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May 06

Sales and Social Engineering: Illusion of Choice

From 2005 to 2010, one of the “hats” I wore was that of a sales associate. Sales and Social Engineering can go hand in hand. That is what has inspired this series.

I have used this technique on several occasions, and it has been used on me in kind. When this technique is used on me, I loathe the sales associate, but the social engineer in me has to give some respect.

In sales, this skill is called “leading the client”, meaning to lead the client to the answer, or a smaller pool of answers, that you as a social engineer have predetermined. A basic example of this technique would be to give the mark a ” this or that”.

“Would you like a six month or twelve month agreement?”

Here, whether we have a month-to-month plan or a three month plan does not matter because the mark was given two options for their consideration. This is called an “illusion of choice” and it is often used. Now, if the client/mark asks for other options, we should gladly give them the remaining options. I will say that if done correctly (that is, without being pushy or obnoxious), the client usually goes with one of the original options presented. This is because the illusion of choice is still a choice nonetheless.

What does Sun Tzu say about this scenario?

If you corner the enemy into a hopeless situation, they will fight tooth and nail, as there is no other option.

The illusion of choice is also a way for you as the sales associate/social engineer to put your target’s mind at ease and have them lower their guard.

How was this used on me? A few months back, I had lunch at a local Firehouse Subs. The cashier taking my order said that for today only they had a choice between the large sub and the extra large sub… I went in with the intention of buying the medium. I chose the large and the cashier said she was joking. By that time I couldn’t be mad and chose the large anyway. She made it work.

How can you use this technique? Be subtle. Be creative!

1 comment

  1. Good post. This works great on young children: “Do you want to put you left sock on first, or your right sock?”

    And with family/friends: “Do you want Thai tonight, or your Chinese?”

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