The ‘Foot In The Door’ Effect

2 min readJul 29, 2018


Selling anything is difficult. Thankfully, there’s one way to give yourself the best possible chance.

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If you walk the busier streets of London it won’t be long before you find yourself being approached by an overly enthusiastic, smiley individual who just wants to have a “quick chat.”

The novice, caught off guard, will naturally stop and engage this friendly stranger in conversation. They will soon discover that there is a motive behind their amiability: to collect donations for charity.

The money isn’t asked for straight away mind.

Your new friend will first get you talking about a neutral enough subject to build rapport before they then launch into an emotive story behind their charity’s objectives.

This technique is known as the ‘foot in the door’ effect and it’s an example of what is understood in psychological terms as a ‘commitment’ device.

By getting someone to agree or ‘commit’ to something small up front it makes them much more likely to commit to something bigger later on. e.g. signing up to a monthly donation

The term has its origins in travelling salesmen who knew that if they could get ‘a foot in the door’ they would be much more likely to get a sale than if the person hadn’t opened it in the first place.

Variations on this same idea include car dealers letting you borrow the car you’re interested in for an extended test drive.

It is a very effective sales strategy (hence why it is so commonly used) and has implications for any person wanting to sell a product or service to someone.

If you can get them to commit to something small up front then you have a much higher chance of converting that into a sale later on.

Foot meet open door.

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If you want to learn more about similar techniques and what drivers our decisions when it comes to paying for things check out our online masterclass taught by the rather brilliant Rory Sutherland.




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