How To: Recognize the Tricks of a Salesman (And Overcome Them)

Recognize the Tricks of a Salesman (And Overcome Them)

Have you ever fallen victim to a clever Jedi mind trick? Don't worry. It happens. There are evolutionary reasons as to why our brains sometimes give into the oldest tricks in the book. Fortunately, the more you understand the tricks of a salesman, the easier it is to avoid their gripping psychological influence.

Clue #1: Too Much Specificity

Have you ever noticed that the price of a car is never a round number? That has everything to do with your brain and nothing to do with the car's actual value.

Most customers associate exact values with reason. We assume that a rounded price is arbitrary, and thus open for debate, but a value like "29,746" is exact and must have a dang good reason for being so specific! False. You're being played.

Image via Forbes

Solution: Round Everything First

When you encounter a number like "29,746," just round it out in your head to the nearest hundred, and negotiate from there. There are very few things priced at 29,746 that a salesman won't sell at $29,700.

Clue #2: Limited Choices & Limited Time

Humans like to take advantage of opportunities, even if those opportunities aren't real. Be skeptical anytime you hear the words "limited supply only." We live in a capitalist society. If the demand exists, which it obviously does, then supply will respond.

Case Study: Less Is Always Better

Industrial psychologists have performed several experiments on the topic of limited choices. In one study, a collection of gourmet jams were displayed in a supermarket on two separate occasions. During the first occasion, six jams were diplayed. During the second, twenty-four jams were displayed.

The results showed that the table with six jams generated 10 times as many sales as the table with twenty-four. Only 3% of the customers bought from the twenty-four jam display, while nearly 30% bought from the "limited supply" of six.

Clue #3: Too Many Comparisons

There is a reason why grocery stores leave their previous prices visible after a discount. When you place two things side-by-side, their differences are much more obvious. This applies to weight loss commercials and numbers alike.

Solution: Ignore the Before

Look at the image above. "Regular price: $297. Only for today $197." Sure it looks like a big difference, but is it really? The difference between 297 and 197 means absolutely nothing. All that matters is how much this product costs somewhere else.

Whenever you're presented with a "before and after," completely ignore the "before." Do your research and compare the "after" price to similar products.

Clue #4: Samples

Chic-fil-A may have given you a sample in public, but they're not just doing it to be nice. They're playing on what psychologists call the "rule of commitment."

Image via Woman's InSite

Studies have shown that humans feel obligated to follow through on commitments that they've made in public. Make that same commitment in private, however, and we're less likely to follow through.

Why? Maybe it's because groups of early humans prospered when they kept each other's promises in check. It's simply an advantageous social trait we've inherited. Except that now it's mostly exploited.

Solution: Rationalize Before You Waste Money

Enjoy the free stuff and ask yourself, "would I have spent my money on this before the sample?" Remember, you're not obligated to repay anyone. This isn't 5 Million B.C. You won't be denied your share of the next kill if you don't return the favor.

Image by Danito/Flickr

Clue #5: When You Begin to Question Your Identity

This is when they've got you by the throat. It's the most powerful mind trick of the salesman, and it's the reason companies like Apple and Facebook have become engrained in our culture.

In part, this tactic plays on what psychologists call "self perception theory." The theory addresses a question of chicken or the egg: do our beliefs influence our behaviors, or do our behaviors influence our beliefs?

Self-perception theory argues that humans observe their own behavior, and then jump to the conclusion that a specific belief must have influenced their decision to behave that way. Fortunately for salesmen, this often involves totally fabricating a belief to justify a behavior.

Solution: Don't Let Your Belongings Define You

There really is no way to avoid this other than to not define yourself by the things you own. Your "stuff" should't be your identity.

Image via Lucasfilm

Let your stuff define you, you will not. But let your actions define you, you will. That's real Jedi wisdom.

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Cover image via New Line Cinema

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