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Dr. Bock and colleagues Dr. Thomas of Old Dominion and Dr. Mangus of Baylor published their findings on what makes a more favorable shopping experience in the online edition of Journal of Business Research.
Purchasing a car can be stressful, especially when it’s time to negotiate trade-in value or vehicle price. Research by Harbert’s Dora Bock indicates that simply by asking a small favor of the customer, a salesperson can ease that stress and possibly pick up a sale that might have been lost.
“Many consumers today want to avoid salespeople altogether because they think salespeople are manipulative and only looking out for their own self-interests,” said Bock, Bradley Professor and chair of the Department of Marketing. “We see that consumers, in general, are apprehensive about negotiating and they just want to avoid it.”
However, when consumers engage in price negotiations, they often receive a better deal and feel good about the purchasing process.
Bock helped conduct a series of studies to determine whether there are ways to change consumers’ perceptions of the buying process, particularly their willingness to interact and negotiate with salespeople.
Researchers surveyed hundreds of adult U.S. citizens by presenting them with sales scenarios at a car dealership or retail store. Half were given a favor request in their scenario and half were not.
They discovered that when a salesperson asks the customer for a small favor unrelated to the sale — similar to the popular sales technique known as foot-in-the-door — the customer is more likely to later engage in negotiations and strike a better deal. In the automotive scenario, for example, the salesperson may walk customers through the showroom and ask for feedback on what they think of the displays.
“What we found was that the favor request led [consumers] to think that the salesperson valued their opinion more and was less likely to try and upsell them,” Bock said. “In turn, the customer felt their negotiation expectations had changed because the salesperson had more positive motives.”
“At the end of the day, the consumer felt like the salesperson had more benevolent intentions or positive motives.”
Although her research focused on the consumer’s perception of the sales experience, Bock said the favor-ask technique could benefit the salesperson as well, even though negotiations with the customer may result in striking a deal below the vehicle’s listed price.
“This suggests that the favor-request technique could possibly prevent [the salesperson] from losing out on the sale entirely,” said Bock, noting that some customers could opt for an online buying experience like Carvana.
Sales managers in a variety of industries may benefit from the research findings by incorporating the favor strategy into employee training as “a rapport-building tactic,” she said.
Consumers also can benefit from the findings. “They’ll walk away with a better deal because they’re more likely to negotiate and not just pay the listed price,” she said.
Bock and colleagues Veronica Thomas of Old Dominion and Stephanie Mangus of Baylor published their results in the online edition of Journal of Business Research.
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