In our last blog we introduced you to the first three tools of influence. Based on over 35 years’ worth of evidence based research, and culminating in
@Robert Cialdini’s work on the six universal principles of persuasion, our experience tells us that application of these principles is likely to elevate those working in business development roles from reactive order takers to true salespeople.

As a reminder, those first three tools of influence were:

  1. Reciprocity          –              Giving something of personalised value
  2. Scarcity                 –              Highlighting the differentiators/uniqueness of your offering
  3. Authority             –              Demonstrating your credibility

During the remainder of this article we will complete the framework by introducing the final three principles of persuasion, and once again consider their application in the world of selling.


People like to be consistent with the things they have previously said or done. Consistency is activated by looking for, and asking for, small initial commitments that can be made. In one famous set of studies, researchers found rather unsurprisingly that very few people would be willing to erect an unsightly board on their front lawn to support a Drive Safely campaign in their neighbourhood. However in a similar neighbourhood close by, four times as many homeowners indicated that they would be willing to erect this same billboard. Why? Because ten days previously, they had agreed to place a small postcard in the front window of their homes that signalled their support for a Drive Safely campaign. That small card was the initial commitment that led to a 400% increase in a much bigger but still consistent change. In my world, when we see the potential value that could be created for a customer by delivering a large scale solution, our initial ‘close’ is rarely to secure their commitment to that solution in its entirety. If we can first secure a pilot or test event, all other things being equal, the chances of them committing to the larger scale solution further down the line are greater. There’s a double whammy here – not only are we able to leverage the Consistency Principle, but the pilot or test event gives us the opportunity to lean on the Authority tool too.


People prefer to say yes to those that they like. So what causes one person to like another? Persuasion science tells us that there are three important factors:

  • We like people who are similar to us
  • We like people who pay us compliments, and
  • We like people who cooperate with us towards mutual goals

In a previous blog I talked about my own personal experiences of the first factor, liking someone purely because we shared something in common – ironically, the focus in that article was on the risks this presents from an unconscious bias perspective. Effective influencers however are able to identify and maximise the effects of these similarities in an ethical way.

Cialdini’s research, focusing on the topic of negotiation, appears to reinforce the power of identifying similarities. In a series of negotiation studies carried out between MBA students at two business schools, some groups were told, “Time is money. Get straight down to business.” In this group, around 55% were able to come to an agreement. A second group however, was told, “Before you begin negotiating, share some personal information with each other. Identify a similarity you share in common then begin negotiating.” In this group, 90% were able to come to successful and agreeable outcomes that were typically worth 18% more to both parties.

With regard to liking those who pay us compliments, again a specific situation springs to mind. A couple of days after burning the midnight oil to complete a work project, I arrived at my desk to find a sealed envelope with my name on the front. I opened it and pulled out a handwritten note from my manager. I read the note. The manager detailed how I’d gone above and beyond to get the job done, how grateful she was for the work I’d completed, and how much she valued me as a team member. How many of us receive handwritten notes these days?!?! (back to the Scarcity Principle). I’m sure it’s no coincidence that following that handwritten note I thought nothing of going ‘above and beyond’ on future occasions if I knew it would help that same manager in some way. I’m certain the note was not intentionally written to ensure I would adopt a similar approach in the future, but that was one of the outcomes. So as well as being a great example of how to engage an employee I believe this is also an example of how our liking for someone, because they’ve paid us a compliment, can increase their capabilities to persuade us.    

So to harness this powerful principle of liking, be sure to look for areas of similarity that you share with others and genuine compliments you can give them.


When they are uncertain, people will look to the actions of others to determine their own response.

You may have noticed that hotels often place a small card in bathrooms that attempts to persuade guests to reuse their towels. Most do this by drawing a guest’s attention to the benefits that reuse can have on environmental protection. This leads to around 35% compliance. But could there be an even more effective way?

Well, it turns out that about 75% of people who check into a hotel for four nights or longer will reuse their towels at some point during their stay. So what would happen if we took a lesson from the Principle of Consensus and simply included that information on the cards and said that 75% of our guests reuse their towels during their stay, so please do so as well. It turns out that when we do this, towel reuse rises by a further 26%.

The science tells us that rather than relying on our own ability to persuade others, we can point to what many others are already doing, especially many similar others. From a sales perspective any data we can offer around this makes the proposition all the more compelling. In part driven by the looming deadline for PPI claims (Scarcity Principle) I’ve recently set the wheels in motion to investigate whether I might be entitled to some kind of rebate. On first speaking to the advisor at the company processing my claim, he asked if I felt it likely that I’d been mis-sold PPI. My answer was that I thought it highly unlikely. His response was to tell me that over 95% of his company’s successful customers believed exactly the same thing. At that point I certainly felt more compelled to invest time and effort in identifying if compensation may be due. All the advisor had done was to highlight the statistics, but the effect on the customer (me!) was that I felt further motivated to pursue what he had to offer.

So there we have it, our six tools of influence. As we’ve highlighted in the past, effective influence DOES NOT mean pushing your point of view onto a customer, it’s about increasing the chances of your customer being persuaded by your requests.

When applied effectively these principles will undoubtedly raise your level of influence with your customers.

– Dan