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The 6 Principles of Persuasion

Why do you buy a product or pay for a service? What motivates your customers to say “yes” to what you are offering?

Have you ever thought about it, really?

The list in your mind is probably endless, but do you think it has anything to do with persuasion?

Yes, persuasion.

For a number of years many companies have persuaded us (the public) to buy their products or try their service using some very catchy ads like:

Proctor and Gamble’s “Thank you, Mom” campaign;

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The ever-so-catchy “Every Kiss Begins with Kay” that’s helped the jeweler sell loads of diamonds; and

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My local favorite, Digicel, “The Bigger, Better Network.”

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A lot of companies understand the science behind what makes you say “yes,” and you can thank Dr. Robert Cialdini for it. In his book ,“Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.” Dr. Cialdini showed that people do what they observe other people doing. It’s a principle that’s based on the idea of safety in numbers. For example, when I am feeling for a good doubles (a sandwich sold on the street that those of you not from Trinidad and Tobago are missing out on), I will automatically gravitate to the doubles man who has a lot of people around him. I will be very cautious of someone selling doubles who has just a few people buying.

But that is the science of social proof. If a group of people is looking to the back of the elevator, an individual who enters the elevator will copy it and do the same, even if it looks funny. Companies use this all the time. Anyone shopping on Amazon can read tons of customer feedback on any product. Some companies show their Facebook likes and Twitter followers.

Whether we admit it or not, most of us are impressed when someone has a ton of subscribers, Twitter followers, YouTube views, blog reviews, etc.

Calidini’s six principles of persuasion (which are very similar to mine, even though I didn’t know who he was until a month ago) are:

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Commitment and consistency
  3. Social proof
  4. Likability
  5. Authority
  6. Scarcity

If you are wondering if these principles are still relevant after almost 30 years, yes, they are. As a matter of fact, these principles are the foundation for many marketing campaigns, and many companies use them to get you to buy their product or service. Most people can’t explain why they made a particular decision. But Dr. Cialdini can.

After countless experiments and research, Dr. Cialdini identified those six underlying factors that influence decisions and explained how to use the factors to get more positive responses.

Let look at the factors and their applications individually in a business context:


According to Dr. Cialdini, reciprocation explains why free samples can be so effective. People feel indebted to those who do something for them or give them a gift. People who receive an unexpected gift are more likely to listen to a product’s features, donate to a cause or tip a waiter more. Give something — information, samples, a positive experience, etc. — and people will want to give you something in return.

A lot of companies have adopted this principle of reciprocity. Netflix, Amazon and Hubspot all offer a free service for a stipulated period of time. And some bloggers offers free downloads, free webinars, free ebooks. These companies and individuals understand that human beings are wired to return favors and, as a result, site visitors will be more likely to feel obligated to buy something from the company or individual’s website.

Commitment and Consistency

People take a lot of pride in being true to their word. Dr. Cialdini suggests that oral and written commitments are powerful persuasive techniques and that people tend to honor agreements — even after the original incentive or motivation is no longer present.

Cialdini indicated that people want to be consistent and true to their word. Getting customers or co-workers to publicly commit to something makes them more likely to follow through with an action or a purchase. Getting people to answer “yes” makes them more powerfully committed to an action.

Conversion Voodoo helped a mortgage company increase its completed application conversion rate by more than 11% with the simple addition of a commitment checkbox. That simple act of commitment propels the mortgage company’s customers toward making a larger commitment.

Social Proof

We dealt with social proof above. People will normally follow the crowd (safety in numbers).


Dr. Cialdini explained that likability is based on sharing something similar with people you like. People will naturally associate with people who are like them, and this applies to businesses as well. Customers tend to buy from companies they like. Everyone has a favorite brand that appeals to them — the more similarities there are between the customer and brand, the more positive that relationship will be over time.

A lot of companies conduct extensive research to segment their market, target their niche and position the company to appeal to its target market. These companies design their products, services, logos, websites, outlets, etc. to mirror their customers. We are influenced by a product or service we like.

See also: How Customers Really Think About Insurance  

Likability may also come in the form of trust. Being fair, open, genuine and honest in your actions and having a general interest in people and their welfare will begin to build that trust with your staff, which is one of the branches of likability and respect.


Are you more likely to take instruction from a person who you perceived to be an authoritative person? According to Dr. Cialdini, job titles such as “doctor” can infuse an air of authority and, as a result, this can lead the average person to accept what a person is saying without question.

If you take LinkedIn influencers, for example, their posts attract thousands of views and comments simply because people considers the influencers to be people of authority in their field because of their success. According to Dr. Cialdini, “When people are uncertain, they don’t look inside themselves for answers — all they see is ambiguity and their own lack of confidence. Instead, they look outside for sources of information that can reduce their uncertainty. The first thing they look to is an authority. We’re not talking about being in authority but about being an authority.”

Nike is one of the most coveted brands in the world, and one of their major strengths is their association with very successful athletes who are considered an authority in their sport. So, quite naturally with that association, Nike has become an authoritative brand in the world of sports apparel.


In economic terms, “scarcity” relates to supply and demand. The less there is of something, the more valuable it is. According to Dr. Cialdini, the more rare and uncommon something is, the more people want it.  For example, a lot of companies use phrases like “Don’t miss this chance,” or, “Book your spots early; Limited seating available.”

Many companies may manufacture a limited amount of a product in an attempt to generate a sense of limitation to the general public. Have you ever notice the long lines for a new product? People camping outside a store? If you create that environment of scarcity, you will create a demand for your product or service.

See also: How to Exceed Customer Expectations  

The six principles I’ve mentioned are very powerful simply because they bypass our rational mind and appeal to our subconscious instincts. A good seller will always refer to the positive opinion of other users and how successful the product is. Or the seller will give customers a free trial, etc.

But it is important to note that if you are unethical and are trying to con your customers, people will see right through your scam. These principles will only be effective if you are genuine in your efforts and you deliver on your promise to your customers.

To gain more insight into the use of persuasion, you can secure a copy of my Kindle eBook, “The 6 Principles of Persuasion Everyone in Business Should Know, Release the Trigger of Compliance in Your Staff and Customers.” You will learn influential strategies that many successful companies use to increase their sales, attract more customers, manage their employees more effectively and communicate to influence others.

3 Strategies to Manage Resistance to Change

Change — irrespective of the sector, industry, experience, employees, etc. — is sometimes tough to achieve. In many organizations today, transformational change is the least understood, as well as the most difficult type to execute. Although the change may be well-planned, communicated and implemented, most times there will be some level of resistance. One has to remember that change interferes with the culture, behavior and mindset of employees, so, to implement change successfully, you have to manage resistance.

Resistance to Change

Change is sometimes necessary and inevitable. Unfortunately, workers sometimes view change as a direct attack on their performance or as an unnecessary whim of management. In most cases, resistance arises from threats to norms and traditional ways of doing things; as a result, it is a basic tenet of human behavior to resist any change.

I clearly remember my first major experience with change. It was nerve-wracking because I was very confused about the change and how it would affect my daily routine on the job. Quite naturally, I resisted it.

To efficiently execute any change, one has to take into consideration the environments your employees have grown accustomed to. Any change to an employee’s psychological contract will, in most instances, fuel that resistance. If management cannot adequately evaluate the impact of the changes taking place, this will lead to the non-fulfillment of the company’s strategic objectives.

What can management do to mitigate this resistance?

Use Change Agents

Employees should have a role in the designing, planning and implementation of the change. Get your employees involved, have change agents within the departments and give them the responsibility to engage their fellow staff members about the change in an attempt to sell the vision.

See also: Small Steps Drive Significant Change  

The change agents should be long-standing employees who have some degree of influence in the company. The principles of social proof taught us that people will naturally follow the crowd. When an employee recognizes that a long-standing compatriot shares the vision of the manager or CEO, these employees will be far more easily convinced to accept the changes, especially if there are trust issues in the organization. Employees aren’t just hearing another speech from the boss.


Resistance to change is really “resistance to uncertainty.” To overcome resistors, the management team must ensure communication plays an integral role. The Change Curve model, illustrated below, describes the four stages most people go through as they adjust to change. It is extremely important that one recognizes these stages:

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For example, an initial reaction to change may be shock or denial. Communication has to be a priority at this stage. Although employees may be able to absorb a limited amount of information, management must ensure its employees have a natural pathway to access more information if they need it, and management must be patient enough to answer any questions that come up. I have seen some managers refuse to answer staff questions about a change in the organization, and that kind of ridiculous stand by the manager derails the whole process even before it actually begins.

In Stage Two, people may fear the impact, feel angry, resist or actively protest against the changes. For many organizations, this is the “danger zone,” and, if this stage is managed badly, the organization may descend into crisis or chaos. Careful consideration should be given to the impact of the changes and to objections people may have. Again, communication and support will play a vital role in minimizing and mitigating the problems people will experience.

Stages Three and Four are the turnaround stages. This is where the changes start to become second nature and where people embrace the improvements to the way they work and, in many instances, show the commitment to the changes that took place.

To ensure the individual departments are in alignment with the shared goals and objectives of the organization, an organization-wide communication approach — predominantly from the bottom up — must be instituted. I have witnessed the failure of change simply because management did not understand the vital role that communication plays.

Leadership Commitment

Any management team leading a transformational change must ensure that the vision is consistently communicated. Employees model their behaviors on the actions of management, so leadership must make sure its values are aligned with the core values they are trying to instill in the organization.

If the leadership does not “walk the talk” of the change, the whole change process will not go anywhere. The communication will have no impact if management shows no commitment to the change. The organization will always be in a whirlwind of change, with no end in sight.

See also: 3 Main Mistakes in Change Management  

Change is challenging. Resistance is inevitable. However, if management shows commitment to the process, genuinely communicates and embraces employee feedback, the change process can be very successful.

The 5 Personal Persuasion Styles

Can you imagine a world where everyone was inspired to go to work? Do you inspire your team to greatness as a leader, or are you one of those leaders who are quite comfortable with your staff coming to work every day without any sense of purpose? The No. 1 problem facing many organizations today is leadership.

A Simon Sinek YouTube video titled “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe” tells the story of a group of Marines that came under heavy fire from three sides in an ambush in Afghanistan, when one Capt. William D. Swenson repeatedly ran into the line of fire to bring injured men to safety and saved at least a dozen lives. A GoPro on one of the medics captured Swenson and a comrade carrying a wounded Marine to a helicopter for evacuation. After putting the man down, Swenson gave him a kiss on the forehead and then ran back into the kill zone.

I said to myself, wow, if a man is willing to give his life for me, I will follow him to the ends of the earth. (Swenson received the Medal of Honor.)

While a business environment is obviously not a war zone, even though we sometimes use war as an analogy, the sort of deep-seated love that Swenson showed needs to be present in a workplace, and it is missing in many organization today. People don’t feel safe, and they do not believe their leaders will have their backs when they are in the line of fire.

The greats of leadership have a persuasion style that allows them to sell their ideas and inspire people to follow their vision. One of the most critical skills in the repertoire of any leader is the power to inspire and influence people by their words and actions rather than coercion.

See also: How High-Performing Salespeople Persuade  

In a fascinating book, The Art of Woo, Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas, by G. Richard Shell and Mario Moussa, the authors discuss five different leadership personality approaches to persuasion: Driver, Commander, Promoter, Chess Player and Advocate. Some people are comfortable using three or four of these styles, while others prefer to play only one or two.

This book draws from many other brilliant authors and expertly highlights the value of authenticity and self-awareness in your ability to persuade and influence. The book says you need to make two basic choices: Are you other-oriented or self-oriented? (In other words, are you going to tailor your messages for your audience, or are you going to make unmodified announcements rather than spin them for each audience?) And, will you be loud or quiet?

The book then goes through five styles; one of the keys to great leadership is understanding your unique persuasion style. While you are reading, consider your present environment, your employees, values, etc. and ascertain which communication approach is best aligned to your natural persuasive leadership personality.

Driver (Higher Volume and Self-Oriented Perspective)

According to Shell and Moussa, when individuals are high-volume and prefer to announce their perspective without a lot of adjustment for their audience, other people are likely to experience them as demanding. They can be overly one-dimensional and prefer to persuade people by saying things like “Do this my way, the right way or you can hit the highway.”

I remember working as a plumber’s assistant in my younger days, and all the employees called the founder of the company Frank Sinatra — because he liked everything his way.

But if drivers are dedicated to the organization mission, they can be effective persuaders. The book mentions former Intel CEO Andy Groves, who personified a high-volume, self-oriented CEO and was hugely successful.

Grove kept a wooden bat near his chair. One day, just after a meeting had gotten started, several executives slipped into their seats. Grove fell silent at their arrival, then grabbed the bat, slammed it onto the table, and shouted, “I don’t ever, ever want to be in a meeting with this group that doesn’t start and end when it is scheduled!” Intel was subsequently famous for on-time meetings.

See also: Should You Use a Coach/Mentor?  

Grove wasn’t a nut; he was very aware about his communication style and the culture he wanted to create at Intel.

Commander (Low Volume and Self-Oriented)

A commander speaks from a position of quiet confidence and authority, using expertise combined with finesse to make a point in an understated way. The book highlighted J.P. Morgan as someone who conducted himself from a position of quiet confidence and credibility.

You don’t have to be an aggressive Driver when you want people to know exactly what you think. Indeed, a quiet, understated demeanor can often be much more efficient. People listen. The Commander keeps his counsel and puts a premium on maintaining as much control over decisions as possible.

In a financial panic in 1895, Morgan played the Commander with finesse, saving both America and his financial empire from a fiscal catastrophe.

The Promoter (Higher Volume and Other-Oriented Perspective)

Promoters are outgoing, optimistic and assertive. They are friendly. When played well, this role features a gift for gaining and maintaining a wide circle of relationships. The CEO of SAP, Bill McDermott, immediately comes to mind.

During his 17 years at Xerox, where he became the youngest divisional president, he was assigned to turn around the Puerto Rican unit, which was ranked 64th out of 64 divisions in the world. The following year, that same division was No. 1 in the world.

When asked about the spectacular turnaround, Bill McDermott said that he listened to the people, because they know why things aren’t working. McDermott said people told him two things:

  1. They wanted a vision, so they could be inspired when they came to work.
  2. The staff wanted their holiday party back.

When the division went from 64th to 1st in the world, they got their holiday party back, at the Old San Juan Hotel.

The Chess Player (Lower Volume and Other-Oriented Perspective)

The Chess Player style involved plotting a set of moves that brings about the desired outcome. Leaders with this type of personality prefer to operate in more intimate settings, quietly managing strategic encounters behind the scenes. A Chess Player is an effective strategist who is less extroverted than the Promoter but shares with the Promoter a keen interest in what makes other people tick.

Shell and Moussa point to John D. Rockefeller. In 1865, Rockefeller wanted to end a partnership with four men, but the firm could be dissolved only if all the partners consented.

Rockefeller went to work behind the scenes, lining up support from some banks. When he got the support required, Rockefeller provoked a quarrel over an oil industry investment and quietly extracted himself from the unsavory business partnership. If Rockefeller was more prone to a driver personality, he may have engaged his partners in a shouting match or threatened litigation, demanding they release him so he could follow his dreams. However, Rockefeller took the path of the Chess Player by carefully plotting a set of moves behind the scenes.

The Advocate – Moderate Volume and a Balance Between Self-Oriented and Other-Oriented Perspectives.

The Advocate uses a full range of tools to get her points across. The Advocate strives for balance — persistence without shouting, being mindful of the audience without losing perspective. A classic example used in the book is the founder of Wal-Mart, Sam Walton.

Walton visited one of his stores and noticed someone at the front greeting customers. Walton was fascinated with the idea and told his team that all the stores should have greeters. Now, Walton could have simply ordered people to do what he wanted. But he was seldom the Driver that Andy Grove was and instead relied on a more moderate combination of vision, persistence, relationships and reason to get people to see things his way.

There was a lot of conflict over this new initiative, and Walton went to lengths to explain why this greeters program would be good for the company. He let the debate go on in an attempt to fully explore all the ideas. After 18 months of discussion and experiment, Wal-Mart finally adopted the practice company-wide.

Walton did not dictate or say things to his executives such as “Don’t you trust my judgment?” or “Don’t you think I know a thing or two about what is good for Wal-Mart?” Instead, Walton sold his vision, and his team eventually brought into the concept.

As a leader, you need to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses in persuasion. You need to understand your preferred communication channels, and likewise, you must take into consideration the dynamics of your environment, your organizational values, culture, people, etc.

Some companies are fierce guardians of their business values, and if there is a misalignment it can cause havoc within the company. For example, you cannot be an Andy Grove in a culture that promotes family values, teamwork, collaboration, etc. The culture is completely different.

See also: Systematic Approach to Digital Strategy  

Woo-based persuasion is all about aligning interest, values and relationship as people find it easier to say yes rather than no. Regardless of your personality, when your team trusts you, when you figure out which channels of communication your counterparts are best attuned to, your will gain tremendous credibility within your company.

My personal persuasion style is more of a Chess Player. I prefer to quietly managing strategic encounters behind the scene. What is your personal persuasion style?

The 4 Secrets to Managing Change

Confused about change management in your organization? You are not alone. Transformation is difficult. But some companies have succeeded throughout the length and breadth of their organization. So, what is the secret?

1. Adopting a long-term vision

Vision is critical. Companies that commit to the process are more likely to experience a greater acceptance than those that implement short-term or damage-control practices.

See also: Can Insurers Move at the Speed of Change?  

To create that great place to work, the CEO and senior management must show a strong commitment to active communication and to the company vision and values. Equally important, there must be a commitment to ensure that the vision and values of the company are lived and experienced throughout the entire organization.

2. Accepting responsibility

The CEO and other senior individuals have to take the responsibility and lead by example.

3. Communicating the change

The team must plan, execute, evaluate and monitor the change initiatives to ensure the strategy of the organization is aligned with the vision, mission and structures of the company. It is important to note that the change team must understand what needs to be planned and what can emerge.

Additionally, a communication plan must be developed. Communication is that vital link to ensure that an organization change process is successful.

4. Understanding the organizational culture

Although changing an organization’s culture continues to be a highly challenging and often elusive endeavor, according to Levin and Gottlieb, the team must be aware of the people issues because they can enable or block change. Focusing solely on the hard factors and totally neglecting the softer issues can render the whole change process useless.

Any new CEO trying to change the culture of the organization wholesale will run into difficulty. It will be more feasible to get groups of people to change their way of work and teach others how to enact such behaviors. Any other approach can prove to be very unproductive and even destructive to the entire change process.

See also: Building A High Reliability Organization