Can A Confusing Sales Pitch Trick You Into Buying Something?

An article due out in the October issue of the Journal of Consumer Research studies a sales technique called “disrupt-then-reframe,” in which the sales person initially tries to confuse the potential customer, then restates the sales pitch in a more familiar way. By reframing the sales pitch in a more familiar way the consumers natural defenses are weakened and the consumer becomes more susceptible to the sales pitch. So, can you be confused into buying something? Yes. And it’s not even very difficult to do.

From the University of Chicago Journals Press Release:

Although encounters between commercial sales representatives and consumers are one of the more common types of interpersonal interactions found in everyday life, relatively little research has been conducted on interpersonal influence attempts applied to commercial settings,” write Frank R. Kardes (University of Cincinnati), Bob M. Fennis (University of Twente, the Netherlands), Edward R. Hirt, Zakary L. Tormala, and Brian Bullington (all of the University of Indiana).

Consumers in the study were confused with an unusual monetary request (e.g., 100 cents for a candy bar, 300 cents to join a student interest group, or 7500 cents for a tuition increase). However, the researchers found that a confusing sales pitch alone – such as one utilizing technical jargon, confusing terminology, or large and confusing product assortments – does not lead to greater consumer interest. Rather, it increases the “need for cognitive closure”; consumers will grasp for easy-to-process or unambiguous information that has direct and obvious implications for judgment and behavior.

Furthermore, the researchers found that this need for cognitive closure will cause particularly susceptible consumers to “freeze” their judgments, that is, hold them with a high degree of confidence and refrain from considering additional evidence that could potentially threaten closure.

Sneaky bastards.

Can consumers be confused into buying? Yes – and more easily than you think [University of Chicago Journals] (Thanks, Steve!)
(Photo:Jay Adan)