It’s the heart of sales.
You’re trying to convince someone to use a product. To use a service. To believe that your brand is better than a competitor’s.
Sometimes, that means motivating a specific action. Oftentimes, it means changing someone’s mind.
No matter what, you’ll need to persuade your audience if you’re going to succeed.
Does that mean you need psychic-level mind altering powers?
Nope. You just have to know a little bit about human psychology.
Today, I’m going to teach you.
Below is a list of my favorite persuasion techniques, all of which can be tapped by marketers, advertisers, and salespeople to persuade an audience.
Use them wisely.
And ethically. I mean it.
Table of Contents
- 1. The framing technique.
- 2. The anchoring technique.
- 3. The foot in the door technique.
- 4. The door in the face technique.
- 5. Position as “we.”
- 6. Say “because.”
- 7. The unity technique.
- 8. The Ellsberg paradox.
- 9. Portray confidence.
- 10. Body language.
- 11. Create scarcity.
- 12. Create urgency.
- 13. Leverage self-concept.
- 14. The purple cow technique.
- 15. The “even if” technique.
- 16. The metaphor technique.
- 17. The reciprocity technique.
- 18. Leverage the curiosity gap.
- 19. Take advantage of the Zeigarnik effect.
- 20. Activate strong emotions.
- 21. Social proof.
- 22. Belief matching.
- 23. Be the authority.
- 24. Leverage loss aversion.
- 25. BYAF.
1. The framing technique.
I’ll start this list of persuasion techniques with a question for you: What’s the difference between a glass that’s half-empty and a glass that’s half-full?
The framing effect is a cognitive bias wherein an option seems better or worse based on how it’s presented. The classic half-full vs. half-empty example features two glasses that are filled to an identical level. However, one sounds a little better than the other.
The framing technique tries to take advantage of this. Sometimes, a small twist to your presentation can instantly make something seem better than it is. For example, let’s say there are 600 fatally sick people and a treatment that works 33 percent of the time. You could frame this negatively by stating that 400 people will still die, or positively by stating that you can save 200 lives.
2. The anchoring technique.
Get ready to see a lot of cognitive biases on this list. Anchoring is another one.
Anchoring bias is the tendency for people to “latch on” to information, allowing that information to warp their perceptions of future situations—even those unrelated to the original information.
That’s a mouthful. So what does it mean? Let’s say you’re asking people to taste wine and estimate the cost of a bottle. With no prior information, people may estimate the bottle to be $15.
But let’s say that before the experiment, you show the group a $100 bottle of wine. Now, this $100 serves as the basis for evaluation, and your participants will likely estimate the new bottle to be more expensive—like $25. Alternatively, if you present them first with a cheap $5 bottle of wine, they’ll likely present lower their estimates in the range of $10 or $12.
Use anchoring to your advantage by presenting people with information that can reset their expectations. You can make your products and services seem less expensive or more impressive.
3. The foot in the door technique.
If you can get people on board with a small agreement or small commitment, they’ll be more likely to follow you to a bigger commitment.
For example, you might lead with a question like, “don’t you hate being stuck in traffic?” You’ll get a “yes” from your prospect, almost certainly. Follow that with, “would you rather spend that time being productive?” You’ll get another “yes.” Now lead with, “what if there was a product that could help you be productive while in traffic? Would you be interested?”
At this point, the prospect has already said “yes” multiple times and will be inclined to continue agreeing with you. This is the “foot in the door” technique, sometimes referred to as the “yes ladder.”
4. The door in the face technique.
The foot in the door technique evokes an image of physically getting into someone’s house. But there’s another technique that calls on a similar image—the “door in the face” technique.
In some ways, this technique can be considered the opposite—the dark twin of the foot in the door technique.
The idea is to make an outrageous offer, or otherwise intentionally turn a prospect off. They’ll proverbially slam the door in your face—or maybe literally do it.
Either way, whatever offer you make next will seem much, much more attractive than it ordinarily would. For example, after trying to sell a $100 bottle of wine, a $25 bottle of wine seems downright cheap.
5. Position as “we.”
As a salesperson, you spend a lot of time making “you” statements. “You” need this product, “you” struggle with time management, and “you” want a better solution.
But there’s a way to be even more persuasive.
Change “you” into “we.” Treat your relationship not as salesperson-to-prospect, but as peer-to-peer. You’re a team, working together to find a solution. Phrasing as “we” can almost instantly build this bond and set the stage for a higher likelihood of sale. This is one of my favorite persuasion techniques because it really positions you as an ally, not an adversary.
6. Say “because.”
There’s an awesome scientific study about cutting in line—or more specifically, about what it takes to persuade people.
I’ll spare you all the details, but the basic idea is this; people are sometimes willing to let you cut in line if you ask them. But they’re even more willing to let you cut in line if you ask them with one simple, seemingly-magic word tacked onto your pitch: “because.”
It doesn’t matter what your reason is. What matters is that you justify your request in some way. For example, “May I cut you in line? Because I’m in a terrible mood today,” isn’t as good of an excuse as “May I cut you in line? Because I’m running late for a very important meeting,” but both phrases work equally well, according to studies. Why?
Justify your reasoning during the sale with “because,” and watch your close rate improve. This just might be the easiest of the persuasion techniques on this list, so use it!
7. The unity technique.
People are inclined to see people in terms of “us” and “them.” We forge alliances and create rivalries based on “tribes” like religion, sports, political parties, and just about anything else we can find.
You can instantly make someone easier to persuade if you can get them to see you as part of “us,” rather than being part of “them.” You can do this by finding commonalities.
It doesn’t matter what they are—just find things in common. Do you listen to the same music? Did you go to the same college? Do you both hate it when people litter? The more boxes you can check, the better.
8. The Ellsberg paradox.
The Ellsberg paradox is an interesting psychological finding that basically states that people prefer certain odds to uncertain ones. Here’s an example. Suppose an urn has 50 black balls and 50 red balls. Another urn has 100 balls, an unknown number of which are red and an unknown number of which are black. Which urn would you pull from if you could win $100 by pulling out a black ball?
Overwhelmingly, people choose the urn with the known number of balls.
In some ways, this is rational. But no matter what, it can be used as a tool for persuasion. Make your audience more interested and more compliant by giving them certainty. Use statistics in your favor. Prove your worth!
9. Portray confidence.
Confident people are more likable. They’re more trustworthy. They’re more interesting. They’re more everything.
You can make yourself much more persuasive simply by projecting confidence.
There are many ways you can do this. Improve the way you carry yourself. Speak slowly and with certainty. Make confident assertions about your products and services. Truly believe in your product.
If it sounds simple, it’s because it is. Confidence is a persuasion technique that extends far beyond just sales, too. It works in all aspects of life, from getting a promotion to attracting a romantic partner. Practice confidence and it’ll serve you well throughout life.
10. Body language.
Body language plays a part in your projected confidence, but it’s also a useful persuasion technique in its own right.
For example, standing (or sitting) tall and keeping your posture open can project confidence. It can also make you more likable. Making direct eye contact shows that you’re listening and makes it more likely that they’re going to listen to you.
Talking with your hands and remaining expressive with your face can also help to make your words more convincing.
11. Create scarcity.
This is one of the most common persuasion techniques you’ll see in marketing.
We can’t help but value something more if it seems like there’s a limited amount of it. For example, if you knew that your favorite burger restaurant was only going to make 100 more burgers—ever—wouldn’t you be willing to pay a lot to get one of those last 100 burgers?
Of course you would.
Use this to your advantage in a sales situation by implying scarcity in some way. For example, you can insist that you’re only able to offer this deal to 10 people. Or you might explain that this product is only being manufactured in a limited run.
12. Create urgency.
This wouldn’t be a proper list of persuasion techniques without touching on urgency.
One of the biggest problems you’ll face as a salesperson is dealing with a prospect’s procrastination. People love to find excuses to buy themselves time.
“I’m not sure. Let me wait a week and get back to you.”
Sure, buddy. Any delay is a bad thing for a salesperson—at least in most situations.
Fix this by creating urgency. Explain that this is a limited time offer. Give a deadline. Make it seem like the prospect has to act now; even if they don’t have to buy right now, they should face pressure to take some kind of action.
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13. Leverage self-concept.
We all have a strong sense of self. We tend to make decisions based on that self-image. And if we’re reminded of our self-image, we may be persuaded to take a specific action.
For example, if you compliment someone for being a “good person,” you’ll remind them that they like to do good things for others. Then, if you follow up by asking them to donate money to your favorite charity, they may be more inclined to do it.
Use this to change or remind someone of their internal self-concept. For example, you can lead in with “you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to waste time.” It’s a generic statement that can apply to anyone, but it strengthens that internal image. Then, you’ll have a much easier time selling them on a tool that can help them save time every day.
14. The purple cow technique.
Purple Cow is the name of a book by business mogul Seth Godin (see our list of top sales books here). It’s based around the idea that modern advertising is less effective because of consumer hatred of advertising (and white noise from other advertisers).
The solution? Stand out. There are millions of brown cows and black and white cows out there. But how many purple cows have you seen? You have to be remarkable—and unlike anything else—to stand out.
In the sales world, this means you have to present yourself, your brand, and your product in some remarkable way. Explain what makes you unlike any other “cow” in the field. Yes, being unique is a persuasion technique in its own right. Maybe because it takes confidence to stand out!
15. The “even if” technique.
All salespeople have to deal with sales objections. And nobody likes it.
But if you can see those objections coming, you can use this technique.
The basic idea is to get ahead of common objections with an “even if” statement (or something similar). For example, let’s say you’re presenting a new marketing tool. You can introduce it with a statement like, “Even if you’re already seeing great results, this tool can nearly double your effectiveness.”
This gets less effective if you use it reactively. You have to anticipate objections—not simply respond to them.
16. The metaphor technique.
Metaphors have been a reliable tool for communication and illustration for millennia. Why? Because people love stories. It’s much easier to understand an idea with an analogy, a story, or an illustration than it is to understand the idea through basic explanations.
If you find your prospects have a hard time understanding one of your claims or the nature of your products and services, consider throwing in a metaphor.
17. The reciprocity technique.
Due to reciprocity, human beings have an innate desire to repay debts, return favors, and otherwise reciprocate. If you do something nice for someone, they’ll be more likely to do something nice for you.
That includes buying what you’re selling.
Do your prospects more favors and be nicer to them. Give them a gift. Take them to dinner. Help them out with a favor. They’ll be subtly more likely to take the deal.
Have you ever heard the saying “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”? Even if someone treats you to lunch, they’ve created a feeling of indebtedness in you. That could manifest in you eventually doing business with them, or otherwise returning the favor. It’s one of my favorite persuasion techniques because all it takes is providing someone with something of value, and that feels good.
18. Leverage the curiosity gap.
The “curiosity gap” is the space between a person’s initial interest and desire to follow through on that interest. For example, if you see the headline for an interesting article, your interest might be piqued—but you may not feel curious enough to actually read that article.
If you want better results, you have to leverage the curiosity gap. For example, consider the headline, “How to increase your productivity.” Now consider the headline, “Are you brave enough to increase your productivity with this technique?”
Sure. It’s clickbaity. But man, it sparks curiosity. Why would this technique require bravery? What makes it so different?
Spark more curiosity with teases like this and invite your prospects to learn more.
19. Take advantage of the Zeigarnik effect.
The Zeigarnik effect is a phenomenon wherein an interrupted activity is easier to remember—and more likely to inspire action. For example, if you stop a good movie halfway through, it will stick in your mind for days (until you actually finish it). If you actually finish the movie, you may lose interest in it and quickly forget the plot.
How can you use this in sales? Leave your prospects hanging. At least a little bit. Don’t tell them everything about the product. Let them have a few lingering questions. End the meeting a little bit early.
In a day or two, they’ll be driven to follow up with you. This is one of the more edgy persuasion techniques on this list, but it works!
20. Activate strong emotions.
Humans are emotional beings. You’ll get more engagement and better results if you can stoke those emotions.
Okay, maybe not every emotion works. You don’t want to make a prospect angry.
But you can make them happy. You can surprise them. You can even make them a bit afraid—like making them afraid of missing out on a great deal.
Activate these emotions through your offers and conversations, and leverage the power of human emotion in your toolkit of persuasion techniques.
21. Social proof.
Humans are also extremely social. We’re much more likely to do something if we feel everyone else is doing it. And you can leverage this in your toolkit of persuasion techniques.
Did your mother ever ask you, “if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it?”
It’s a condescending question, but she had a point. We’re susceptible to peer pressure. We like to do things if other people are doing them.
And for you, that can be an awesome sales tool. Use social proof to show that yes, everyone else is already doing this. You wouldn’t want to miss out, would you?
22. Belief matching.
Remember that whole “us vs. them” dynamic? You can tap into this another way: with belief matching.
The idea here is to mimic your prospect’s beliefs. If they say marketing is too expensive, agree with them. If they complain that email is an overused medium, chime in with your preference for phone calls.
And yeah, you may have to fib a bit.
But at the end of the conversation, you’ll have a much stronger connection. You’ll be seen as much more trustworthy.
And you’ll be much more persuasive.
You know about the Stanford Prison Experiment right?
It’s one of those big-deal psychology experiments where a group of people pretending to be prison guards were willing to be surprisingly cruel to a group of people pretending to be prisoners. It’s a whole thing, but the bottom line is that people are irrationally willing to follow the instructions and advice of people who seem to be authorities.
What does that mean for you? It means you need to present yourself as an authority.
Prove that you know what you’re talking about and that you’re an expert in this subject. Show off your credentials. Cite statistics. Once you establish that you’re an authority, your prospect will listen to anything you have to say.
It’s one of my favorite persuasion techniques, because 79% of customers prefer salespeople who act as advisors.
24. Leverage loss aversion.
People hate the idea of loss. Losing $20 feels way more intense than winning or finding $20; even though it’s the same amount, loss aversion makes us feel stronger feelings when we lose something than when we gain the same thing.
Play to this effect by making your prospect afraid of losing something. If they don’t act now, what happens? Could they lose something they already have if they don’t use your products or services?
Be careful with this persuasion technique, since you don’t want to be aggressive. A little bit goes a long way.
The “but you are free” (BYAF) technique is simple, but it’s scientifically proven to work.
As the name suggests, this persuasion technique involves letting your prospect know that they’re free to leave. That they’re free to walk away. That they can stop talking to you at any time.
In other words, you’re reminding your prospect of the freedom they have in this interaction. You’re empowering your prospect.
Once people feel free and empowered, they’re more likely to go along with whatever you want them to do. For example, you can say something like, “here’s a contract that outlines our agreement for the next year. But of course, you’re free to walk away at any time.”
That little stinger may not seem like much, but it can change the whole dynamic of the interaction. Throw it in if you feel like your prospect is starting to feel disengaged, or if they seem intimidated by the interaction in any way.
Inside sales vs. outside sales; it doesn’t matter. Either way, these persuasion tips will help you make more sales!
I just taught you all about persuasion, so I’m not going to pull any persuasion techniques on you.
There’s no persuasive undercurrent or manipulation technique here. I’m just going to tell you flat out what EmailAnalytics, is—and what it can do for you.
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There’s a bit more to it than that, but it’s the kind of thing you have to see—and not just read about. So sign up for a free trial today! Hopefully I’ve persuaded you 😉
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.