7 keys of sales persuasion


Sales are not made or lost based on price alone.

Most sales are lost due to a lack of persuasion.

There are seven psychological principles of persuasion. The more of these principles you can pack into your sales presentations and copy the more you will sell.

The seven basic principles are reciprocity, consistency,  social proof, authority, liking, trust and scarcity.

Let’s break those down one by one:


Reciprocity. People automatically feel obligated to repay gifts and favors. Provide a small gift or perform a valued service for your prospect and they will feel a sense of obligation when it comes time to ask for the sale.

Consistency. It’s human nature for people to be and appear consistent with things they’ve already said and done. Small points of agreement can lead to larger ones, and eventually to a sale.

Social proof. When unsure what to do people often make decisions on what others are saying and doing.

Authority. When people see you as an authority their resistance to your sales message disappears and the value of your products and services increase.

Liking. People prefer to do business with people they know and like.

Trust. It helps if your prospect knows and likes you, but trust is vital

Scarcity. When something is scarce or limited in availability it will automatically seem more desirable and valuable.


Why is it that when a request is stated one way the answer is no? But when it is worded slightly differently the answer is yes. It usually comes down to how persuasive the person doing the asking is.

When making a request you will be more likely to get a yes if you give a reason for it.

Even asking for a small favor like “may I borrow your pen” will be more likely to be granted if you say “may I borrow your pen, because I need to leave my friend a note.”

Because is the key word here. Not the fact that you need to leave your friend a note. Simply that you had a reason for borrowing the pen.

Having the lowest price does not always give you an advantage when it comes to making the sale. Affluent buyers see expensive as high quality. So higher priced products and services are seen as more desirable and more valuable.

Contrast rule.

Use the contrast rule when selling multiple items at the same time.

When making your offer sell the highest priced item first, then offer an upsell.

A conference organizer might sell a seat to a 3 day event for $497. Once the sale is made they might offer a recording of the seminar for an additional $97.

The $97 doesn’t seem like so much money after spending $497 to attend the event

At the Apple Store it’s much easier to buy a $100 case after committing to buy a $1500 MacBook Pro.

By selling the most expensive item first the price for the less expensive item seems even less.

There is more profit in presenting your higher priced offerings first. If you do it the other way around the contrast rule will work against you.

Your higher priced offerings will seem even higher.


The principle of reciprocity.

People feel a natural obligation to repay favors done by others. If someone invites you to an event it’s very likely that you will invite them to your event when the chance comes up.

When someone gives you a gift or a card for a special occasion you’ll feel obligated to buy them a gift or send a card.

According to the rule of reciprocation we should repay others for the things they do for us.

Society has taught us to live up to this rule.

If someone provides you with a small favor before asking you for something it’s much more likely you’ll say yes.

By giving away free reports, white papers, samples or trials you aren’t just getting prospects to identify themselves and provide their contact info.

You’re also putting the rule of reciprocity in play. Provided your prospect receives value from what you just gave them.

The reciprocity rule has naturally developed in society over time so that we can give freely to one another knowing that we will be repaid.

Providing a favor will create an obligation as long as the person receiving the favor finds what you provided valuable.

But there is a difference between offering a gift and creating an obligation to receive it

Say you have a friend over visiting. You could say “hey there’s some cold cuts in the fridge, feel free to go in there and make yourself a sandwich.”

Maybe they will. Maybe they won’t.

But what if you walked into the room with a tray and said “I made us some sandwiches for this afternoon. Here, have one.”

Which one of those do you think it’s going to be harder to say no to?

Find ways to create an obligation to receive when you provide something to a prospective client.

They will then be obligated to you

When someone sees that you have gone a little out of your way to provide a small gift or favor then most will not refuse it. They don’t want to be seen as impolite.

It doesn’t matter if your prospect didn’t want the gift in the first place. Once they receive it they feel an obligation. Give before asking for something in return.


As the gift-giver you are in control. You choose what the gift is. And you choose what to ask for in return, and when.

You may think that one favor will be responded to with favor of equal value. But even a small favor can create an obligation to respond in a much larger way.

That’s because the small favor creates an unpleasant feeling of indebtedness in your prospect.

And people don’t like to feel that they owe you something.

Reciprocal concessions.

Making a reciprocal concession is more subtle and less direct giving a gift before asking for something in return.

But it can be more powerful.

Let’s say there is a 3 day sales seminar that you really want to attend. But the cost is $1,000.00 – and $1,000.00 just isn’t in the budget right now.

The seminar host makes their presentation with the $1,000.00. And you politely but firmly decline.

The host explains that you should at least get the audio recordings of the seminar, and that the price is only $97.00

To which you immediately agree to.

It turns out that the audio recordings are what the host was hoping to sell in the first place. And that any tickets she sells for the live event are just a bonus.

By pitching the more expensive offer first it is easier to successfully sell the less expensive option.

The reject and retreat process works as long as the first offer is not seen as totally out of reason.

You can find out more about the principle of reciprocity when you join my free Copy Course here.


The principle of consistency.

We are taught to be consistent in sales. Consistent with our sales message. Consistent with lead generation. And consistent with follow-up.

But that is not the kind of consistency I’m talking about today.

What I’m talking about is the psychological principle of consistency that lives in your prospects mind.

And how you can leverage consistency to make more sales.

People have a natural desire to be and appear consistent with things they have said or done in the past. Once a choice is made or a stand is taken people tend to behave consistently with their choices.

Once a final decision is made people will do and say things to reinforce that decision.

The need to be consistent is a major factor in the actions people choose to make.

And the need to be consistent is an important tool you can leverage to influence your prospects thoughts and actions.

Inconsistency is undesirable. Just look at anyone whose words and actions don’t match, and then consider what your opinion of them is.

Consistent people are said to be bright, sharp and well put together.

Being consistent can be more important than being correct in the mind of your prospect.

When weighing the pros and cons of a decision most people simply hear what they want to hear. And what they want to hear is what is already consistent with what they feel and believe.

They simply disregard the rest.

So how does all this help you make a sale?

First you have to ask the hard questions to find out where your prospect stands.

Then you need to point out how the value that your product or service is consistent with where she stands.

And you also need to point out that not taking advantage of the value you are delivering is inconsistent with where she stands.

When you get your prospect to take a stand or make a commitment it becomes much easier for them to take action on that commitment.

Once they take a stand they will feel a need to be consistent with that stand.

But in order to get your prospect to take a stand you first need to start small. Start with minor points that you can agree on and gradually move on to the larger points until a decision is reached.

You can make a big sale by starting with a small one.

Most any small sale will do as long as it’s related to what you eventually want to sell in the end.

Profit is not important on that first sale. I’m happy to break even or take a small loss on the first sale just to get the ball rolling.

The commitment you earn from the first sale will lead to larger sales.

Once someone makes a purchase they stop being a prospect and become a client.

By starting with small sales you can quickly move up to big sales.

Once someone makes a small investment in what it is you have to offer their self-image changes. They start to see themselves as the kind of person who is involved in this sort of thing.

So if you’re selling real estate investment properties in Costa Rica you might start off by selling a book titled How to Invest in Costa Rican Real Estate for $7.00.

Once your client buys that book they will start to see themselves as the kind of person who invests in Costa Rican real estate.

You can turn that initial $7 sale into a $7,000.00, or $70,000.00 real estate investment from there.

Another way to use the principle of consistency to boost sales is to hold a testimonial contest where the winner gets a nice prize.

This increases sales two ways.

One. The testimonials will attract new customers who have never purchased from you before.

Two. The people who write the testimonials will be highly motivated to buy from you again.

Because when people put their thoughts in writing they automatically agree with what they have said. And when it is publicly posted that agreement becomes stronger and lasts longer.

Once someone expresses their opinion they will feel driven to maintain that opinion in order to be consistent. The more publicly that opinion is stated the harder it will be for them to change their mind.


The principle of social proof.

People tend to make decisions based on the decisions they see being made by others.

If someone sees other people making the same decision they automatically assume that is the correct decision for them.

And the more people they see making that decision the more they are convinced it is the right decision.

People tend to see things as being the right thing to do when they see others doing it.

The fact is that the crowd is usually correct. In most cases social proof is real proof.

Testimonials, social media posts and online reviews are all important parts of your sales process. That’s why you should do everything you can to cultivate positive reviews of your products and services and share them with your future clients.

When you see many people doing the same thing it’s usually the right thing to do.

If someone is truly interested in buying your product but is still sitting on the fence they will be more influenced by what others say and do than anything else.

Especially if the people they are observing are just like them.

If someone sees a large group of people doing the same thing they automatically assume that the group knows something they don’t.

Someone who finds themselves in an unfamiliar situation, unsure of what to do, is more likely to rely on social proof to decide what to do. See how you can use the principle of social proof in the Copy Course.

But the more important the decision is, the less weight social proof carries. At a certain point people will want to sort things out for themselves and investigate all the details. But they will still take social proof into account before making a final decision.


The principle of liking.

People prefer to do business with other people that they know and like.

But when you associate yourself with someone else they know and like the client doesn’t have to personally know you.

This is why celebrity endorsements, referrals and joint venture partnerships are so valuable.

So what causes potential clients to like you?

One reason could be a halo effect. There is one outstanding positive trait above all others that shapes the way others see you.

Another reason is similarity. People like other people who are just like themselves. Maybe you have a similar personality or opinions. It could be that you have the same background or lifestyle. Or simply that you dress the same.

If you can establish common ground with someone they will tend to like you.

Give sincere compliments. People tend to like those who pay them compliments. Just make sure they are genuine.

Tell people you like them. People tend to automatically like people who they know like them.

Flattery and praise. When you praise the quality of a person’s works, actions or words they believe it and like you for saying so.

Share a common goal. When two people are trying to achieve the same goal, and doing so would benefit them both, they tend to like each other.

People tend to like things that are familiar to them.

Find out more about the principle of liking in the free Copy Course.


The principle of trust.

You’ve heard it before. People do business with people they know, like and trust.

While knowing and liking are important, trust is vital.

If people don’t trust you then almost nothing else matters.

So how do you establish trust in sales?

Know the facts. If your prospect catches you making a statement that is not correct their shields will go up. Even if you’re not lying. Even if you just made a mistake or misspoke. You have to know your stuff.

That said, don’t lie. Just don’t. Period, point blank.

Be an expert. Become an expert on your business, and know how it affects your prospects business.

Do what you say, when you say you will, the way you said you would do it

Show up and deliver on time.

Find common ground. Try to find something, anything that you have in common with your prospect. It doesn’t even have to be anything big. Any common things between you and your prospect will help build trust.

Share mistakes and failures. Let your prospect know where you have gone wrong in the past and, more importantly, what you have learned from it.

Be curious. Ask about them. Both their personal life and their business.

Be consistent.

Under-promise and over-deliver. Give clients more than they thought they were getting. It could be an additional service, a bonus product or extra information.

Be respectful.

Trust is earned over time. The first sale may be hard, but additional sales will become easier as trust goes up.


The principle of authority.

When people see you as an authority their resistance to your sales message melts, and the value of your products and services increase.

So how do you build authority?

I go in detail about Authority inside the Copy Course, but here are a few ways:

Write a book. This is the fastest and surest way to establish yourself as an authority and an expert.

We’re not talking War and Peace here. About 40 pages typed into a simple Word or Google Doc is plenty. Or you can dictate about an hour’s worth of audio and have it transcribed.

Once that is formatted it will be about 60 to 70 pages in book form, which is plenty enough to give you credibility.

You can give it away or sell it as an eBook. But you will gain more authority and credibility if you publish it as a physical book.

Don’t worry, you don’t need some fancy publisher or book agent. Just publish it yourself at CreateSpace and order copies as you need them.

You can sell it or give it away, but the purpose of the book is not to make money. It’s to build authority and generate leads.

Develop a platform. Start a blog, or create a podcast, or publish a newsletter, or create a YouTube channel.

The key is to consistently post informative content that your ideal client will find valuable. And to occasionally make offers so that clients can work with you.

Describe the problem. When you can describe the problem better than the prospect they automatically assume you have the solution.

Give interviews. You can leverage the platforms of others by giving interviews to journalists, bloggers and podcasters. Reach out to journalists at helpareporter.com, and reach out to bloggers and podcasters in your industry directly.

Speak at or hold a conference. Public speaking is a great way to create authority.

Build authority by being an educator and advocate in your field.

Don’t be afraid to specialize. I like the term micro-specialization. Pick a niche and dominate it. When you specialize in one thing that gives you more authority in that thing. You can always expand your niche later. Go one inch wide and one mile deep.

You can establish authority by what seems to be going against your own best interests.

Begin by offering a low priced option on the first order. This works well if you have additional higher priced products and services that you can offer later on. And you know that your clients will naturally want to buy them.


The principle of scarcity.

Even things that no one wants will become more valuable and desirable as it becomes less available.

So imagine what happens when you take something of value, and that is desirable, and limit its availability.

This is how the basic principle of scarcity works.

Your products and services will appear more valuable when their availability is limited.

The fear of losing something will motivate your prospect to take action quicker than the potential gain of something of equal value.

For example, “if you don’t buy these shoes today while they are on sale it is going to cost you thirty dollars” is much more persuasive that “if you buy these shoes today while they’re on sale you will save thirty dollars.

Even though you are basically saying the same thing the fear of loss (losing thirty dollars) will persuade more people to buy.

Avoiding a potential loss is a powerful influence when it comes to making a decision.

One way to use the scarcity principle while at the same time justifying a discount is to use the scarcity of imperfections.

Is there a minor flaw in your product that doesn’t affect its performance like an error on the packaging or a misprint in the instructions?

You can say “we accidentally used the wrong picture on the package. Fortunately we caught it after only 51 had been produced. So we’re offering the first 51 for only $297.00. – After that the price goes to $497.00.

If you think about this I think you’ll find a way to apply it to your business.

Every time Donald Trump builds a new residential building he has to go through a sales process. Advertising. Generating leads. Setting appointments. Showing homes. And closing deals.

But there is one apartment he never has any trouble selling.

The penthouse.

There is only one penthouse.

What in your business can you limit to only one?

It doesn’t have to be one for all time, but that’s okay if it is.

It can be one each month, or one each year.

It should be a signature offering, a premium priced product or service that obviously not be for everyone.

And is priced accordingly.

This has the side benefit of making your other products and services more desirable, and more reasonably priced.

There are more examples inside Copy Course of the scarcity principle.

Another way to invoke scarcity is with the deadline tactic.

You offer a low price for a limited time and then the price increases.

“The price is $97.00 for the first five days only. After that it goes to $197.00.”

This works especially well when you use a countdown timer to re-inforce urgency.

The now or never tactic.

Tell prospects that they need to decide now whether or not they want to work with you.

Because you have so many others who want to see you that even if they decide later that they want to, that you wouldn’t be able to do it.

This forces prospects to decide now and it makes them want it even more.

There are two reasons why the scarcity principle is so powerful.

One. Experience has shown that things that are hard to get are usually better than things that are easy to get. The quality of an item is judged by its availability, and in most cases that judgement is correct.

Two. When an opportunity disappears we lose the power to choose it, and no one likes to have their choices limited.

Limiting the freedom of choice makes people want whatever it is that has been limited.

When it was announced that 100 watt incandescent light bulbs would be phased out in favor of 60 watt compact fluorescent bulbs there was a run on 100 watt bulbs and they soon sold out altogether.

Now about the only place you can find them is on eBay.

That is true scarcity.

This applies no matter what you’re selling. Whether it’s a physical product, a service or information.

Not only do people want things more when its availability is limited, but they see it as more valuable too.

But does something have to be scarce from the outset in order to increase in value?

No. Actually it’s the other way around.

When scarcity becomes a new state of something its value goes up.

If in the beginning something is widely available, but it suddenly becomes scarce, its value will go up.

It’s seen as more valuable because of demand by others.

People want thing the most when they are in competition for it.


R + S = C

Rivalry + scarcity = profits.


How to create scarcity.

Put a limit on what you accept.

“Accepting only two new clients this week.”

Use a countdown timer whenever possible.

Limited time. Put an expiration date on your offers.

Flash sale. Have a very limited time offer. One day only or for the next 7 hours only.

Limited time pricing. Offer a low price in the beginning, after which time the price goes up (and stick to it).

“I’m offering this for only $97.00 for the first seven days… or until the first 100 are sold. After the price goes to $197.00.”

Limited edition. Offer a limited edition of your regular product or service and add a custom upgrade that sets it apart from your usual offering.

For a physical product this could be a special color or upgrade.

For a service or information product it could be the opportunity to work directly with you on a special project.

Limit the number of spaces or seats available. Set a limit on how many people can attend.

“We’re only taking 50 people for this workshop so that we can provide you with individual personal consultation.”

Create an application process. Have people apply to work with you.

“Because not everyone is a good fit for my program I’ve created this brief application process to see if it makes sense for us to work together.


7 Keys to Sales Persuasion


So there you have it, the seven principles of persuasion.

Reciprocity, consistency, social proof, liking, trust, authority and scarcity.

Do you have to use every principle, every time?

No. Of course not. But the more of these principles you can work in the more successful your sales will be.

You can use the seven principles both in your sales copy and in your personal presentations. They will work in any business. You just need to think about how to adapt them to yours.

Which of these principles of persuasion have you used? And what have you done that I haven’t talked about here?

For simple ways to write words that sell check out Copy Course.

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