Influencing Your Customers To Buy – Is It Manipulation, Or Just Good Business Sense?


The Psychological Principles Behind Order Customization

This article will explore the underlying principles behind order customization, more commonly known as upselling and downselling. When a customer has agreed to buy something you have a much higher chance of selling them something else in that moment than you would at a later date. Researchers like Dr Robert Cialdini have shown that there are definite psychological principles that define customer behavior  and how you can influence buying decisions.

Smart marketers are using this to their advantage. The question is,  “Is this unethical manipulation of just good business sense?

The North Wind And The Sun

The North Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger, when a traveler came along wrapped in a warm cloak.
They agreed that the one who first succeeded in making the traveler take his cloak off should be considered stronger than the other.
Then the North Wind blew as hard as he could, but the more he blew the more closely did the traveler fold his cloak around him;
and at last the North Wind gave up the attempt. Then the Sun shined out warmly, and immediately the traveler took off his cloak.
And so the North Wind was obliged to confess that the Sun was the stronger of the two.

Aesops fable about the north wind and the sun illustrates one of the core  principles behind all successful selling. If you make the conditions favorable to your customer then its only a matter of time before they will buy. If on the other hand you attack them with high pressure sales techniques and force them into making a purchase they are going to be very unlikely to continue along the path you have planned for them. In the story, the sun not only got the man to take off his cloak but also prepared the way for him to take off even more clothing.

Don’t Take No For An Answer

When a potential customer decides not to buy your product or service what options do you have available to you. The first thing you must realize is that they have made a decision based on the way you presented your offer.

Leveraged Sales

What psychological researchers like Dr Robert Cialdidi have shown is that even when someone refuses to buy something you can leverage them into buying something as they leave by utilizing one of the variations on Cialdidni’s 1st principle of influence, reciprocity


The Law Of Reciprocity

Reciprocity under normal circumstances can be seen when someone  does a favor  for you.  In almost all circumstances you are  now obliged to do something for them in return.

When applied to negotiation if you appear to give a concession in negotiation your partner is obligated by the rule of reciprocity to give a concession too

So if you want someone to buy something and they initially say no to your first offer , if you now make a concession and offer them something else they are much more likely to agree because of the law of reciprocity. Regardless of whether they even want what you are selling

An Accidental Discovery

Robert discovered this quite by accident while walking through the campus of his university. A boy scout tried to sell him raffle tickets for $5, he declined the offer and as he was leaving the boy said, “Well if you don’t want a raffle ticket maybe you would buy one of these chocolate bars for a dollar”.  Robert instantly reached into his pocket for a dollar and walked away only to be struck moments later by the fact that he doesn’t even like chocolate

He had an epiphany and instantly called his research team to investigate the psychology behind this particular instance of powerful persuasion

The root of it lies in the fact that if you ask someone to comply to an extreme request that they can refuse, they are more likely to accept a lesser request if you ask them immediately afterward

An Extreme Request

Robert and his team took this to the streets to test and began by setting up a fake charity organization and asking complete strangers if they would like to volunteer  to accompany juvenile delinquents on a zoo expedition. Naturally most people declined

They then framed their question in a different way. The first question they asked was. “would you like volunteer to be a buddy and mentor  to a juvenile delinquent and sign up for a 2 year program that involves several  hours commitment each week”

Naturally most people declined this offer. The amazing thing was when they asked their original question to the same people immediately after this extreme request  they got a 75% increased response rate than they did before

Selling at the Exit

Even when a customer is leaving you still have the chance to make them another offer. Lower the price and remove the frills and bonuses and you have a good chance of making the sale.


Launch Tree

Most serious internet marketer are fully utilizing these principles in their efforts to sell more of their products.  Mike Filsaime and Anik Singal recently released their Launch Tree course explaining this whole process and encouraged a movement away from using the terms upsell and downsell in favor of order customization.

A Question Of Ethics

As long as you are selling a quality product or service and you are certain that what you are offering will be of real value to your customer then the question of ethics is not really relevant.

Always have at least two offers prepared so even if your customer refuses initially, you can immediately offer them an alternative

If you pressure someone into buying something they don’t really need at some point they will realize what has happened and start complaining. You might get away with it once but you are potentially ruining the chances of a long term  relationship.

It’s wise to  remember that in today’s social media world,   if  you deliberately take advantage of your customers  your actions will get noticed quickly. Today with 67% of people consulting an online community before they buy anything make sure your company name is on the recommendation list not  the black list.


  1. ehh. thanks ))

  2. Greg White says:

    This is very helpful and I can’t wait to take what I’ve learned and use this. I work at an Auto parts store and I’m about to be terminated because of a sales goal that was assigned to me from our Corporate office. I have a slight problem getting to the pitch. A lot of customers set on a certain price range and most of the time will not move from that price even if they know that the product I am trying to sale is a premium product. I have a Bachelor’s degree in 3D art and Design. I’ve tried to send off a presentation to my managers and was shut down every time. I only want to help the company but they won’t listen to their employee’s suggestions. I was thinking about doing a 3D interactive website for customers to interact with products better and to give them a better understanding of the products that the company offers.. Any suggestions?

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