What is Foot In The Door Technique + How to Leverage

foot in the door technique

How often have you been asked to taste a bite of chocolate or have a perfume sample while crossing a busy street? Did the sellers try to start a conversation with you, and minutes later, you were buying things you didn’t need? Yes, all of these miraculous events are part of the Foot In The Door Technique (FITD)  used since the days of the door-to-door encyclopedia salespeople. 

Of course, it’s not going to happen for everyone, and that’s why there is a section in marketing called Psychographic Segmentation that focuses on categorizing customers and why and how they can be persuaded to buy.

Here we discuss the origins and examples of this method and, of course, the reason why you see yourself buying those stuff.

What is Foot in The Door Technique?

Foot In The Door Technique is a strategy used to persuade people to agree to a particular action, based on the idea that if a respondent complies with a small initial request. These customers then will be more likely to agree to a later, more significant request, which they would not have agreed to had they been asked outright.Let’s break it down a little. FITD works by getting a small yes first and then getting the customer to agree to an even bigger request, easy as that. In nearly every experiment, FITD works. First, make a small request. Next, make a large request, and people are more likely to accept. This is a psychological trick and can be discussed in depth in customer behavior analytics.

big foot in small door

Why Does Foot in The Door Technique Work?

Ok, it’s time to discuss the reason behind buying stuff you don’t need on that busy street and how companies can use these behaviors in their favorite ways. There are two main theories that psychologists have tried to explain this behavior with. 

1. Consistency

When a salesperson starts a conversation with you, for example, just by asking a simple question such as your supplier for a specific product, he is developing an initial relationship with you, and you see yourself  honoring him in no time. After this small question that you see no harm to answer, it’s more likely that you agree with other offers he made because of that initial relationship that you have already made.

2. Self-perception

The compliance derived from this technique is part of the self-perception theory, proposed by social psychologist Daryl Bem. He suggested that our own opinions and actions are determined by how we perceive ourselves as acting.

When you agree with the salesperson’s first small suggestion, it leads you to the self-perception that you are well-meaning or charitable. So when you confront the second suggestion that is much bigger than the first one, you feel compelled to comply with it, even if it is not the most rational judgment.

Proofs for Foot in The Door Technique

Psychologists first examined the FITD phenomenon in 1966. Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser of Stanford University conducted a landmark study, later published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (1966, Vol. 4, No. 2, 195-202). The title was “Compliance Without Pressure: The Foot-in-the-Door Technique.”

They began with the question, “How can a person be induced to do something he would rather not do?” Next, they explained their experiments. First, they asked a group of people for a small request by telephone and later asked them for a more significant one in person.

The small request made by telephone was for subjects to report on what type of household cleaning products they used. The second request was to allow a researcher into their home to examine their household products brands and usage.

Compared with the control group, who was merely asked for in-home product analysis, subjects who had first responded positively to the first request were 135% more likely to react positively to the second request.

chart of three sale method
Source:  IvyPanda

What Are the Foot in The Door Technique Examples?

We all know that the glory days of FITD have passed, the days when the door-to-door business model was the primary option, but in the online era, this method still works. 

  •  Offering a well-sized first suggestion

The easiest and most common thing that almost everyone has is an email in our modern days. So it’s more likely that people will give away their email address to websites and businesses that ask for it, and this is the first yes. Companies try to sell their products and take second and third yes too.

  • Asking for email 

In our modern days, the easiest and most common thing that almost everyone has is an email. So it’s more likely that people will give away their email address to websites and businesses that ask for it, and this is the first Yes, from here businesses try to sell their products and take second and third Yes too. 

  • Asking for sharing on social media

Asking customers to share their experiences on social media is another simple way to develop a relationship. It’s too easy for them to share a post or product on Twitter, Instagram, and etc. This is the bridge that is easy to build and maintain.

Difference Between Foot in The Door Technique and Door in The Face

These two techniques may seem similar but are the exact opposite of each other. We discussed the FITD before and how the small yes leads us to the second and bigger yes. The Door in The Face technique involves making a large request from the outset, which is so demanding that the subject is likely to refuse it. Then, a subsequent, more realistic request is made, which the person may be more inclined to agree to when comparing to the first. 

For example, if the salesman tells that they sell a product for 10 times higher than the usual price, we will reject it. But then, he reduces the cost to two times higher than normal. Here we will compare the two offers and more likely accept the second one because we think it’s better.


Foot in The Door Technique may seem rude and intrusive, but, as Freedman and Fraser explained, it is a method of “compliance without pressure.” In psychology studies of this method, it’s  the customer who persuades him or herself. So you should be aware of this technique and use it if you desire.

Abtin Bahramian is a game programmer who now concentrates on the web content area. Abtin loves to write beautiful content about digital marketing strategies. But, while not writing, he is probably learning some other languages, playing guitar, having fun with his friends, or most likely making video games.
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