Published: Tuesday 5th May 2015

The Six Principles of Influence

My last blog (Part One) explored the seminal book written by Dale Carnegie on how to communicate more persuasively and win people over to your way of thinking. Another valuable resource is the work by Robert Cialdini, Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University.                                                

In his acclaimed book published in 1984 entitled ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,’ he draws upon a series of experimental studies conducted on those whom he termed ‘compliance professionals’ – those skilled in the art of influencing and convincing people, including salespeople, advertisers and marketers.

These six principles for convincing others to say ‘yes’ are:

  1. Reciprocity – As humans, we are inclined to return favours – we feel that one good act deserves another. The key here is to identify your objectives and how you can support others with theirs. This can be used to encourage referrals, for instance, or to manage teams with their working processes.
  2. Commitment (and consistency) – Consistency is embedded in the human psyche, Cialdini argues. Once we have committed to something, we are more likely to see it through. With our prospects or teams, expand upon your ideas and proposals early on, encourage feedback and secure commitment.
  3. Social Proof – This relies upon the principle of ‘safety in numbers’. We can see how this could be applied with client testimonials, case studies and other measures of achievement and success, including awards.
  4. Liking – Of course prospects and colleagues are more likely to be persuaded by people they like. So we need to invest time building client relationships – engendering trust. This is critically important throughout the pitch process (and also influences casting).
  5. Authority – We are more likely to be persuaded and influenced by those in authority as we trust and value their judgement. Therefore the backing of industry experts, for example, helps enhance our agency’s reputation. Fostering good relationships with intermediaries, journalists and other influencers (which of course includes our clients), therefore ranks highly on our to-do list. As an agency, we build our authority by creating outstanding ideas and work, and then marketing that expertise to achieve widespread recognition.
  6. Scarcity – This principle says that things are more attractive when their availability is limited, or when we stand to lose the opportunity to acquire them on favourable terms – a tool successfully deployed by marketers across the decades.  For agencies, in a market that is oversupplied, the default positioning is often ‘full service’. What is more rare, or scarce, is a positioning founded upon a single-minded ambition, or purpose, with the power to attract and persuade like-minded clients.


It goes without saying that these principles were designed not to deceive people, nor to behave in any way unethically. They were designed to win others over to your way of thinking through reasoning and communication. As such, they are invaluable tools in the hands of any new business professional.

If you would like to learn more about how to hone your persuasive skills, join us on Thursday 21st May for breakfast and a session that explores the business psychology of persuasion.  For more information click here.  

Janine Abrahams