Robert Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion: 6 Ways to Make Your Prospect Say “Yes”

How sweet is it when your prospect says “yes”—to take your call, agree to your request for a meeting, or (best of all) buy your product?

“Yesses” are the lifeblood of the sales profession, and we all want a lot more of them.

But it’s not just the quality of your offer that determines whether your prospect says “yes” or “no.” Often, seemingly small subconscious triggers can dramatically increase your the chances of a “yes.”

In fact, there are 6 proven psychological triggers that generate action, as described by Dr. Robert Cialdini in his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

The book was first published in 1984, but Dr. Cialdini’s “principles of persuasion” remain just as relevant and effective—and the most successful sales reps continue to use them to engage prospects and set appointments.

For an overview, watch this great whiteboard video:

Get all that? If not, here’s a cheat sheet on Cialdini’s 6 principles, along with some ideas for how you can use them to get your prospects to say “yes” more often:

1. Reciprocity

People feel obliged to give back to others what they have received.

If a friend does something for you—invites you over for dinner, say—you feel indebted to them, and are more likely to reciprocate the generosity.

A study showed that restaurant diners tipped more when their server brought a small gift (e.g., a piece of candy) along with the check at the end of the meal.

HOW YOU CAN USE IT: Use email marketing to give free knowledge and advice to your prospects in the form of white papers, blog posts, and other content that addresses a common problem your prospects have. When you follow up, they may be more likely to take your call or agree to a meeting.

2. Commitment & Consistency

People like to be consistent with the things they’ve previously said or done.

Consistency means that small actions now can translate into much more significant actions in the future.

As an example, a study showed that people were more likely to agree to put up a “Drive Safely” sign in their yard if they had previously agreed to put a small sticker in their window.

HOW YOU CAN USE IT: Having problems getting a certain prospect to keep their appointments? Next time, ask them to send the electronic meeting request. That small but overt statement of intent can increase the chance they’ll follow through.

3. Social Proof

People look to the actions of others as a guide, especially when they’re uncertain about what to do.

One study showed how powerful social proof can be when it’s more specific: while people are more likely to reuse hotel towels when there’s a note suggesting that the majority of other guests do so as well (makes sense)...

...the likelihood is even higher when the note references other guests who stayed in the same room.

HOW YOU CAN USE IT: Next time you reach a prospect’s voicemail, use the Boomerang Message—mention one of your prospect’s competitors in an effort to entice them to return your call.

4. Likeability & Familiarity

People prefer to say yes to those they know and like—people who are similar, who flatter them, or who share common goals.

Students in a negotiation class were far more likely to reach agreement when they were instructed to get to know each other first, rather than prioritize speed.

HOW YOU CAN USE IT: Before you meet with a prospect, check out their LinkedIn profile to identify shared traits and interests, then use that knowledge to create a personal bond with your prospect. Even if it doesn’t lead directly to a sale, your prospect will be more receptive to what you have to say.

5. Authority

People follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts.

This one’s not hard to understand—of course you’d rather take medical advice from a doctor or financial advice from Warren Buffett.

But authority can be conveyed in subtle ways, too: for example, physical therapists get more patients to follow recommended exercise programs when they display their diploma on their office wall.

HOW YOU CAN USE IT: Take every opportunity to mention your company’s and team’s experience and expertise when describing how you can help your prospects. They’ll be increasingly receptive when they perceive the source as authoritative.

6. Scarcity

People want more of the things there are less of.

Scarcity can refer to quantity (there’s only one left!) or time (sale ends at midnight!). In a illustration of the latter, the day after British Airways announced it would soon cancel its daily Concorde flights from London to Rome, sales skyrocketed.

HOW YOU CAN USE IT: Try putting a time limit on your email marketing offers. Your prospects may be more likely to take action to get something when they know it won’t be available indefinitely.

P.S. Don’t miss Cialdini’s new book, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade with even more good advice!