6 Ways to Improve Your Power of Persuasion


In 1984, persuasion expert Robert Cialdini, now known as “the guru of social influence,” was a lowly assistant professor of social psychology at Arizona State University.  He was on a temporary appointment at Ohio State University when he had an epiphany.  He was analyzing data from one of his experiences when he heard a roar from Ohio Stadium during a football game.

From that crowd response, he started thinking about how social events influence the real world outside his controlled studies.  He started taking part-time jobs in sales positions, and he observed how religious cult leaders make big money from their idealistic youthful followers.

After several years, Cialdini came up with 6 principles of persuasion.   These principles of persuasion can help you mightily in your business.  The following infographic is a good place to start.

Image source: EmergeLocal

Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Persuasion

  1. Reciprocity.  This principle is based in the sense that people have that they are obligated to repay or match someone else’s generosity.  Legendary direct marketing copywriter Gary Halbert used this principle when he mailed out a sales letter introducing his very first copy of The Gary Halbert Letter.  Halbert attached a dollar bill to his sales letter.  For his first subscribers, a penny was attached to the first edition of The Gary Halbert Letter, with this explanation: “You see, what I’m trying to do is “condition” you. What I want is for you to get used to the idea of receiving money in the mail as a result of your association with me.”  This was part of his pitch to get those subscribers to read his first letter and get them excited about receiving his second one.  Reciprocity is a powerful persuader.
  2. Commitment and Consistency.  In his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Cialdini reports on a study done about people at racetracks by two Canadian psychologists.  This pair discovered that bettors are more confident of their bet after they’ve made it than beforehand.  Nothing has changed other than receiving a betting slip for their money.  Here’s the principle – “It is, quite simply, our nearly obsessive desire to be (and to appear) consistent with what we have already done” (p. 57).  Cialdini says that once we’ve made a decision or taken a stand, internal pressures kick in to ensure that we act consistently with what we’ve already decided.  THE sales trainer of the 1950s. 60s, and 70s, J. Douglas Edwards used and taught this persuasion technique long before Cialdini’s work.  Edwards, “the Father of Modern Selling,” trained over 200,000 trainees during his career; he taught them to use questions to get commitments from prospects that could be used later in the sales process to secure sales.
  3.  Social Proof.  Yogi Berra once said about a restaurant, “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”  When our family traveled, my father didn’t like going to chain restaurants.  He’d look for local places with plenty of cars in the parking lot.  Not too many, but enough to show that it was popular.  That’s where we ate, and that’s the power of social proof.
  4. Liking.  The celebrated American lawyer Clarence Darrow once said, “The main work of a trial attorney is to make a jury like his client.”  Your first work in marketing is to make your prospects know, like, and trust you.  Liking usually comes first.  This is the principle behind Tupperware, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Avon, Amway, The Pampered Chef, and other direct sale companies.
  5. Authority.  Experts are respected, and if you can show that you are an expert in your field or niche, this persuasion technique can work for you.  Expert testimony works for the legal community and it works in advertising and marketing also.  Doctors, scientists, recognized authorities in particular fields, the endorsement of a reputable organization, even celebrities are presented as authority figures in advertising and marketing and fortunes have been made using this technique.  In 1997, China banned the use of authority figures in advertising.  Their fear was that authority figures can mislead consumers.  That is a short-term fear.  Long-term, deception is a killer for advertising, marketing and business.
  6. Scarcity.  Expedia uses this persuasion technique every day.  Look for a hotel room, and you’re likely to see something like “In high demand!  We have 2 left at $93” (an actual quote for a hotel room in West Hartford, Connecticut.

Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman, says 95% of our decision making process takes place in the subconscious mind.  If you’re not getting to that level in your marketing, you’re missing out on many leads and sales.  Cialdini’s principles will get you to the subconscious level.

Which of these persuasion techniques do you use?  Which ones can you use?

I invite your comments and questions and your likes and shares.



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