Scott Wolf at Arcamax pointed me to a link for “Harnessing the Science of Persuasion” by Professor Robert Caldini.  Its a Harvard Business Review publication from 2001.

Nothing new from Dr. Caldini, by any stretch,  but nonetheless, it’s worth reading.Harness the Science of Persuasion

The article is a rehash of NLP 101, which Richard Bandler and John Grinder created in the late 80’s. Scott Wolf and I had a stint in a former life, promoting NLP Master Trainer Kenrick Cleveland in 1988. It was an eye-opener for both us us — in many ways.

Caldini lists six tools master persuaders use to convince others:

  1. Liking. People like those like them, who like them.
  2. Reciprocity: People repay in kind
  3. Social Proof: People follow the lead of similar others.
  4. Consistency: People fulfill written, public and voluntary commitments.
  5. Authority: People defer to experts who provide shortcuts to decisions requiring specialized information.
  6. Scarcity: People value what’s scarce.

Any sales professional is going to agree with the list. You get a couple of those going for you — or even one well executed, and you’ve got a buyer.

Of course, the question is, can you teach this list to salespeople and get better results. If you could script it and coach it, you’d just collect the orders.

But, any sales manager who’s been around sees most sales training produce a “temporary bump,” at best. Only a small percentage of salespeople (1 out of 5)  “get it” and end up with any long term improvement.

The reason is because only natural salespeople can really sell. I’d go as far as to say that non-natural salespeople, in their heart of hearts, find persuasion distasteful.

There’s no question persuasion can be “engineered” to a more predictable result as Caldini suggests. However the salesperson’s Personality Style and Personal Values ultimately predict sales success over the long term.