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Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs
Copyright © 2003 University of Maryland.
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Revised: November 07, 2012

FOOT-IN-THE-DOOR TECHNIQUE

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In order to ask ourselves how we might be vulnerable to such strategies, it is helpful to examine a classic sales technique which characterizes the initial component of a recruitment strategy; this is the “foot in the door.

When was the last time you engaged in any of the following:

  • used a free sample of a product?
  • took a car on a test drive?
  • entered a shop or store in response to a sale sign or advertisement?
  • completed a questionnaire or survey distributed by a vendor?
  • agreed to view a brief sales presentation in order to collect a free prize?

The expression “foot in the door” comes from the days when door-to-door salesmen hawked their wares on the doorstep. Each salesman knew that if he could just get through the door with his pitch, that the client was that much more likely to make a purchase.

The foot-in-the-door technique succeeds due to a basic human reality that social scientists call “successive approximations”. Basically, the more a subject goes along with small requests or commitments, the more likely that subject is to continue in a desired direction of attitude or behavioral change and feel obligated to go along with larger requests.

All of the above practices are based on the “foot in the door” technique, and all of them increase the probability that you will eventually make the desired purchase. Some strategies employ combinations of the items listed above or others not listed here, and only the most resilient individual can withstand the resulting pressure.

The dangerous group member who engages you in a casual conversation concerning philosophy or religion, who requests that you complete and discuss a survey on such topics, or invites you to a group meeting employs the same foot-in-the-door technique.

 

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