Used Boat Sales Tactics: Commitment and Consistency

In social science research, much work has been done in “commitment and consistency,” which can make their appearances as sales tactics  in day-to-day transactions. These transactions can take place at a store, over the phone, at your door, or even in a boat dealer’s showroom.

People have a natural tendency toward commitment and consistency. In fact, most people value and revere those qualities in a person. In politics, a candidate who does not exhibit those traits is often labeled a flip-flopper, regardless of whether new evidence emerged to cause a change of heart. It is this tendency toward commitment and consistency that can be used against you in a selling situation.

handshake-crossed-350pxSay you’re trading in an older boat on a new model. The salesperson might ask you, “If I can get you this price for your trade, will you buy the boat?” Or, “If I give you this price on the new boat, will you buy it?”  By saying yes to such questions you have made a defacto commitment to buy the boat. This is often where the shenanigans start.

Before making such a verbal commitment, or worse, making a commitment on paper, be sure all the variables are controlled, because things can shift once you commit. I’ll give you an example. The salesman might come back to you and even though the price of the trade hasn’t changed, the price of the new boat has. Or the price of the boat hasn’t changed but he can’t give you as much for your trade-in.

This is where you feel the pressure mount, because now it’s staged as your shortcoming that the deal is falling through. The salesperson may say something like, “I don’t understand —  you said if I could get you the price you wanted, you’d buy.” It’s as if you are being inconsistent and reneging on your commitment.

When you agree to one variable as the hinge on which the purchase swings, you might run into these kinds of tactics. The better, safer route is to lock down all the variables such as purchase price, trade-in value, and interest rate before making any kind of commitment.

The tactic also can be used with value-added merchandise such as optional features. “If I can get you the canvas package with the bimini top at not charge, do we have a deal?” Your response should be something like, “Sure, as long as my trade-in value is X, the purchase price stays the same, and the interest rate is Y.” Lock them down before they attempt to lock you down to a commitment you made cursorily.

The kinds of tactics outlined above are a bit heavy-handed. To get you to recognize the human tendency toward commitment and consistency and how it can be used against you in a selling situation, I demonstrated them that way on purpose. However, be aware that they can be employed in more subtle ways. Forewarned is fore-armed, right?

For more on used-boat sales tactics to be aware of, see the following posts:

Good hunting!


Boat Trader has plenty of  Buying and Selling advice, but also check out the hundreds of articles in the Boating section, with tips on everything from seamanship to maintenance, how-to, where to find replacement parts, and much more.



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