During a recent sales training session I was leading, we were discussing ideas for handling different objections heard by in-home salespeople. While discussing different methods to overcome price objections, a salesperson shared how they generally handle this: Before giving a price, he uses several tie-down questions and then tries to isolate price as the only reason not to move forward. Does it work?

What- is the Tie-Down Technique?

First, let's get clear on the technique: A tie-down is a question that is designed to elicit agreement from the potential customer, with the idea being if they say “yes” a few times, it may make them more agreeable when you ask for the order.

He demonstrated that it goes something like this: "You appeared to like this feature of my product, isn’t that correct?" "You mentioned this color would look great on that wall, right?" After using a few tie-down questions when reiterating something the homeowner liked about his product or service, he would then say: “Other than price, is there any reason you would not mover forward with us doing this project?”

Manipulative or Not?

Something had been on my mind for a few weeks prior to this encounter, so I took an opportunity to either validate or disprove this thought in my head. I’ve been in varied sales roles in this industry for over 30 years, and anytime I’ve heard something like what this individual shared, I always found it to be a manipulative tactic. My challenge has always been deciding whether I find it manipulative because I have a lot of experience in this industry, and can see through the tactic? But does this work with people who lack that experience? If so, then why not?

After much debate with myself, here is where I have landed: I believe anybody who works in sales, or at one time worked in sales, would see this tactic for what it is: an attempt to back them into a corner with their own answers and use that information to press them to buy at the end of the sales presentation.

After he finished, I laid my thesis in front of the group, suggesting that anybody who is, or has previously worked in sales of any kind, may see this tactic as manipulative and begin to shut down internally, or pushback.

He smiled and said, “That does happen sometimes when the customer is a salesperson … teachers and engineers don’t seem to like it either.”

Clearly, It's Risky

Sales is a popular profession, and if I’m right, that is a pretty good size pool of people you could potentially alienate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 13,256,290 people worked in a sales field in 2021 and that number does not include self-employed workers, which would drive that number much higher. Given this number of people who might be turned off by tie-downs, it's clearly a risky tactic.

Look, I can see the value in using tie-down questions in a sales interaction, provided it’s conducted in a certain manner. Those particular circumstances is a good topic for next month’s column. In the meantime, if you want to continue to use tie-downs, consider adding this question to all in-home sales presentations first: "What do you do for a living?” and proceed accordingly.

I realize this one interaction can neither validate, nor discredit my thesis. I am continuing to look for opportunities to broach this subject as I travel across the country working with in-home salespeople. I’m really interested in your thoughts. My email and phone number are below; please reach out and let me know what you think. Happy selling!