A Little at a Time

By Caesar P. Tabet

Psychologists tell us that most people are much more apt to say yes to a new idea if it is presented to them a little at a time. But if the entire matter is thrust at them in one big piece, they will probably turn it down fast.

Publicists put this psychological quirk to practical use and so do teachers. Physicians apply it in healing mental illness. It has dollar and cents value in selling, and many of us use it, perhaps without giving it conscious thought. Its importance was brought home to me again recently when my little nephew came to visit me over the holidays.

When we first met, my nephew wanted a dollar to put in his bank. The idea was good – save money – I gave him the dollar. Later he asked me for a quarter for another good reason – ice cream. And so on!

He stayed for four days, and after he left, I recovered from exhaustion and realized he had obtained $10 from me. If he had asked me for $10 when we first met, I would have flatly refused. But he did it step-by-step, every time presenting a need that was appealing and logical. What could I do but fill each one as it came along?

Buster collected $10 from me, but he reminded me of the importance of that bit of practical psychology in selling. The successful salesperson uncovers the prospect’s needs and presents those needs to the prospect in such a personal, appealing way that the prospect can’t help but want to have those needs met. But if the salesman senses that the prospect can’t or won’t meet them all at one time, he concentrates on the paramount need and takes care of the others gradually and in due time.

To ask for the whole $10 at once is to gamble on all or nothing – with the odds usually on nothing. To ask for it a little at a time, with each appeal touching the prospect’s basic emotions, is to be almost certain of the whole.