Internet Marketing From Home

Persuasion Psychology – Theory and Practice

How To Get Under People’s Skin So They Almost Beg You to Buy Your Stuff. Part 1

Many years ago I had a sales mentor by the name of Larry Thompson. One of the things I remember about him was his extraordinary ability to persuade people to his point of view. He could do it in a one on one environment and he could do it in front of 1,000 people and more.
He was a master at the game of persuasion and influence. He had influence because he was already very successful, so when he spoke people took notice of him.
But he took the whole persuasion thing to another level by influencing his sales troops to do things that ordinarily they would NEVER do, if left to their own devices. Such is the power of persuasion – having the ability to move people from position A to position B, and do it in such a way that they think it’s a good idea.
Larry once told me that he loved to hone his persuasion skills. For example if he was staying at a hotel he would practice it on hotel staff by getting them to do extra things for him – things that he didn’t really want, but he just wanted to keep polishing his skills.
So persuasion is about moving people to your point of view. But it must be done I in such a way that it doesn’t threaten the prospect’s fragile ego. (Some of the best persuaders do it in such a way that the prospect thinks it was his/her idea.)
Most business owners are not ‘sales types’. And even if they are, they’re more likely to be of the order taking variety than that of a true sales maker. A sales maker is not only someone who chases business – when he gets the business the order value will typically be much greater than it is for the order taker.
One of the reasons for this is that the sales maker is a great problem solver. By taking this approach he naturally draws prospects towards him so they WANT to do business with him/her.
But more than this……
The sales maker is also adept at expanding the vision of the prospect. This often results in her purchasing the high end version of the cheaper product that she may have been considering previously.
To become effective at winning more sales at much higher value, it is vital to have an intimate understanding of persuasion psychology, which is a topic that I have been studying and practicing for decades.
When I say ‘studying’ I’m not just talking about reading books – I’ve been honing my skills in the marketplace based on what I’ve learned from mentors and others who have helped me along the way.

So What Is Persuasion Psychology?

Persuasion psychology is essentially the process of understanding the key buying motivators of prospects; why people buy things – and why they don’t.
There are two sides of the same coin – persuasion and influence.
If we become more effective in the influence game we’ll automatically be more persuasive.
Persuasion psychology is really about understanding how people tick and why they do things in a certain way. Rather than waste time on a theoretical exercise I’m going to give you some examples of persuasion psychology in action in the real world. Take a look:

  • It’s about feelings more than it is about facts.
  • It’s about benefits more than it is about features.
  • It’s about posture so that prospects respect you and naturally gravitate towards you.
  • It’s about disturbing people when they need it, so they are compelled to seek a solution to their problem.
  • It’s about showing empathy when needed.
  • It’s about selling concepts more than it is about selling products (sell them on the concept and the product sale will follow seamlessly from there)
  • It’s about social proof which helps to validate your proposition.
  • It’s about understanding that people need to know that you care about them, and not just their money.
  • It’s about you being the alpha leader so they feel comfortable about following you.
  • It’s about understanding that the fear of loss is a more powerful motivator than desire for gain.
  • It’s about expanding people’s vision so they step up and buy the best product solution for them, even if it costs more than they had originally intended (ethical considerations need to apply here)

Robert Cialdini’s Six Principles

At this point I think it helpful to look at the work of a leading commentator on the topic of influence and persuasion.
The Six Principles of Influence (also known as the Six Weapons of Influence) were conceived by Robert Cialdini who is Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University. He published them in his best seller book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”, in 1984.
Principle #1: Reciprocation
“Give something: give information, give free samples, give a positive experience to people and they will want to give you something in return.” Robert Cialdini
The Law of Reciprocity works on the basis that if I do something nice to you, you will feel an obligation to return the favor. Best advice? Be a go giver more than you are a go getter.
Principle #2: Social Proof
‘If Joe is doing it, it must be good’
People look for validation from others; that the decision they are contemplating making is a wise one. So bring on your testimonials, your endorsements, and your case histories.
Principle #3: Commitment and Consistency
‘When people make commitments they get results’
It is a fact that if you can get a prospective customer to make a commitment, even a non financial commitment, they are much more likely to follow through and make the purchase.
Principle #4: Liking
“People prefer to say ‘yes’ to those they know and like”
A bit of a no brainer this one. How to become more likable? Well if you’re in sales you should already know it, but showing empathy is one of the ways, and looking for things in common with your prospect is another. It helps to be friendly, sincere and transparent too.
Most of these qualities can be displayed in the online world as well as in the offline world of face to face sales.
Principle #5: Authority
“Giving the appearance of authority actually increases the likelihood that others will comply with requests – even if their authority is illegitimate.”
The author reported the results of experiments that powerfully concluded that the human guinea pigs were subjected to the influence of authority figures. In this example they were men in lab coats posing as experts. So the conclusion is that even the perception of authority will have the same effect on people as actual authority has.
Principle #6: Scarcity Principle
“When a product is scarce the perception of value will tend to be higher”
When something is in short supply, the more valuable it will become and – often – the more people will want it. It’s a law of the universe.
Direct marketers use scarcity effective and internet marketers have taken the scarcity tactic to a whole new level – witness the fake scarcity ploy of marketers selling digital products, products that in reality will never be scarce.

The Best Seller by D. Forbes Ley

For my money this book is the greatest book written about selling – ever. It’s a work of genius, and although some of the language is a bit outdated now, the core of it as relevant today as it was in 1984 when it was released.
The thrust of Ley’s method is that you must sell to a prospect’s hurt or pain. But you must do it in an invisible way – if it becomes obvious to the prospect that you are manipulating him/her they will run a mile.
Of course a prospect will not move forward on a purchase if they can’t justify logically, but the fact is that by finding their hurt or pain point the number of sales that get closed will exponentially increase (the order value will likely increase as well).
Even in the online environment this approach works. For instance using an email to remind people of their pain will often get a much better response than one that doesn’t. Same comments apply to the sales page.
I always bring out the hurt early to capture the prospect’s attention. Once they are reminded of their pain, they will surely then be open to a solution. If it’s done correctly many people will be hungry for the solution.
You can grab a new or second hand copy of The Best Seller at Amazon – well worth it.

Why We Do What We Do – Theories of Influence and Persuasion

The Changing Minds website gives some useful information about the theories of influence and persuasion and much else besides. Dave Straker is the guy behind the site and in reference to persuasion he talks about our inner system and the external factors that influence the way we act. The Inner system includes values, attitudes, beliefs and goals.
He also says that ‘Inner systems are often held as networks of connected beliefs, etc. Persuasion often acts to break and redirect those interconnections.’
In the non business world we see evidence of influence and persuasion all the time. For instance someone who wants to change her external environment may seek to gain influence by joining a cause (including a political party) that is in synch with her views. As she builds a reputation her influence grows and hence her ability to persuade others to her point of view.
The more influence she has the more likely it is she will persuade others to fall into line and follow her proscriptions.

Persuasion In the Online Space

If you’re an internet marketer or have a traditional business and want a greater web presence you can use influence and persuasion techniques to sell more stuff. I already gave an indication that persuasion techniques can be effectively used in sales pages and when communicating by email.
For example a well structured sales page will use key elements such as:

  • Pain and Hurt. Remind people of their pain early in the presentation. Start off by asking a question such as ‘Is This You?’ Then list the pain point.
  • Empathy. Let people know that you’ve walked in their shoes too – ‘I know exactly how you feel, because just a few years ago I had the same problem etc’.
  • Story Telling. Tell your story and other people’s stories in a simple but compelling way.
  • Authority. If you can cite industry names that will endorse you, use them. If not, assume the posture of leader in your writing. It works!
  • Social Proof. You need a few stories of others who have used the product or service. Video testimonials work the best.
  • Liking. Even with something as relatively passive as the written word (compared to a phone or face to face conversation) you can still get people to like you. Using empathy is one way to do it. Another way is to convey a friendly and warm hearted persona.


  • Value Building. You’ve highlighted the problem and made your prospect feel the pain. Now you must present your product as the solution to the problem.Integral to this step is to build the value. Do it right and people will think your product is the bargain of the year.


  • Closing. As always ask for the order. Do it many times.

A Caveat – Use the Persuasion Strategies Ethically

Used properly persuasion strategies are powerful. However, it is vital that they be used ethically. Failure to do so will likely result in the prospect having unrealistic expectations about your product or service. Disappointment will surely follow – as sure as night follows day. The last thing you want is an unhappy customer who is looking for recompense, or who gives you bad word of mouth.

13 thoughts on “Persuasion Psychology – Theory and Practice”

  1. Well done Kim and I was shaking my head to a lot of what you were sharing here.
    I was familiar with pointing out the pain points but at times was uncomfortable with that. I understand why it works so well of course because most people are on our blogs because they have a problem and they want that solved. If you can help them with it then they’re more likely to listen to you.
    The know, like and trust factor is use as is reciprocity. I’ve witnesses these many times myself as well as social proof and of course being darn consistent.
    I’ve never done sales before coming online but my Dad was a salesman. He was smooth, always helpful and people loved him. He was good but I never wanted to get into that field because I knew that there would be times I would have to sell something that I didn’t think was so great. I knew I wouldn’t do well with that so I went into a different field. Now that I promote my own products and services of course I 100% believe in them because they work darn it!
    Thanks for this post, I honestly loved it and will be sure to share it as well.
    Have a great week now.

    • Yes thanks again Adrienne!
      As you have found sales can be made in different ways – we don’t have to be professional sales people to make sales.
      Most people are not cut out for a career in sales, but they can still make sales by using your business methods which seems to me to be more about helping people than anything else.
      Something else I learned was that you can build desire just by educating people about what you do and why they should consider your solution for themselves.
      So for the non sales types we have two great ways to get business flowing:
      1. Help people AND
      2. Educate people
      Now that looks like a winning ‘formula’ for folk who are terrified of being in the sales profession.
      Thanks Adrienne!

  2. Hi Kim,
    FANTASTIC post! If I had to sum up your article in a few words it would be: competency and critical thinking.
    I say that because I was trained by a phenomenal sales trainer in the mid-90’s. I learned not to come into a sales conversation with a pre-determined outcome and build my competency level up with them so that they felt I understood them.
    The goal was to allow them to be heard and understood.
    It served me so well that I’ve learned how to listen and then adapt to what they needed and communicate it in such a way that ultimately they talk themselves into the sale almost every time from a genuine and authentic place. No games, no manipulation and no pressure.
    My all-time favorite words are; “What’s the next step?”
    I learned that if people feel understood, are given the right options and most importantly as you said the emotional connection is made then the sale is so much easier. Every buying decision is an emotional one… not a logical one.
    No convincing… once that happens we’re back into marketing mode and re-establishing competency and once you lose that it’s hard to get it back.
    I could do this all day long and I bet we could have a lot of fun talking about sales Kim!!!!!
    I’m really looking forward to part 2 of your series.
    Have a great end to your week!
    ~ Don Purdum

    • Hi Don
      First an apology for the late reply. Frankly I didn’t see all the comments to my recent posts due to the fact that I had no idea how to use Disqus! And as a newbie to the world of blog networking/commenting I frankly was so accustomed to getting zero comments on my posts that I didn’t think anything different was going to happen. Silly me!
      Yes I agree with everything you say and I sure can relate based on many years of sales experience in the offline world. You are right when you say that if it’s done right you don’t need to apply pressure if you’ve handled the interview correctly.
      If our proposition is a good fit and the prospect knows it they’ll just about take our arm off for our ‘solution’
      And like you I’ve lost count of the number of people who have uttered those wonderful words – ‘what’s the next step?’
      That’s when magic happens!
      Thanks again Don

  3. Hey Kim,
    You make me want to reread cialdini’s book again and again. But I do see that I’m practicing half of the tips he gave and getting great opportunities coming my way.
    When it comes to marketing reciprocity is the icing on the cake. As you said concentrate on being a go giver than a go getter. With this mentality and action steps you’ll start to attract much value whether they are opportunities or monetary.
    Also when it comes to communication it’s to our benefit to become e a great listener. People tend to respond better when you hear them out versus you doing all the talking. This helps you to build a great personal brand and influence over your niche!
    Thanks for sharing Kim! Have a great upcoming weekend!

    • Thanks Sherman for your great response here (Gotta say sorry for long delay but only just found these comments – don’t ask!)
      You are SO right when you talk about listening skills. It’s something that we have to work on constantly. When I train someone on the finer points of sales and marketing I always try and get them to put put their prospect’s needs ahead of their own.
      Best way to do that is to really listen to what our prospects are saying. Even in the more passive world of blogging this can take the form of reading comments on blogs etc and getting a feeling as to what people problems and frustrations are experiencing.
      Thanks again Sherman – I love your work
      Keep on dancin’!
      Sure we want to make money – that’s a given. But we must strive for win/win outcomes.

  4. Hey Kim,
    I love this post. I can talk about this all day long. In your example of reciprocity which I believe is paramount, you talk about giving away a sample of your product, etc. I firmly believe that you need to do that because all most every potential customer wants to “try before they buy”. I have to say I don’t blame them.
    No matter what you are selling you are best served if you act as more of a consultant. What do I mean? Let’s say you’re trying to sell LeadPages to your audience. Give your audience a tutorial on how to use it, but going into detail why and how it will save them time and save them money.
    Go into specifics rather than say save time and save money. You’ll sell anything by the truck load if you sell in a consultative manner!
    No matter what I am selling that is the approach I take is to be a consultant. As a consultant you’re not just a snake oil salesman trying to make a buck. Your truly a consultant.
    Scarcity rarely works in my opinion both online and offline, especially when we start talking about higher ticket items. Fact of the matter is the prospect is going to buy when they are ready to I don’t care how good you’re at persuasion. I have seen this first hand many times when someone is supposed to be all world at getting prospects to buy anything just to get shut down like I did.
    Thanks for sharing Kim this was great.

    • Yeah baby!
      Thanks Kurt for your considered and insightful reply
      You’re totally on my wavelength (or maybe I’m on yours, no matter!)
      Taking the consultant’s approach is the way to go for sure. It’s now the only way I can do business (as a newbie salesman I was taught the typical ‘pitch, pitch, pitch’ way of doing business – hated it)
      Not only does it enhance the buyer’s experience it is much more likely to lead to long term relationships with customers if for no other reason than this: the perfect solution to the prospect’s problem was applied.
      Re: your note about ‘scarcity’. I still use it to a certain degree. Certainly in the physical product’s world there can be genuine issues of scarcity for some products. Will ponder your point though
      Thanks once again Kurt – I really like your blog

      • I think we’re sharing the same the brain Kim. Fortunately, I was taught the consultative way from the beginning, which as I have stated is that you need to be a consultant to the prospect and not a salesperson. Huge difference.
        I have yet to see anyone and I mean anyone go the consultative route online.
        Thanks for the kind words Kim and I enjoy your conversations as well.

  5. Hi Kim,
    Well, it works. It’s because of your excellent “giving” comment at my blog that I stopped what I was doing to come see what you’re up to.Then I’m seeing some of my best friends here as well. so I’m glad I did come.
    You know as humans, we are way more animalistic than we want to admit. If we weren’t none of this stuff would ever work on us.
    But it does because we are more “feeling” beings than we are “intelligent” beings, that’s why when a clever salesman who know hows to manipulate people can do it as well as he would manipulate an animal. Are basic needs are pretty much the same. Calm the hurt, remove the pain. Give me food when I’m hungry and give me a bed when I’m sleepy… you get the picture.
    Great info that gives us food for thought.

    • Hey thanks for your comment Sylviane! I do appreciate it.
      ‘Calm the hurt, remove the pain’ – I love that! Such a sweet way of making the point about the use of problem solving techniques in the marketing context.
      Thanks for dropping by Sylviane

  6. Hi Kim,
    What an awesome post. I personally love ethical persuasion and as a copywriter I KNOW for a fact that it works. I loved reading Cialdini’s book, the stories we’re amazing. It was one of the first books on persuasion i’ve ever read – I can remember it was an eye opener for me.
    His advice on pointing out one person in particular when in danger because of a seizure for example instead of just “calling” for help could also save your life in an endangering situation.
    I agree with you, benefits rather than features. Sell the sizzle, not the steak.
    The Best Seller is a book I haven’t read yet. Can I just give you a major thank you for that, I LOVE to get excellent book recommendations, I don’t get them a lot.
    When persuasion is used ethically, you’ll communicate in the most effective way. That’s persuasion on the highest level.
    Thank you for this excellent post Kim, i’ll definitely share this post and let you know how I liked the book!
    – Jasper

    • Hey thanks Jasper for your nice words, and sorry for the delay in responding. Yes I’ve been a fan of Cialdini’s work and ideas for a long time.
      As for The Best Seller it is still available on Amazon even though it was first published about 20 years ago. I still have my copy – dog eared with pages falling out! It’s one of those books that I went back to time and time again for fresh insights and inspiration. Priceless!
      I agree 100% with your comment that when persuasion is used ethically communication happens in the most effective way.
      Thanks again Jasper!


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