There’s an extremely powerful strategy to grow your business called the foot-in-the-door (FITD) strategy. FITD plays on psychology to get to the sale. This strategy works well because it gets past the prospect’s natural resistance to being sold.
The process starts with getting a person to agree to a small request that doesn’t take them outside their comfort zone. From there, you build up to larger requests and bigger yeses.
Savvy business owners, marketers, and salespeople have used FITD in one form or another for years, whether they have knowingly defined it that way or not. Some may refer to this strategy as a “loss leader.” The difference is that a loss leader typically involves selling something, often at a very low price or below cost. Retail businesses have used loss leaders successfully for many years. FITD works best when the first offer is for something free.
Examples of FITD
If you’ve ever been to the mall food court around lunch or dinnertime, you’ll often see savvy restaurant owners assign an employee to offer a small sample tasting of some of the food items on their menu. When passersby accept the sample and taste it, they’ve taken the first tiny step toward a possible yes.
One interesting side note with this example: Notice that the employees handing out the samples aren’t going all around the mall or outside in the parking lot at various hours of the day. They pass out the samples to people walking through the food court at lunch or dinnertime. The marketing takeaway: offer your services to people who are most likely to need what you sell when they need it the most.
FITD has been used for many years by door-to-door salespeople in many industries, from the person offering to clean a dirty spot on the carpet to the days of the encyclopedia salesperson (remember those?) who would offer a free three book starter set.
Perhaps the most notorious example is from the timeshare industry. In exchange for 90 minutes of your time, the FITD offer is a free resort stay or perhaps Disney World tickets. Does it work? Billions of dollars in timeshares sold would seem to indicate a big yes. These techniques are meant to persuade and work extremely well. The danger comes from unscrupulous sellers who abuse the power.
FITD has been used in the pharmaceutical industry with enormous success. Pharmaceutical sales representatives leave samples of the drugs their companies sell with the appropriate doctors. The physicians in turn give their patients a free sample along with a prescription that will lead them to become a customer of the pharmaceutical industry.
What kind of FITD should you offer?
Your best FITD strategy should probably be not to “sell” anything at all. Only 2% of prospects are ready to buy at any time and less than 1% will typically buy anything on the first contact. Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer and ask yourself: What would I need (if I were a customer) to choose this company over the competition? What service or product can you use to let prospects ‘test’ you out that will put your best foot forward and help you make the best first impression?
The FITD strategy is an extremely powerful technique. If you’re not currently using it or have used it in the past and forgotten about it, it’s time to visit it again. Put together a plan to utilize FITD in your favor.
Selling successfully for the long term requires building trust with your prospects and even existing customers. The FITD strategy allows you to begin building that trust. But be careful. If it’s done incorrectly or not done at all, then you may experience the door-in-the-face result which is what you want to avoid.