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The 6 Principles of Persuasion

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These 6 Principles of Persuasion to Follow

Robert Cialdini is an Arizona State University professor of marketing and psychology.

His 1984 groundbreaking book “Influence. The Psychology of Persuasion” is his most well-known work. It has sold more than three million copies.

Cialdini worked three years undercover in used car dealerships, charity organizations, and telemarketing companies. Why?

He wanted to see how influence works in real-life.

This is how he discovered these six principles of influence.

Let’s look at each one of these in turn…

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Consistency and Commitment
  3. Social Proof
  4. Liking
  5. Authority
  6. Scarcity/Urgency

Principle #1: Reciprocity

We feel obliged return favors.

This unconscious sense of obligation can be surprising.

This principle can also be applied to business by instilling a sense of obligation in potential customers’ minds.

This can be done by giving them a small gift that will encourage them to buy from you.

This gift could be a free download or a sample. It can also be an inexpensive product.

Principle 2: Commitment and Consistency

We value consistency in others and want to be consistent.

This behavior has a social component because publicly changing your mind about something can often come with a social price.

However, this urge to be consistent is so strong it can override reason in situations where there would not be any social costs.

This principle is frequently applied in business contexts through the “Foot in The Door”technique.

Get the customer to commit to then use that initial commitment to increase to larger commitments.

This is why having multiple products is better than one.

Principle #3: Social Proof

We look at the work of others when we are uncertain what to do.

This means that potential customers will look for reassurance in a business context.

That reassurance can be provided by:

Featuring Customer Testimonials

It is important that the testimonial be authentic and realistic.

It is a good idea to include:

  • Photo.
  • Company name.
  • Position title
  • Website.
  • Twitter handle.

It’s best if potential customers already know and respect the person who gave the testimonials.

Featuring Customer Case Studies

Everybody knows you’re biased about your product.

Potential customers will take everything you say about your product with a grain-of-salt.

They want to know this:

Does your product live up to its promises?

This question can be answered by providing case studies from customers.

Featuring “As Seen on” Badges

Have you had your product featured in the media?

You should add “As SEEN On”badges to your homepage.

Principle #4: Liking

Accepting offers from people we like is more common than accepting those from people we don’t like. What makes us feel like we like others?

Physical Attractiveness

We like attractive people.

The Halo effect is a technique that allows you to create halo effects .

As if one positive quality of someone is enough to make us feel good about ourselves, we tend to project positive traits onto them.

The most common example of this is the unconscious assumption that attractive people must also be honest, intelligent, kind, and so forth.

What does this translate into in a business context

  • Simply by being more attractive, you can make yourself more persuasive (getting in form, dressing well, etc. ).
  • Attractive people are better in customer-facing positions, such as product evangelists.
  • Because of their attractiveness, it makes sense to use pictures of attractive people to promote your product.

Carl’s Jr., for example, is well-known for its burgers and the risque Super Bowl ads featuring beautiful women eating these burgers.

Nevertheless, it is important to not make the attractive person too different from your customers. This could lead to their attraction being the opposite.


It is not a good idea to use a 22-year old fashion model in your ads if you are trying to sell a product for stay-at-home moms. Why?

The model is not representative of your customers so the ad won’t resonate with them.

You could also use an image of a 35-year-old attractive woman in regular clothes to get the Halo effect.

You want to be “just like you” and “more attractive” when marketing. This is not the “supermodel” look that you should use.

We Are Similar to In Some Way

People who are like us in some way are welcome.


  • Religious beliefs.
  • Political beliefs
  • Careers.
  • Hobbies.
  • Interests.


Think about the things you share with potential customers, and then emphasize those similarities.

This is easy with “scratch you own itch” products, where the founder is also customer.

Even if your potential customers seem completely different from you, you will likely find something in common.

You should at the very minimum, adopt their communication style, including tone and jargon, as well as memes,


People who give compliments are appreciated by us.

Try to compliment potential customers when you make your sales pitch.

It doesn’t have to be a direct “You look beautiful today” type of compliment.

Find a way that makes the potential customer feel good about himself.

Working together towards a common goal

People with whom we have worked together toward a common goal are more likely to trust us.

It can also be viewed this way: Sharing hardship together creates a bond.

This could be anything, from college roommates to completing a medical residency to participating in a conflict.

This principle can be applied to a business context by setting a goal publicly and then sharing your progress with potential customers, so they become invested in your success.

Principle #5: Authority

We are more inclined to follow authority.

It is alarming to see the extent to which we will do this, as shown by the Milgram experiments.

This means that people are more likely to purchase from you if you are seen as an authority in a particular business context.

It is a smart idea to be regarded as an expert in your field and to share past accomplishments.

Principle #6: Scarcity/Urgency

We value rare things.

We want it more the less something is available.

This is why people work hard to find love, get crazy on Black Friday, and buy vintage wines with their noses.

You can apply this principle to limited-time offers in a business context but it is important to follow the right procedure if you do not want to alienate customers.


Humans are not rational beings. Our emotions are our guide.

This is true for everyone. You might think you are an exception to this rule, but it is a false assumption.

All of us make decisions based upon emotion. Then we use reason to justify our actions to others.

Do you want to be a better salesperson? Learn to work with people and not against them. Study psychology, use what you learn responsibly, and always look for these principles in your own selling messages, as well as the messages being used to sell you!  🙂

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Consistency and Commitment
  3. Social Proof
  4. Liking
  5. Authority
  6. Scarcity/Urgency

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