Foot In the Door Technique : 7 Interesting Facts

Imagine you are in a grocery store, and the salesperson asks you to spare a few seconds to listen to his pitch. What would you say? Yes obviously. Then he explains the offers on the product, such as a bar of chocolate, and then requests you to taste a sample.

You would be willing for that too. Then finally he persuades you to buy the product. What would you do? If you end up purchasing it, then right there, you’ve fallen prey to the foot-in-the-door technique.

As funny as the Foot In The Door Technique(FITD)1 sounds, it has a standard reference behind the origin of its name. They say that the reference comes from a door-to-door salesperson who keeps his foot to keep the door from shutting so that the customer has no other way but to listen to his marketing idea.

He builds up from small requests and eventually comes up with a final appeal to purchase the product.

Similarly, the foot-in-the-door technique is a submissive tactic to make the person agree to a more significant request by agreeing on a small request first. This technique works by creating a connection between the person who asks and the person who agrees.

The latter feels obligated to agree to a larger request by accepting the initial request because of the urge to stay consistent with his initial approval.

1. History And Early Experiments

The term foot in the door technique was first put forward by Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser when they did a study to prove that granting a modest request can lead a person to agree to a large request.

The study’s findings supported the theory of Freedman and Fraser, but there were a few controversies of its similarity to the self-perception theory.2

A classic example of the foot-in-the-door technique employed in research studies was: that two groups were asked to put a sizeable unpleasant sign of ‘Drive carefully’ on their front yard to promote safe driving3. Of these two groups, one was approached earlier and was asked to place a small sign of ‘Be a safe driver’ on their front window.

Almost all the members of the group agreed to it. Later, when they were approached to put a larger ‘Drive carefully’ sign, most of them showed compliance compared to the control group who had not approached in the past.

Numerous experiments regarding the foot-in-the-door technique have shown that this tactic works well in convincing someone to comply, especially if the request is pro-social. In the above example, the first group has already demonstrated commitment to reducing accidents4 by putting a safe driver sign.

They are more likely to agree to the second request even if it is more inconvenient because they want their decision for the first request to appear consistent.

2. The Concepts Behind The FITD Technique

What makes us agree to specific requests only after granting a minor initial request?

2.1. Self-perception

We can explain the compliance and commitment shown by us in terms of self-perception. For example, whenever a salesperson requests us to spare a few minutes to listen to their sales pitch, we comply with their request because it is easier than rejecting and making ourselves look bad.

Also, by agreeing to their initial request, we favour the person who made the request. This attitude leads to a self-perception that we are considerate and well-intended.

That is why when they come up with a more significant request; we feel obliged to comply even if it is not the best or a rational judgment. Moreover, we will likely agree to a later request to show consistent behaviour with this positive self-perception.5

Door to door salesman trying to implement foot in the door technique
Photo by MART PRODUCTION from Pexels. Copyright 2021.

2.2. Commitment And Consistency

We already established that the urge to maintain consistency in the past behaviour is our compliance according to the foot-in-the-door FITD technique. Customers agreeing to the first request shows their commitment to the salesperson.

When the same person asks for a more significant commitment, we are likely to agree to the request to maintain commitment and consistency.6

3. Foot In The Door Phenomenon

The foot-in-the-door phenomenon comes from the foot-in-the-door technique itself. It is nothing but the tendency of people to agree to more significant favours once they have accepted too many smaller ones.

Foot in the Door Phenomenon

4. Applications Of The Foot In The Door Technique

Let us see a few examples of how the foot-in-the-door technique is applied daily.

4.1. To Boost Online Sales

We can say that the digital form of the foot-in-the-door technique works just as well as it works in person. Every company implements the foot-in-the-door technique, especially in their online marketing strategy.

First, they come up with a proper first request that most customers are capable and willing to do.

A few examples of the first request are asking the customer for an email address, inviting the visitors to participate in an online survey, or going for a trial membership on their website.

All these are easy to do, and any user would agree to such requests. The next step is to come up with a second request.

The second request could be more focused on conversion and is the critical move. One can make it immediately after the person agrees to the small request or sometime later.

However, if there is a delay, it could affect the compliance of the customers.

A few forms of the second request can be asking for the credit card details, asking the customer to download the free software from their site, or attending a webinar on their site. The company or website needs to have a strong plan and strategy to lure the customers into conversion.

Foot in the door technique to boost online sales.
Photo by Austin Distel. Unsplash. Copyright 2021.

4.2. Charitable Organizations

A few organizations might ask their website visitors to donate a few things such as money, unused clothes, or food for disaster relief. Most people have a positive attitude when it comes to charity and show compliance.

So later, came up with a larger request asking their visitors if they could spare some time to volunteer for their charity organization for free. The visitors are most likely to be consistent with their earlier behaviour and later agree to the request.

4.3. Hospitals

Hospitals may ask patients or visitors to fill out a form or undergo a health survey, and they eventually get a screening procedure done. The foot-in-the-door technique plays a significant role in conversions in such cases.

4.4. Web Marketing

Research has shown that the Find technique works well as a strategy for web marketing. You can ask the user for an email address; once the user provides it, the site can ask for huge favours such as reading an article, signing up for an ebook, and undergoing the free registration process.

All these latter favors lead to the conversion of several users into an agreement with their terms and purchase of their products.

4.5. To Getting Testimonials

Ask the customers if they would agree to try out a free sample to give feedback. Once try out and provide positive feedback, they ask you to provide a testimonial to help them improve their sales.

4.6. Employment

By applying the foot-in-the-door technique, you will get into your desired position. For example, if you want to work for a company hiring only part-time workers for different roles, accepting any work the company offers you gets you into the company.

Once you are in, you can work up and impress your colleagues, which will get you into the desired position.

5. Other Common Examples For The Foot In The Door Technique

It is a commonly used persuasive technique used by others to get us in agreement.

Starting from “Can I go out to my friend’s house?” to “Can I stay over the night?” your daughter makes you agree to her wishes, and it will be hard for you to reject her after letting her go in the first place.

Your friend might ask you if he can go through your psychology notes; it seems a plausible favour, but what if later he asks if he can borrow it for two weeks?

From “Can you help us by filling a form?” to ” Would like to hear the details of the plan?” a real estate agent could persuade to listen to his ventures.

In all these instances, you are most likely to agree to the large request because your compliance with the small request points out your commitment and consistency to the other person and makes it hard for you to turn them down.

6. Other Social Psychology Theories That Are Similar To The FITD Technique

6.1. Door In The Face Technique

Social Psychology | The Door-in-the-Face Technique By Robert Graham

The door-in-the-face technique is a similar persuasive technique where the persuader gets the other person to comply by making a larger request first. In this compliance strategy, the persuader comes up with a more extensive proposal that is most likely to be rejected. Later they create a minor request to which the respondent will feel compelled to agree.

If you come up with an unlikely large request first, the other person has no other choice but to turn you down. After rejecting your first request, the responder feels terrible, as if he owes you something for denying your request. If you come up with a small request, it is hard for them to reject you again. So they end up accepting the proposal.

In the door in the face technique, the foot is replaced by the door to represent the metaphor of slamming the door in one’s face ( denying the first request).

We use this technique more often than we know in our day-to-day life. While negotiating our salary with our employer, we ask for higher pay than we usually expect. When the employer cannot agree to the number you asked for, you create a minor request asking for a lesser yet reasonable payment. Your employer will agree with your second request.

Research indicates that people who prefer change over consistency are more likely to fall for the door-in-the-face technique than the foot in the door technique.

6.2. The Low Ball Technique/ Bait And Switch Strategy

Social Psychology: The low ball technique

The lowball technique is more similar to the FITD technique than the door-in-the-face technique. Here, the persuader makes the person agree to a lowball offer they had no intention of keeping. Later they come up with an excuse to create a more extensive request.

The person finds it hard to deny the new demand because he has already shown commitment to the process, and moving on from that is hard.

For instance, you wanted to buy a phone, you and the salesman mutually agreed to a price, and everything is great so far. Later, the salesman says that he could not get his manager to approve the price and quote a higher price.

You will find it hard to say no and leave the site because you have shown commitment by agreeing to the initial price; now, when the request becomes unreasonable, it will be challenging to give up the process and say no.

6.3. Self-perception Theory

The Power of Self-Perception | Arlando Mba | TEDxLosOsosHighSchool

Self-perception theory is a social psychology theory which states that people develop their attitude regarding a decision based on their past behaviour. Self-perception theory asserts two essential statements.

  • Every person comes to a belief based on his previous desires and likings, and for every such experience, there is a positive or a negative outcome.
  • If a person does not like something, there is no proper explanation for why he lacks interest in that particular thing, which can be attributed to self-knowledge.

When a website asks its user to sign up for free, they do it. Later, when they ask the user to fill up a form or take a survey online, they keep in mind their previous behaviour of showing compliance to the website and later continue to fill the form to deliver consistency in their attitude.

6.4. That’s Not All Technique

The "That's Not All" Technique | Marketing Psychology

It is one of the modified forms of the door-in-the-face technique. Here the persuader comes up with a more considerable initial favor. Even before the other person responds, they modify the request into their target request by making it more reasonable or attractive by adding some benefit which leads the customers to comply.

Compliance with the latter is much more likely than the target request presented itself right at the beginning.

7. Limitations Of Foot In The Door Technique

  1. Firstly, the technique works only when the person voluntarily complies with the initial requests positively. If you force them to comply, then the process doesn’t work.
  2. The theory works only if the scale of subsequent requests is comparable to each other. The small requests should be considerable enough to create self-perception in them. Only that leads to their conversion to accept the latter. Again, the larger requests should be moderate enough for them to take. For example, if you get a person to buy your product (initial request) and later come up with a price that is not reasonable, no form of foot in the door is going to work on fetching you a deal.
  3. The foot-in-the-door technique doesn’t work with people with unconventional mindsets. A few might respond well to the door-in-the-face technique rather than the foot-in-the-door technique.
  4. While applying the foot-in-the-door technique, sometimes people might feel that you are meddling into their personal space.
Person finds the technique annoying
Photo by Alex Green from Pexels. Copyright 2021.

8. Final Thoughts

The foot-in-the-door technique is a persuasive technique that tricks you into agreeing to larger requests by showing agreement to more minor requests. According to psychology, the key to this technique is the need to maintain consistency with oneself.

The foot-in-the-door technique applies to salespeople, customers, visitors, and anyone in any situation and is proven to lead to a conversion in a person’s expected behaviour. So, you can use this technique to persuade others or prevent yourself from being swayed.

Some people might even find the foot-in-the-door technique to be intrusive. Nobody wants the salesman to barge in or interrupt their work by putting their foot in the door and make you listen to their pitch forcibly. It isn’t very respectful and not appreciated. When the customers are not interested in your product, no form of foot-in-the-door technique can sell it.

Lastly, the foot-in-the-door technique is not entirely about conversions. Don’t push your luck by making unreasonable requests. It is good to know how far to go and make sure to take your time. Always ask for something only when you are pretty sure that you get a yes. Then ask for something bigger.

Implementing the foot in the door technique properly can improve your communication skills and might enhance the progress of your work.

If you find the content from this article helpful, please comment below.

Infographic That Explains Top 5 Psychological Factors Influencing Consumer Behavior
Icy Health
  1. Burger, Jerry M. “The foot-in-the-door compliance procedure: A multiple-process analysis and review.” Personality and social psychology review 3.4 (1999): 303-325. ↩︎
  2. Bem, Daryl J. “Self-perception theory.” Advances in experimental social psychology. Vol. 6. Academic Press, 1972. 1-62. ↩︎
  3. Strecher, Victor J., et al. “Interventions to promote safe driving behaviour: Lessons learned from other health-related behaviours.” Behavioural research in road safety (2006): 28-38. ↩︎
  4. Hamid, Hamdi Abdul, et al. “An overview of the management commitment to safety elements for mitigating accidents in the construction industry.” Jurnal Teknologi 74.2 (2015): 1-8. ↩︎
  5. Bremer, Barbara A., et al. “Factors supporting quality of life over time for individuals with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: the role of positive self-perception and religiosity.” Annals of Behavioral Medicine 28.2 (2004): 119-125. ↩︎
  6. Tetrick, Lois E. “Developing and maintaining union commitment: A theoretical framework.” Journal of Organizational Behavior 16.6 (1995): 583-595. ↩︎

Last Updated on by ayeshayusuf



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *