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Getting a Great Deal on Your Next Motorcycle – The Puppy Dog

So what do puppies have to do with negotiating for a motorcycle? It is assumed that you want to get your bike for the least amount of your money, and that you are looking out for your own best interests. However, you might be unwittingly working against yourself if you are unaware of a strong emotional force present in every transaction.

** The following is excerpted from the book, The Perfect Motorcycle: How to Choose, Find and Buy the Perfect New or Used Bike. The information provided here will give you a framework to guide your motorcycle purchases. Space limitations preclude an in-depth discussion of the subject. You can find out about the book at www.theperfectmotorcycle.com. There are also 18 checklists and worksheets available for download at www.theperfectmotorcycle.com/download-worksheets-and-che.html that you can use to supplement the information in the book.

Professional sellers know many ways to tip the scales in their favor and get the most money for their products. Professional selling methods include techniques to close the sale to prospective buyers, appropriately called “closes.” The Puppy Dog Close is the most powerful closing technique used by sellers to win an emotional commitment and to even have the prospect help sell the product to them. But, what the pros don’t tell you is that this technique can be used on either side—you can also use this approach in your favor. It is also important to realize that this emotional mechanism is in play in every sale, even when a professional isn’t involved.

Here’s how the close got its name: You walk past a pet store window, and see a pen full of puppies and think they’re cute. You also consider their training, how their cries will wake you up, and the expense for their food, vet care, leashes, collars, and grooming. People don’t like change. You were doing fine before you walked past, and it will take effort to change the current situation. The scale will tip in favor of the seller and you will take action to take a puppy home, only if the every one of the objections you have to dog ownership are overcome. You are looking for reasons not to get a puppy.


The savvy pet shop owner picks up a dog you were looking at, approaches you, hands you the puppy and says, “I see you were looking at this puppy. I know it’s hard to decide. I’ll tell you what. I’ll lend you a dog pillow, a leash, a food bowl, a book about this type of dog, and I’ll give you a week’s worth of kibble. You can take the dog home to see how it works out. Bring it back in a week, if you don’t want it, and I’ll refund all your money.” Now, if you take the dog home, you will have crossed an emotional line. You will look for every reason to keep the puppy.

The scale has been tipped in favor of the seller. Again, people don’t like change. It would take a lot for you change the current situation and return the dog to the shop. So, you get a little howling or chewing on the coffee table? No biggie. Even your brother-in-law does that. Heck, in the last week, you showed “your” dog to all your friends, took pictures of it to share with coworkers, and even named it. The dog is emotionally yours, and you are invested in taking responsibility for it. You are now working for the seller in the negotiation, and the sale is almost certainly closed.

In professional sales, the seller uses techniques to get you to emotionally “own” the product. They will get you to imagine yourself enjoying the benefits of ownership. They will get you to sit on the bike and imagine what it would feel like to be on the open road. They will use language to paint a mental picture like, “What do you think your buddies will say when you ride up on your new bike?” and “Won’t it be great after a long day’s ride, sitting in your garage with a cold beer, looking at your beautiful bike parked next to your workbench?” “Let’s see if we can get the manager to get you test ride on your bike.” Once you emotionally cross the line and own this bike in your mind, you begin doing their job for them.

The “puppy dog close” is used by marketers and sellers every day in many ways and guises you might not have considered. Common examples are; moneyback guarantees, trial subscriptions, first-month free rebates, test drives, and introductory prices. These programs are used to lower the cost or risk of acquiring the product and get the consumer emotionally owning it while additionally making it difficult to undo the new relationship.

The bottom line of all this puppy talk is you need to be aware of this impulse in yourself, and emotionally disconnect yourself from the outcome of the negotiation to get the best deal. Regardless of the source you decide to buy from, reseller, individual, or auction—if you picture yourself with this bike in your driveway, stop! Motorcycles are just products, like a can of soup, or a piece of lumber. Your words are important, too. What you say and what you feel can be different. You can say, “I want to buy this” but you could really mean. “I want to get the best deal.”

Think about how you could use this puppy dog strategy in reverse as a buyer. Once you have convinced the seller that you are likely to buy that motorcycle, he will look for reasons to finish the sale with you rather than someone else. So, if you say, “I’ll take it,” and if the buyer believes you will, you now have the upper hand and can negotiate from a stronger position. Up to the point where the title transfer is signed, you have the ability to tell the seller you changed your mind. In some states, you can even change your mind up to a couple of days later if you have buyer’s remorse. Of course, if you decide to “puppy dog” the seller, you should only do so if you really want to buy the motorcycle and the terms of the deal are close to those you want.

Now that you are aware of this technique, don’t let sellers “puppy dog” you, and don’t haphazardly “puppy dog” sellers, either. You shouldn’t disappoint people for sport by reneging on a purchase, but you can often wring a few concessions on a bike you want to buy by continuing to negotiate after indicating that a deal has been struck.

Kevin Domino’s book, “The Perfect Motorcycle: How to Choose, Find and Buy the Perfect New or Used Bike,” is published by 671 Press. www.theperfectmotorcycle.com

Kevin is an avid motorcycle enthusiast with a riding career spanning four decades. He has ridden many hundreds of thousands of miles on dozens of new and used motorcycles from around the world, and participated in many motorcycling activities, from riding dirt bikes and motocross to motorcycle commuting in metro areas, to long-distance rides and rallies.

Kevin’s writing is enriched by the business perspective earned in nearly 30 years in professional sales and operations management for high-tech companies.

Currently based in the Midwestern U.S., he is preparing two more books for publication.

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