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backdoor selling

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Backdoor selling is a social engineering practice used by a supplier or seller to gain a competitive advantage prior to negotiations or competition for a contract or sale. The practice reduces the buyer’s leverage and the need for negotiation, thereby often assuring a contract or getting a better price for the seller.

Backdoor selling involves asking questions to acquire information that the buyer wants to protect or that competitors lack. The salesperson would not generally target employees involved with procurement but other staff who are unlikely to recognize the value of the information sought.

A product or goods seller might probe in areas like price, quality, delivery, service life and the performance of competitors. Relative to a contract, a supplier might ask questions about which requirements were most important or how essential deadlines were. Based on this knowledge, a supplier can emphasize requirements and contract elements that are most important; a seller might push for a higher price and include fees that might otherwise have been forgone as an incentive.

By circumventing standard procurement procedures, backdoor selling essentially games the system designed to protect the buyer’s interests and ensure fair competition among suppliers. Gray-area techniques like backdoor selling are often used by experienced sales persons and included in sales training materials. Despite its common use, however, backdoor selling can be considered a low-level form of industrial espionage.

Backdoor selling can also refer to the selling of goods to a consumer outside normal purchasing rules. One example of this type of backdoor selling is sales by wholesalers direct to consumers, contrary to existing agreements with retailers.

See a video demo of backdoor selling and how to protect yourself from it:

This was last updated in June 2016

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