Sales Tips: How to Get Your “Foot in the Door” More Often

The good old FITD or Foot in the Door sales technique is one that we’ve all seen in practice throughout our lives, whether we realize it or not. Sometimes it’s used for the forces of good, such as making a much needed sale. Other times, you’ll see it used by greedy con men who’ve mastered the fine art of manipulation to a “T”.

The basic principal behind FITD is this: Ask for something small first. If you get a yes from that initial request, that person you got the yes from will be much more likely to say yes to what you ask of them next (source: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Study, circa 1966). In theory, the technique is rather flawless; you either get that first yes, or you don’t.

Where Foot in the Door originated…

Back in my younger days, I worked for several months as a Kirby Vacuum salesman. There, our biggest hurdle to selling those over-priced, over-hyped vacuums was literally getting our “foot in the door”. If you could make it past the most common objections (such as the standby “I’m not interested”), you still had a slim chance to make the sale, but the grass was definitely greener on the other side (or inside of the home, in the case of a door to door vacuum pusher).

Foot in the Door is a name coined from door to door sales actually. It’s the old idea that sticking your foot in the door meant the customer couldn’t close it and actually had to listen to your pitch to get rid of you. Getting your pitch out uninterrupted is like trying to hit a 180 in darts without any practice — it’s a rarity that a customer will allow this without cutting you off/slamming the door in your face.

If you’re anything like me, at this point you’re putting 2 and 2 together and saying something like “If you force your foot in the door, you’re not really getting a yes out of the customer at all, you’re illegally trespassing!” I wholeheartedly agree if FITD were actually born out of the literal sense. We’ll have to let that one go and just move on.

foot in the door technique

What the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology study from 1966 discovered:

There have been a number of studies that have proven how well Foot in the Door works in the modern age. Several solicitation-style companies have put it to use to find out the best way to approach customers in a way that gets their sales team yeses instead of noes.

The JPSP study came up with a number of rather surprising insights into the psychology of coaxing a yes out of people. It found that a small-to-big question progression was most effective. In fact, it was way more effective than simply swinging for the fences from the get-go:

  • They started by asking the innocent question “Would you mind telling us what kind of cleaning products you use in your home?”
  • After getting a yes, they proceeded and next asked “Would it be possible for us to send one of our researchers to your home to take a closer examination of those products?”

While this part of the study was taking place, another group of callers was on the phones asking people flat out if they would allow a researcher to come into their home and take a look at their cleaning products. This part of the study found those who said yes to the initial request to divulge what cleaning products were used were 135% more likely to say yes to having a researcher visit their home.

Next they set out to up the ante even more:

  • Participants were asked if they would mind putting a bumper sticker on their car (promoting safe driving) or a sticker in their home’s window (promoting saving the environment).
  • After getting a yes from certain participants, those yes-men and women were asked if they would mind putting a massive billboard-sized sign in their front yard with the same message promoted in their car or home window.

I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise you at this point to learn that most who said yes to the first request ended up saying yes again to the second, bigger question.

foot in the door sales technique
Image Credit: When I Was a Bird/Flickr

Foot in the Door technique in practice

Now that you’ve learned just where this simple, yet subliminally complex technique came from and how remarkable the results can be, let’s look at some great modern examples of it put to use.

Consider what you’re actually doing when building an email list on your website or vlog…

What are your actual plans? Simply to keep in touch and say hello once in a while?

No, you’re making a small request, while offering something of little expense to you in return. Such as keeping them updated on any pressing, relevant information you might be able to provide. Or to tell them when you’ve made a new post or released a new video. What you’re likely planning, if you’re like most smart marketers, is to employ the Pareto (80/20) and hit them up with an even bigger request after grooming them for awhile. After enough small yeses, you’ll ask them to make a big purchase, right?

To this day, I still get dozens of door-to-door people knocking on my door. Guess what I’ve found to be one of the most effective techniques all the good ones use?

Simply asking if they can come in for a moment. Once they’re inside, most of us in the civilized world can’t help but at least listen to their pitch, and what kind of insane robber would take the time to politely ask his way in anyway?


Simple, small requests are hard to say no to. And once you’ve said it once, it’s tough to do a one-eighty, provided the additional requests remain reasonable.

Foot in the Door may have origins in much simpler times, but considering it hits at the very essence of our psychological need to remain constant, it’s a technique that can be used in virtually all industries and facets of life to improve sales dramatically.

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