Five Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive

1.  Don’t offer too many choices.  Whether it’s the number of products you offer or the number of plans you allow your employees to choose from, sometimes  you can offer too many choices, which often frustrates people.  Companies offering a small number of retirement plans have far greater enrollment than companies that offer a large number of plans.

2.  Request active commitments.  Ask in a way that elicits an active response.  One common mistake restaurants make when taking phone reservations is ending the call by saying “Please call if you have to cancel.”  By changing that line to “Will you please call if you have to cancel?” (followed by a pause for an answer), one restaurant owner reduced his no-show rate from 30 percent to 10 percent.

3.  Argue against self-interest.  Trust is a critical component to persuasion.  The surest way to be perceived as honest is to admit to a small weakness in your argument, product or business immediately prior to communicating the strongest pro argument.

4.  The threat of loss is more persuasive than the potential for gain.  Instead of telling your audience what they stand to gain from taking your advice or buying your product, tell them instead that they stand to lose out on an opportunity if they don’t take your advice or buy your product.

5.  Make people feel as if they’ve already made progress toward a goal.  A car wash offering a loyalty card nearly doubled customer retention by changing their offer from “Buy eight washes, get one free” to “Buy 10 washes, get one free–and we’ll start you off by crediting you for two washes.”

Excerpt from the book Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive (Free Press, 2008), by Noah J. Goldstein, Steve J. Martin and Robert B Cialdini, reveals 45 additional effective strategies to make you more persuasive. Available at, $10.10, $2.95 S&H.

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