Creative Disruption


Need to sell more without cutting prices or spending more on ads? It may be possible. Last week, I wrote about Guy Kawasaki’s new compendium of business savvy, Reality Check. One of the little gems he writes about is an experiment that involved selling door to door note cards. A simple but rather weird change in the sales pitch caused the close rate to jump from 40% to 80%:

The theory of “disrupt, then reframe” is that if you introduce a non-sequitur or unexpected element in your conversation and then immediately inject a call-to-action, the customer is more likely to agree to your proposition. The disruption theoretically neutralizes critical thinking and makes a person more likely to agree. This concept is the result of a study by Barbara Davis and Professor Eric Knowles in which they sold note cards door-to-door for a charity. When they told people the cards were eight for $3.00, they had a 40% success rate. When they told people the cards were eight for 300 pennies and then said, “which is a bargain,” 80% of the people bought cards.

This is likely more effective with small purchases and impulse items. Trying to close a Hummer sale by telling the customer it’s only four million pennies doesn’t sound like a winner. Then again, I’ve never tried it. Certainly, auto sales people often try to reframe a high dollar purchase price in terms of a low monthly payment. While that may not be the exact same phenomenon described by Davis and Knowles, there’s certainly some similarity. Typically, that pitch might combine both elements, e.g., “If I can get you that car for $299 a month [disruption, reframing], will you take it? [call to action]”

Of course, in that case the payment plan really is different. An approach used by some product sellers who still demand full payment is to recast the amount in a different way. “Our product lasts for more than 5 years, which means it only costs 2.5 cents per day to use!”

Can you find a way to employ creative disruption?

Precise Pricing Pays Off
Names Disrupt The Brain

  1. Mathias says

    I subscribe to your interesting blog but do you have to talk about Guy Kawasaki all the time? Or rename the blog “The Guy Kawasaki Promotion Blog”. I know, I’m harsh, but it’s the honest truth.

  2. Roger Dooley says

    Hi, Mathias, when I do a book review I usually do a few follow-on posts with interesting bits of info I ran across from the book. I guess I could similarly be accused of shilling for Martin Lindstrom, Dan Ariely, Robert Cialdini, John Medina, and others.


  3. Andre Thomas says

    He’s obviously new to your blog, Roger. I find your posts very useful as I’m very fascinated in the world of psychology, especially its uses for selling. Like this post, for example. Copywriters have used that trick for more than 50 years!

    If you sell high priced item, always break your price down so it appears less intimidating. Another way to do it would be to “translate” that price to a benefit. Meaning show the prospect what they would get for that price (the benefits) and make it looks like a bargain.

  4. sanjay says

    Thank you for sharing these interesting topics. A question I have is that in my mind disruption and then immediate call to action may also suggest high pressure tactics. In this case what is the impact of this tactic on repeat business? Ofcourse this would be important for big ticket items rather than low cost impulsive buying.

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