Memory isn’t linear, and people might use that to their advantage.
Ok, imagine you work in a clothes shop.
A man walks in and says he wants to buy a suit and some shirts.
What do you do? Do you take him to the suits section first, or the shirts?
If you’re like most people, you start with the shirts.
You figure you’ll warm him up. Get a few smaller purchases on the board before going over to check out the more expensive suits.
… slowly pry open his wallet, in a gentle way.
But this is where you, and most people, would be wrong.
Professional sales people start with the suit and then go to the shirts after.
The reason is something psychologists call the ‘comparison effect’. It’s a kind of bias.
The idea is that human memory isn’t consistent. It’s not a linear thing. The more recent an event is, the more it stands out in our memory.
Kind of think of it like driving a car through the desert, looking in the rear view mirror. From that perspective, a billboard you just passed looks much bigger than a billboard you passed 10 minutes ago, even though they’re actually the same size in real life.
The brain and memory work the same way. More recent experiences seem much more relevant, even though they’re not really.
And so a professional sales person who knows this will take our man to the suits section first.
After he’s just dropped $1,000 on a new suit, if then he goes and looks at a shirt that’s $100, it’s going to look cheap.
It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t really make sense to compare the price of a suit to the price of a shirt. That’s a tad too complex for our brains.
All our brains know is that $100 is a lot less than $1,000, so $100 is cheap.
Of course it works in reverse too. If you took him to the shirts first, he’s comparing $100 against what he might expect to pay for a shirt. Maybe it’s about right.
But then take him over to the suits, and if he’s just um’d and ah’d about dropping $100, to suddenly face a price tag $1,000 is going to be a little scary.
This is one of the basic tools of persuasion and negotiation – be conscious of or consciously use the comparison effect.
For example, you’re a builder quoting for some work. There’s some expensive structural work, and new kitchen, and then some guttering work. Go high to low. Start expensive and go from there.
Or watch for it when people are trying to sell you something. Notice if they start with the full suite deluxe version, before offering you something more reasonably priced.
Of course, we’re not just talking about price. It goes for all comparisons. Walk into a used car lot and they might show you a real dud of a car. Anything you look at after that is going to look awesome.
And be aware of it in yourself. Even if you know about this effect, it doesn’t make you immune to it.
We’re running some fairly basic software here.
But watch for it this week. I guarantee you’ll see one ad, one sales pitch, or somebody using this technique.