Sales Skills

The 6 Weapons of Persuasion

A few weeks ago, I was at a sporting event when I overheard a tenacious seven-year old boy say, “Daddy, I want that sports jersey.”  When the father politely suggested that the hefty price did not warrant the purchase, the boy defiantly screamed “I want it.  I need it.”  The father, embarrassed by his son’s tantrum and not wanting to cause a scene, reluctantly pulled out his credit card and purchased the jersey for his son.

Whether you want to admit it or not, people persuade you and you persuade others on a daily basis.  Although you do not use the tactics of the defiant boy, you are required to make your voice and the voice of others heard.  In the workplace, for example, the power of persuasion enables you to argue for or against ideas, decisions and actions that have a material impact on you and your customers.  Persuasion is best defined as the process by which a person’s attitudes or behavior is influenced by communications from other people.  It is an umbrella term for influence.

History and Methods of Persuasion

Persuasion began with the Greeks, who emphasized rhetoric and elocution at the highest standard for a successful politician.  All trials were held in front of the Assembly, and both the prosecution and the defense rested, as they often do today, on the persuasiveness of the speaker.  Aristotle identified three basic elements to every persuasive argument:

  1. Ethos: The credibility, knowledge, expertise, stature and authority of the person who is persuading.
  2. Logo: The appeal of logic, reason, cognitive thinking, data and facts.
  3. Pathos: The appeal to emotions; the non-cognitive, non-thinking motivations that affect decisions and customs.

In the best-selling book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D. defined the following six “influence cues or weapons of influence:”

  1. Reciprocation

The principle of reciprocity states that when a person provides you with something, you attempt to repay him or her in kind.  Reciprocation produces a sense of obligation…a powerful tool in persuasion.

  1. Commitment and Consistency

Commitment is an effective persuasive technique because once you get someone to make a commitment, they are more likely to engage in self-persuasion, providing themselves with reasons to justify support of his or her commitment.

Consistency allows one to more efficiently make decisions and process information.  The concept of consistency states that if a person commits, either orally or in writing, he or she is more likely to honor that particular commitment.  This is especially true for written commitments.

  1. Social Proof

People often base their actions and beliefs on what others are doing, how others act and what others believe.  Simply put, most people are influenced by others around them.  And they want to be doing what everyone else does.

  1. Likability

This weapon is simple and concise.  People say “yes” to people they like.  The two major factors that contribute to likability are physical attractiveness and similarity.  Research documents that people who are physically attractive seem to be more persuasive.  Similarity surrounds the fact that we are attracted to people where there is similarity in opinions, interests, hobbies, personality traits, background or lifestyle.

  1. Authority

People are attracted to others who are knowledgeable and trustworthy.  So, if your character traits demonstrate those two things, you will command authority.  It is interesting to note that we tend to listen to people who are granted the authority to give orders, make decisions and enforce obedience.

  1. Scarcity

According to Cialdini, “people want more of what they cannot have.”  When something has limited availability, people assign more value to it.  We all want things that are out of our reach.  And, if we see something easily available, we do not want it as much as something that is very rare.  To get people to believe in the scarcity principle, you must educate them on the benefits of the scarce product or offering.

I have been fortunate to have received significant recognition for the creation of the Beyond Insurance Process – a four step assessment approach aimed at risk profile improvement.  As I read the book Influence…The Psychology of Persuasion, I could not help but notice that the impact of the Beyond Insurance Process and success of the Beyond Insurance Global Network is a result of the utilization of all six weapons of influence as listed above.