Persuasion technique: Low-Ball

psychology head

Himy friends,

One problem we always face is: how to persuade other people to do what we want. Examples could be : How to convince your customers to buy your product?  How to make people do what they don’t want ( get rid of their bad habits…) ?

Don’t be discouraged by the length of this post. I’m sure it won’t take you more than 5 mins to read and understand it. Trust me.

I myself was a victim of a salesman, who combined multiple marketing techniques at once, to force me into buying his product.  Therefore,  I decided to learn more how it works so that I could prevent it to happen to me again.  I can use the same trick to persuade other people as well 🙂

(I’ll tell you how he tricked me and what techniques he used in next post, once you get a good basic understanding on this topic)

In this post, I’ll introduce you (and explain as clearly as I can) an important marketing technique.  It’s called Low-Ball technique.

To know how it works, we take a look at an experiment:


  • Step 1:

Iowa state’s residents was asked to reduce their energy usage by 30% . If they agree, their names would be published in the newspaper the following month. Result: The effect was immediate, almost every family in this experiment had saved energy >=30%.

  • Step 2:

Then, “Low-ball” technique came in to play, the researchers took back what they had originally offered : “we are sorry to say that we can’t publish your name on the local newspaper”

  • Step 3:

At the end of winter, surprisingly, according to the data, instead of returning to their old, wasteful habits,  the families in the research even saved MORE energy in following months after researchers took back their promise.

Hey, what happened here? You may wonder. Here comes the explanation.


In the beginning, people in this research merely did so because they just wanted to have their names published in local newspaper.

But they didn’t know,  once they made a commitment, it started generating its own support :

  • Reason 1 –  The homeowners began acquiring their new saving energy habit, they feel good about their public-spirited effort.
  • Reason 2 – They thought energy-saving can be a way to reduce American dependence on foreign fuel
  • Reason 3 –  They started to appreciate saving money on energy bills.

=> No wonder that the commitment remains firmed even when the original motivation had been taken away.

It sounds kinda complicated, right? If you feel so, take a look at below images illustrated each step below.  ( I made them using Google Docs)

Low Ball : Step 1


Low-Ball : Step 2


<br/> <b> STEP 3 </b>


So basically, to sum up, low-ball technique is all about giving them what people want as a reward (name listing in newspaper) to convince people to make a decision (save energy).

After the decision has been made, take back what we originally offered (tell them we can’t publish their names in newspaper) .  Their newly-made decision is now backed up by their own supporting reasons.

Think about : how should you apply this technique in real life?

This is my first post on this blog. Hope you find it helpful. 😉




Filed under Psychology/Business

3 responses to “Persuasion technique: Low-Ball

  1. Iris Bui

    🙂 it sounds interesting to me :p

  2. Ken

    It seems as though if you low-ball too often, people will see you as a dishonest man. You’re not keeping your word. Example that IOWA was suppose to put their names in the newspaper but in fact did not. This shows that the state can come across as dishonest or irresponsible. It seems like it has its downs.

    • Good observation, Ken. Those tricks are only good for people who just wanna sell you their product ONE time.
      I totally agree that if you want to build a Trusted friendship or relationship with your customers, stay away from these persuasion techniques. 🙂
      Thanks for your very nice comment.

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