If the ad industry has taught us anything, it’s that there’s a science to selling. Because we keep going back to buy the same things over and over and over again. We keep trusting the same companies with our hard earned dollars day after day, month after month, and year after year.

But why?

It’s because advertisers and marketers have figured out a few tricks using the science of persuasion that make you much more likely to buy.

What are they?

Well, let’s take a closer look at just what those “tricks” are and how companies are using the science of persuasion to sell to us.

And then I’ll show you just how you can do the same with your products and services.

In 1984, Dr. Robert B. Cialdini wrote the book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” in which he detailed six universal principles of persuasion that guide human behavior.

They include:

  • Reciprocity
  • Authority
  • Liking
  • Consistency
  • Scarcity
  • Consensus

1. Reciprocity

Reciprocity simply means that people have a natural inclination to want to give back to others, whether it’s in the form of a gift, desired behavior, or a service.

How to Sell Online Using The Principles of Persuasion| How To Use The 6 Principles of Persuasion to Sell Online| Sell Anything Online Using the Power of Persuasion

Example: Your co-worker buys you a card for your birthday. You return the favor (reciprocity) by doing the same on their birthday.

Why It Works: People are more likely to do something for you if you’ve done something for them in the past because they feel like they owe you.

How to Incorporate This Into Your Business: Give something away for free that your readers will find value in.

2. Authority

The authority principle states that people listen to those they see as authority figures. If you can get people to see you as an expert, you can get them to trust you enough to buy from you or listen to what you recommend.

Example: Whenever you see 4 out 5 dentists recommending anything, that’s likely the authority principle being used. Or whenever you see any “expert” name slapped on a flyer, book, or promotional ad, the authority is what’s helping sell the content.

How to Sell Online Using The Principles of Persuasion| How To Use The 6 Principles of Persuasion to Sell Online| Sell Anything Online Using the Power of Persuasion

Why It Works: People trust those they see as authority figures. That includes professionals like doctors, lawyers, scientists, and people in higher education. We know they can be trusted because they’ve worked hard for their credentials and that’s why most professionals hang their degrees in their offices – to inspire confidence and establish authority.

How to Incorporate This Into Your Business: Find ways to establish yourself as an authority figure in your industry, whether that means publishing a paper or article, getting a degree or certificate, publishing a book, or starting a blog on related topics. Do what you need to do to be seen as an authority figure by your target audience.

3. Liking

How to Sell Online Using The Principles of Persuasion| How To Use The 6 Principles of Persuasion to Sell Online| Sell Anything Online Using the Power of Persuasion

The liking principle is simple. People buy from people they like, especially people who:

  • Are similar to them in some way
  • Compliment them
  • Help them achieve their goals

Example: You see your favorite celebrity chef has a new cookbook out. You like her style both in and out of the kitchen. You watch her cooking show all the time, and you’ve even made of few of her recipes. She reminds you of your Aunt Pam and the recipes you used to make at her house when you were younger. Since you already like so-and-so celebrity chef and she’s always telling her audience how anyone can make her recipes, you just have to have her new cookbook, right?

Or you start following an influencer online who seems just like you. You have similar styles, you like similar things, and she’s always posting motivational content for her followers and offering tools to help her followers do what’s she’s doing – traveling the world and making money while doing it. You notice that she came out with an ebook that helps people budget and plan for their next great travel adventure and it looks pretty useful. You reason with yourself. Her content has been pretty valuable in the past, and it’s only $4.99, right? Clicks ‘Buy Now’ button. Purchase complete.

Why It Works: People feel more at ease and comfortable with people they like, which puts them in a better mood to part with their cash.

How to Incorporate It Into Your Business: Give your customers what they want, help them achieve their goals, and find ways to show that you’re just like them. Before you get down to business, give your prospects genuine compliments that come from a sincere place.

4. Consistency

The consistency principle revolves around the idea that human beings have a desire to be seen as consistent and that once we’ve publicly committed to something, or someone, we feel somewhat obligated to follow through and deliver on that commitment.

How to Sell Online Using The Principles of Persuasion| How To Use The 6 Principles of Persuasion to Sell Online| Sell Anything Online Using the Power of Persuasion

Example: Asking your site visitors to commit to giving you their name and email address in exchange for something free like a downloadable eBook, sample guide, or white paper is a form of consistency. Once you’ve got their email address, there’s more of a chance that you can get an even bigger commitment – like a purchase somewhere down the line.

Why It Works: The consistency principle works because it plays on the human need to follow through with a commitment.

How to Incorporate It Into Your Business: Use the consistency principle by asking your customers for a bit of personal information in exchange for something they might find valuable, such as one of the free gifts mentioned above. Create a compelling document or freebie and then give it away to create the urge to commit.

5. Scarcity

The scarcity principle implies that people are always going to want something more when they think there isn’t enough of it, or that time is running out.

Example: Think about the last time you booked a trip online.

Remember seeing something that said “Only 3 rooms left! Book now to secure your room!”?

How to Sell Online Using The Principles of Persuasion| How To Use The 6 Principles of Persuasion to Sell Online| Sell Anything Online Using the Power of Persuasion
This example shows both scarcity and social proof.

That’s the scarcity principle hard at work.

Why It Works: The scarcity principle works because something becomes much more valuable the moment you think you’re going to lose it. Think about it. If you were told today that your favorite product was being discontinued, wouldn’t you hurry out to buy more before you can no longer access it forever? I’m betting you would. And I have a pretty good feeling I wouldn’t lose that bet. Am I right?

How to Incorporate This Into Your Business: In addition to pointing out the benefits of your product or service, you’ll also need to clearly state your unique selling proposition (USP) and create a deal so good they can’t resist. And make that deal available only for a limited time so that they feel they need to act fast. One blogger I know uses the scarcity principle when it comes to getting a spot in her mentoring program. She’s in high demand so she only opens the course once per year to a few select students and trains them on how to make money blogging. You can do the same by offering promotional items for a limited time, or putting a ticking clock on your landing pages, or whatever else you can think of to show scarcity in either product availability or time.

6. Consensus

The consensus principle is essentially the “crowd mentality.” When people don’t know what to do, they look to others to help them decide what to do.

It’s also known as social proof and it means people are more likely to buy from you if others have already.

Example: Showing your prospects what other customers have done or purchased can have a tremendous impact on sales.

Displaying an image showing how many followers, subscribers, likes, comments, and shares is a form of social proof.

How to Sell Online Using The Principles of Persuasion| How To Use The 6 Principles of Persuasion to Sell Online| Sell Anything Online Using the Power of Persuasion
This bar is an example of social proof or consensus.

Throw in a “professional” or “authority” in the field and you’ve got expert social proof.

Why It Works: Because it’s essentially the same as word-of-mouth advertising in that you trust reviews from regular people just like you, or people you know or trust.

How to Incorporate This Into Your Business: Use the consensus principle by revealing what your previous or current customers thought about your products or services, or by revealing how much they spent, or how your product or service has helped them. You can usually do that through your website copy, a white paper, or testimonials.

So, now that you’ve learned a little bit about human behavior and the science of persuasion, are you ready to put what you learned to the test?

Let me know in the comments.

Feel free to like and share as well!

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About the Author Admin

I'm a freelance writer of 10+ years and editor of 3+ years. I'm a blogger with a BA in English (Mercy College) and an MS in Professional Writing (NYU).

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