The Special Incentive

Capitalize on Naturally Occurring Motivators, but Don’t Manufacture a False Sense of Urgency

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

In the past, I mentioned a variation of the either/or close. I call it the special incentive close. Here’s how I use it when selling advertising for my publications. In essence it’s buy now and receive a special incentive or buy later without it.

Sometimes an advertising prospect has selected the rate plan they want to be on, but they still haven’t fully committed. Though they’ve mentally agreed by selecting which package they want, they’re delaying in signing the paperwork. That’s when I give them a nudge with a variation of the either/or close. It’s a special incentive.

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

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“The next issue goes out in three weeks,” I say. “If you sign up today, you’ll get all the online benefits right away, but I won’t start your billing until the issue goes out. You’ll get three weeks free. Shall we do that?”

This is usually enough to nudge most prospects forward to sign the paperwork. Remember, they’ve already mentally committed when they picked which advertising package they wanted. The special incentive close merely gets them to formalize what they’ve already agreed to in their mind.

Lock In Today’s Rate

A variation of this happens toward the end of the year when I consider rate increases for the upcoming twelve months. Though I don’t like to use this tactic often, because it strikes me as a little too close to being sleazy, I do tap it for people I can’t move from mental acquiescence to actual commitment. And, of course, it only works in the fall.

I simply tell them, “We’re looking at possible rate increases for next year, but if you sign up before the next issue goes out, you can lock in this year’s rate for all of next year.” This usually gets them to move forward.

If they press me for what the increase might be, I either give them a realistic range (for example, 3 to 6 percent) or I’ll share last year’s increase.

Sometimes I already know what the new rates will be. Then I give them actual numbers. “Next year, this advertising package is going up 8 percent, but if you sign up before year’s end, you can lock in this year’s rate for all of next year. That’s a savings of . . .”

Avoid a False Sense of Urgency

I’ve seen salespeople, however, who overuse this sales tactic. They do this by manufacturing a disingenuous reason to buy now. This is clearly a sleazy ploy, and ethical salespeople should avoid it.

It might be that they offer a special deal for people who buy today, “so that I can meet my quota for the month. Can you help me out?” A variation of this is “. . . so that I can keep my job.” They tug at our compassion, and we want to help them. Their maneuver often works.

Or: “My boss is gone today,” he whispers, “so if you sign up now, I’ll give you an extra bonus—just between us. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.” The incentive could be a discount, free add-on service, or even a BOGO (buy one and get one for free). By lowering his voice, the salesperson treats it like it’s a deep secret between you and him.

I experienced the most deplorable abuse of this tactic once when shopping for a used car. The owner of the lot gave me what I considered to be a fair price for the car I was interested in. But it was a one-day-only deal. When I told him I wanted to check out a couple other cars down the street first, he clarified his offer. It was only good until I left. If I came back—even an hour later—I’d have to pay full price.

I didn’t think he’d hold to his threat, but he delivered it convincingly enough to cause me to doubt. In the end, I reluctantly bought the car from him. Though I don’t feel he charged too much or sold me a lemon, I forever hold a bad impression of him. And he heightened my overall dislike for car salespeople.

Sales Success Tip

Offer prospects a special incentive whenever you can do so honestly and ethically. But avoid abusing this tactic by creating a false sense of urgency or lying to your prospect.

Read more in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s Sticky Series books, including Sticky Customer ServiceSticky Sales and Marketing, and Sticky Leadership and Management featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Common themes at every turn have included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management.

He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books to encourage, inspire, and occasionally entertain.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.