Cialdini's 7 Principles of Persuasion
and how you apply them in your sales
Every day we make thousands of micro-decisions. To protect yourself from these, your brain uses shortcuts and automatic reactions. And that’s exactly what you can use in your sales. Perhaps you have heard of Cialdini’s principles of influence. This psychologist has identified 7 psychological principles that you can use to make your sales calls or marketing activities more persuasive. We provide an explanation of each principle and tips and practical examples for its application.
If you receive something unasked for, you are automatically inclined to do something in return, that is the principle of reciprocity. So by giving your potential customers something in advance, you increase the chance that they will buy something from you.
Examples of Cialdini’s Principle of Reciprocity from practice:
- Giving away samples of samples or products
- Present peppermint with the bill to get a higher tip
- Provide white papers or e-books
- Inviting people to events or webinars
- Give a business gift at the start of your sales meeting
#2 Commitment and consistency
Once you’ve gone in a direction (given a commitment) you often stick to it, because you don’t want to be inconsistent (especially in the eyes of others). So, for example, if you have indicated that you find something interesting, you will also be more likely to proceed with an order.
Examples of Cialdini’s principle of Commitment and consistency from practice:
- Break down a web form into small steps, once you have taken the first step, you are more likely to complete the entire form.
- Having the consumer fill in additional specifications when placing an order such as color, size, model and additional options. If effort has been made you are more likely to finish.
- Ask a question first to get someone to take a particular stand. Are you adventurous in life?
- At the end of your sales pitch, have someone express what they think of your ideas/solutions. Do these solutions fit your issue? Is this what you expect from a partner? Etc.
#3 Social Proof
Reviews and opinions of others ensure that you are supported in your choice. And the more positive people are about this, the more positive you yourself become. In uncertain situations this effect is even greater. You are more likely to imitate the people around you, even when this is not necessarily logical.
Examples of Cialdini’s principle of Social Proof from practice:
- Online customer reviews
- Testimonials on your website
- Use of influencers
- Showing the number of followers, likes, previous users and subscribers
- Mentions such as most chosen, just booked, others also viewed, often ordered together etc.
- Indicate in a conversation what similar customers have chosen
Attractive people appear to win others over to their ideas more easily and are more likely to be liked, but even if you’re not a supermodel, you can benefit from this. After all, we prefer to say “yes” to people we like. And that liking is also created by various other facets, such as likability, compliments and frequent contact.
Examples of Cialdini’s Principle of Sympathy from practice:
- Be optimistic and cheerful
- Make sure you look well-groomed
- Look for common factors and play on them in your conversations or expressions, think of interests, sports, family situation, vacation destination, etc. Bring them up consciously.
- Make compliments, preferably objective and sincere (but this works even if they are not entirely true)
- Make the “about us” page of your website personal and capitalize on similarity
- Use personas to tailor your communications
- Use photography that the visitor can identify with
Authority is a good way to shut down one’s own critical thinking. When someone is presented as an expert, we are quick to think that they will know best. So by using experts or profiling yourself as an expert, you increase the persuasiveness and attractiveness of your product or service.
Examples of Cialdini’s Principle of Authority from practice:
- White coat in pet food or dentist advertisements
- Publishing a book or e-book, as an author you automatically have more authority
- Displaying seals of approval and certificates
- Presenting yourself as an expert in discussions on social media
- Share knowledge/articles on social media
- At the top of the list in Google
- Endorsements on Linkedin
When something is hard to come by we often experience more value. And we don’t want to miss the boat so we are more likely to purchase. The underlying theory is that you don’t want to give up the freedom to choose something yourself. According to Cialdini, this principle works especially well when the scarcity arises because others have access to the product/service. Because that is immediately social proof that the product is wanted and therefore good.
Examples of Cialdini’s principle of scarcity from practice:
- Only 2 rooms left available
- Last tickets available
- Put a time limit on your offer
- Early Bird Discount
This last principle is all about group feeling. Because no matter how individualistic we are, we all need a shared identity. And if we consider someone to be one of us, that person is much more likely to influence us. Just think of the massive sympathy and help for Ukrainian refugees because of the recognition. This builds on the earlier mentioned similarity, if we feel expected by someone we are more likely to say ‘yes’ to their offer. Think of a shared interest, a common goal or a similarity in experiences.
Examples of Cialdini’s Principle of Unity from practice:
- Online communities for like-minded people (professional group, peers, etc.)
- Using jargon from the target audience
- Offer membership
- Use the link to family ties, “If you were my son I would advise you to …”.
Customer delight most important
Now that you are aware of the 7 principles of influence you will also start to recognize them more and more, for example on websites, in advertisements and on social media. Influencing is usually okay and even (subconsciously) pleasant for the receiver because it unburdens your brain. But always keep in mind that making your customer happy is the most important thing to keep them for the long term. So don’t be afraid to influence, but at the same time make sure you offer a top product and good service, exceed expectations and maintain integrity.
Want to read more about influence and Cialdini? We were inspired by these resources: