion tactic in which an item is initially offered at a lower price than one expects in order to get the buyer to commit; then the price is suddenly increased. A classic example of low-balling is when a car dealership lists a car for $14,000 to get you to agree to buy it and later changes the price to $16,000.The low-balling technique is commonly used among salesmen and advertisers. It was first demonstrated by Robert Cialdini and colleagues in the 1970s.

Low-balling works by ensuring a person’s buy-in at a lower cost. Once a person agrees to make a purchase or carry out an activity, they are inclined to accept the higher cost because they have already made a commitment. The key to a successful low-ball is to make the initial offer attractive enough to get the person to agree to it, but not make the second offer so extreme that the person walks away from the commitment.

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