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The 6 Principles Of Persuasion Everyone In Business Should Know

Why do you buy a product or paid for a service? What motivates your customers to say yes. Have you ever thought about it? The list in your mind is probably endless, I suppose, but do you think it has anything to do with persuasion. Yeah, persuasion. For several years’ many companies’ have persuaded us the public to buy their products or to try their service using some very catchy ads like:

Proctor and Gamble Thank you, Mom campaign

The ever-so-catchy “Every Kiss Begins with Kay” that’s helped the jeweler sell loads of diamonds.

And my local favorite

Digicel, The bigger, better network.

Many companies understand the science behind what makes you say yes, and you can thank Dr. Robert Cialdini for it. What got me intrigued about Cialdini’s work is a social experiment video I saw on Facebook named “most people are sheep.”

A guy enters a room and notices that everyone in the room is standing when a horn is blown. At first, the guy ignores the group and continue to sit; however, after three times, the guy eventually joins the group when the horn is blown and stands as well for no reason at all.

This experiment led me to Dr. Robert Cialdini’s book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Cialdini defined this as social proof, people doing what they observe other people doing. It’s a principle that’s based on the idea of safety in numbers. According to Jeff Sexton, whether we admit it or not, most of us are impressed when someone has a ton of subscribers, Twitter followers, YouTube views and multiple blog reviews for their upcoming book. Anyone shopping on Amazon can read tons of customer feedback on any product, many businesses show their Facebook likes and Twitter followers.

But that's the science of social proof; if a group of people is looking to the back of the elevator, the individual who enters the elevator will copy it and do the same, even if it seems funny, and that was a proven elevator experiment.

Let take a look at the six principles individually and their application in a business context:


According to Cialdini, Reciprocation explains why free samples can be so useful. People feel indebted to those who do something for them or give them a gift. Many companies adopted this principle of reciprocity. Netflix, Amazon, Hubspot all offer a free service for a stipulated period or a blogger who provides a free download, free webinars, free ebooks. These companies and individuals understand that human beings are wired to return favors, and as a result, your site visitors would be more likely to feel obligated to buy something from your website.


People take much pride in being true to their word. Cialdini suggests that both oral and written promises are powerful, persuasive techniques and that people tend to honor agreements even after the original incentive or motivation is no longer present. People want to be both consistent and true to their word. Getting customers or co-workers to commit to something publicly makes them more likely to follow through with an action or purchase. For instance, if you ask your team members to support your next initiative, ask them to say why. Getting people to answer ‘yes’ makes them more powerfully committed to an action.


We dealt with social proof above. People will usually follow the crowd, safety in numbers.


Cialdini explained that likability is based on sharing something similar to people you like. People will naturally associate with individuals who are like them, and this applies to business as well. Customers tend to buy from companies they like; everyone has a favorite brand that appeals to them, and the more similarities between the customer and the brand, the more positive that relationship developed over time. Likability may also come in the form of trust if you are fair, open, genuine, and honest in your actions and have a general interest in people and their welfare. This will begin to build that trust with your staff, which is one of the branches of liking and respect.


Are you more likely to take instruction from a person whom you perceived to be authoritative? According to Cialdini, job titles such as Dr. can infuse an air of authority into people, and as a result, this can lead the average person to accept what a person in authority is saying without question. If you take LinkedIn influencers, for example, their post attracts thousands of views and comments simply because people consider the influencer’s authority in their field because of their success. We’re not talking about being in authority but about being an authority. What do the experts think about this topic”?


In economics, scarcity relates to supply and demand. The less there is of something, the more valuable it is. According to Cialdini, the more something is rare and uncommon; the more people want it. So, for example, many companies use “don’t miss this chance” book your spots early limited seating available. Have you ever notice the long lines for a new product? People camping outside the store. If you create that environment of scarcity, you will create a demand for your product or service.

These principles are very powerful only because they bypass our rational mind and appeal to our subconscious instincts. A good seller will always refer to the favorable opinion of other users and how successful the product is. Or will give their customers a free trial. But it is important to note that if you are unethical and trying to con your customers, people will see right through your scam. These principles will only be useful if you are genuine in your efforts and deliver on your promise to your customers.


About Gifford Thomas

I am the founder of Leadership First and one of the leading voices on inspirational leadership. At Leadership First, we are motivating, inspiring, mentoring and coaching over 122,000 leaders every day to believe in the impossible and helping all leaders create an environment where their people are inspired and motivated to become the very best version of themselves.

I am a member of Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, a Council member with GLG, an advisor with visaQ Inc out of Japan and one of the leading writers on Quora for Leadership Development. Leadership is all about people; it's about inspiring people to believe in themselves, to believe that anything is possible and to believe in something much greater than their own self-preservation; when we have that type of influence as leaders great things happen.

You can download a copy of my book The Inspirational Leader and Inspire Your Team To Believe In The Impossible by clicking on the word inspirational below:

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