Used Boat Sales Tactics: Rejection, Retreat, Revision

You will face a number of sales tactics when buying a used boat from a dealer or even when buying from a shrewd private owner. I’ve already mentioned some in this blog:

Another of my favorite tactics to foil could be called “rejection, retreat, revision.” Here’s how it works.

A seller will make a request to the buyer to accept some terms or conditions as part of a deal on a boat. If the buyer rejects the terms or conditions, the seller retreats and offers a more amenable set of terms and conditions that the buyer will then be more tempted to accept.

A seller's revised offer may be an improvement over the first, but it doesn't mean it has reached a level where it's to your advantage.
A seller’s revised offer may be an improvement over the first, but that doesn’t mean it has reached a level where it’s to your advantage.

For example, the seller may ask you to use their in-house financing at a higher rate in exchange for a lower price. As an alert buyer, you might notice that the interest rate is two points higher than what your bank quoted you, so you reject his offer. When he comes back with a counter offer, you notice the price is the same, but the interest rate is lower by a full point point, so you agree to the terms and do the deal.

Back up for just a second. The rejection-retreat-revision method is a common compliance tactic used in sales. The sales person likely knew you’d reject the first offer — but if you didn’t, good for him and the dealership. An additional percentage point in interest can net the dealer more profit “on the back end.” But the first offer was something of a ruse to make the second offer look good. Academics call the comparison between the two offers “perceptual contrast.”

But look at that deal more closely. The interest rate in deal you accepted is still one percentage point higher than you were quoted by your bank. But the salesperson’s use of the rejection-retreat-revision tactic, and perceptual contrast made the deal attractive enough to you even though you will end up paying more in interest than you would have if you had gone with the quote from your bank.

Once you can recognize the tactic, you will see the second offer not as a favor or a concession on the part of the salesperson, but as a compliance technique to get you to agree to the sale on terms they wanted all along.

The good news is that it’s not difficult to recognize the tactic once you know how it works. The better news is that you can put it to use in your negotiations with them. Say, for example, you really want the dealer to throw in a new ski rope and a tube for the kids for towing behind the boat. You might start by asking if the dealer will throw a pair of water skis and a wakeboard in on the deal. When the dealer rejects your requests, you follow up with your second request for a rope and a tube. Now you’re the one who has harnessed an effective compliance technique.

Odds are good your kids will love their new tube — and your new-to-you boat.


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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