• Giorgia Cervantes

10 techniques to get people to say “YES”

Updated: Feb 9, 2019

Persuasion and Influence techniques from contemporary master persuaders.

Ever wondered how certain people always end up getting what they want?

In the last 70 years scientists have been researching the factors behind the decision-making process, focusing on common factors that lead someone to agree to a request. Without any doubt there is a science behind the way we are all persuaded.

These findings are commonly used from politicians, advertising agency or media. Apart Cognitive scientists and neuroscientists, this studies are often employed by marketers in general to induce a sense of bound with a product and generate an urgent need for buying, as if it was made just for us.

Let’s think for a second to characters such as Trump, Berlusconi or even Cartman. They all are master persuader. Even if their self-interest-above-all is commonly recognized yet they are able to get what they want, when they want it.

This can be explained by a basic, yet surprising, trait of human behavior: because of todays’ information overload human beings tends to take decisions based on emotions or habits rather than rational information processing.

Image when you go for grocery shopping, walking across the labyrinth of corridors: do you have time to compare ALL different features of basic diary product, crossing data on price, weight, provenience, production process, expiration date, taste, meals consumed in the last days? No, of course you don’t. This is why shelf position is supermarkets is so important and why we end up buying the same tomato sauce our mom used to, or the same milk brand over and over again, because we are used to it.

Today being a conscious consumer, aware of all the characteristic of a specific product, is as difficult as being a scientist in quantum physics, a lot of data and not much time available to make meaningful discoveries. This is when our evolved, simplistic mind comes to play and gets tricked by ads or special offers.

An important characteristic of persuasion: it is effective even when the subject recognizes the technique: everyone knows that stores list prices at $9.99 because $10.00 sounds like too much, but it still works.

It is fundamental to understand the mechanisms behind persuasion and effective communication used to manipulate us, acting as levers in our subconscious especially to recognize and avoid those behaviors, more than manipulate others.

10 techniques to get people to say “YES”

Practical “shortcut” or "rules" used for the decision making process, to always keep in mind.

1. The golden rule: Reciprocity (Cialdini)

Reciprocity refers to the obligation to give back when you receive. Humans are hard-wired to reciprocate favors. If you want someone's cooperation in the future, do something for that person today. Basic example? If someone invites you to its birthday party, you would be more likely to invite him back for yours.


In a restaurant when served the bills there is a high chance you will get a gift.

How will it affect your tip?

-When given one mint or fortune cookie there is an increase tip of 3%

-When given two mints the tips don’t double but quadruple, up to 14% increase

-When the waiter gives one mint, start to walk away from the table but pauses turns back then and says: “For you nice people, here’s an extra mint.” There is an increase of 23% of tips.

Is not only about what you give but how you do it, so make sure everything is personalized and unexpected.

2. Rhetoric: Metaphor’s kingdom (J.J. Romm, A. Scott)

Rhetoric is the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the exploitation of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.

Figures of speech or rhetorical figures are a fundamental instrument for effective communication. Knowing Rhetoric is useful to resist its charm, understanding it makes it easier to recognize speaker’s motivation and its manipulative techniques.

In politics the use of Short words with Repetitive and staccato sounds are an effective and commonly used rhetorical tool.

Ex: To be or not to be, I have a dream, Yes we can.

Metaphors are capable to create images and mirror the way in which we think. Cognitive scientist Edward O. Wilson makes this point explaining that the brain uses metaphors to structure, compress and file information. Especially when dealing with abstract concept metaphors are a powerful tool to reach our subconscious and comprehend phenomena that would be difficult to understand otherwise.

In public speaking when you associate any two ideas or images, people's emotional reaction to them will start to merge over time.

Ex: You’re my sunshine, Sweet as honey.

3. Scarcity: you want it now if you can’t have it later (R. Cialdini)

Scarcity is defined as the perception of products seeming to become more attractive when their perceived availability is rather limited. Whenever there is the probability of loosing the deal we automatically urge to buy or take action.

Remember last time you used booking.com, that “Hurry up only two room left!” or “15 people are watching your same offer” aims is to push you to book the room as soon as possible as you will probably lose if you don’t.

So it’s not enough to tell the benefit of your product but you need to point out at what is unique and what they stand to lose if they don’t buy you.

4. Repetition: repetition, repetition (A. Scott, J.j Romm)

Repetition is persuasive. Also, repetition is persuasive. And have I mentioned that repetition is persuasive? The things that you think about the most will irrationally rise in importance in your mind, and the things you hear the most are the one you think about. Repetition is always a good way to get your point across.

We see it in Pop music and jingles; they are designed to be catchy. This is why they get stuck in our head and we love to re-listen to single tunes.

Ex. Lady gaga: poker face. Bible: “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with god and the word was god”

Also simpler explanations look more credible than complicated ones.

Simplicity makes your ideas easy to understand, easy to remember, and easy to spread. You can be persuasive only when you are also memorable.

5. Diverting attention: master the High-ground-maneuver (R. Cialdini, A.scott)

Diverting attention is fundamental maneuver for manipulation. Often manipulators focus on bringing others’ concentration on something that will allow them to finally get their point across. For example an insurance company for your auto might start pitching crash statistics or anything related to the topic that can make the product, service of event seems more appealing and beneficial. So understand why your attention is being drawn on something.

The move is the ultimate attention diversion, involves taking an argument up to a level where you can say something that is absolutely true while changing the context at the same time. Once the move has been executed, the other participants will fear appearing small-minded if they drag the argument back to the detail level. It’s an instant game changer. Use the High-Ground Maneuver to frame yourself as the wise adult in the room. It forces other people to join you or be framed as the small thinkers.

A. Scott wrote the first time on its blog about the high ground maneuver as a consequence for the iPhone 4 story. After the release of the apple’s 4th phone, a major bug was found: if you held the phone a certain way, it dropped the calls. As a consequence, in a press conference on the subject, Steve Jobs said, “We’re not perfect. Phones are not perfect. We all know that. But we want to make our users happy.” Jobs got a lot of heat about his response. Was it an apology? It didn’t sound like one. Where was the part where he acknowledged that Apple made a big mistake that never should have happened? Nevertheless it was highly effective to manage the company’s mistake, making the customer focus on what he wanted, their commitment to make them happy.

Irony and sarcasm can be used to deceive truth and to convey an argument strengthening the message giving the audience the satisfaction of working out what is implied.

Ex: To defend someone who’s honorable when he obviously isn’t, basic sarcasm.

6. Liking: we prefer to say yes to the one that we like (R. Cialdini)

People prefer to say yes to those who they like. So why do we like someone?

a) Similarity: People Similar to us

b) Compliments: People who pay us Compliments

c) Communion: People who cooperate toward mutual goals

An Online example is a company with a well executed “About us” page. That almost sounds absurd but a company that wants to boost conversion rates can use the “About us” page to underline the similarities between enterprises' people and site visitors. This similarity bound generates trust, and higher chances for visitors to convert in actual customers.

7. Authority: referral and references (R. Cialdini, A. Scott)

People tend to look for accessories or titles to believe people are credible or expert on a subject. Uniforms are more credible than casual clothes; a title such as Dr. infuses an air of authority into people, thus leading the average person to accept what he/she says without question.

A research shows that even a simple introduction by phone made by a secretary, underling years and field of experience induces a significant improvement in performance for the people introduced, the customer on the other side of the phone will me more likely to believe them as experts and thus trust them and use their services, costless and ethical way to improve performances.

Ex: Toothpaste/toothbrush commercial that utilize doctors for their Ads.

Authority can be generated by display confidence (either real or faked) and improve your persuasiveness. You have to believe yourself, or at least appear as if you do, in order to get anyone else to believe as well.

8. Consistency: small commitments lead to bigger one (R. Cialdini)

Small initial commitment lead to bigger change, you start to create an initial bound that will help to achieve a greater goal in the future. A firm having problem with clients showing up for their appointments, asked them to write down their appointment details themselves. This led to incredible decrease in unattended appointments. Marketers rely on getting site visitors to commit to something relatively small and usually free-of-charge, such as a small guide or a whitepaper downloadable from marketers’ websites. This increases the likelihood that those site visitors will eventually see themselves as customers, which allows marketers to follow up with an offer to buy their products or join their services.

9. Pre-suasive questions and the importance of words (R. Cialdini)

Certain questions elicit desired answer and influence decision. This is a good tool for marketers as they can subtly influence whether or not potential customers will make a purchase.

Surveys questions often influence outcome, recently two communication scientists San Bolkan and Peter Andersen had marketers try to convince test subjects to sample a new soft drink and provide their email address.

Before the pitch a group was asked if they saw themselves as adventurous people who like to try new things:

-75.7% of this group tried the drink and gave the email.

The other group was simply asked to try the drink and give their email.

-33% of the other group agreed to do so.

Consider carefully what words you use and how they connect with your listeners.

Use words that connect and are known from your audience, remember that people feel better when focus on what its possessed rather than on what lacks. Positive test strategy: look for hits, not misses.

10. Unity and consensus: we all want to belong (J.J. Romm, R. Cialdini)

Perception of shared identity, family identity is one of the strongest bound, and once created can be used to manipulate or persuade individuals to act towards a goal that is in line with the group’s overall vision.

When you identify as part of a group, your opinions tend to be biased toward the group consensus, people in fact in case of uncertainty tend to look at action and behaviors of other before looking at their own.

In a Classroom, for example, Cialdini guaranteed a small inconsequential benefit (plus one point to only one test) to his students’ if their parents completed entirely a survey. Invoking familial unity was remarkably persuasive, as a consequence almost every family completed the survey.

Extra tips:

-An intentional "error" in the details of your message will attract criticism. The attention will make your message rise in importance – at least in people's minds – simply because everyone is talking about it. (S. Adams)

-Guess what people are thinking – at the very moment they think it – and call it out. If you are right, the subject bonds to you for being like-minded. (S. Adams)

- Negative sentence work as good as direct when we talk about persuasion

We simply don’t notice negations such as don’t as easy as positive expression.

Ex. Don’t think of an Elephant! Don’t feel like you have to buy this product (J.J. Romm)

Persuasion, Postpop, cartman
Explicit, clear, persuasive

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About the Authors of the books analyzed in this article:

Robert Cialdini is a professor of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University. He has spent years studying the psychology behind influence and persuasion. His book, New York Times best-seller, Influence: The Psychology of Influence is considered the milestone for persuasion literature.

Joseph J. Romm is an author, blogger, physicist and climate expert who advocates reducing global warming and increasing efficiency and green energy.

In 2009 Rolling Stones named him among its list “100 people who are changing America”, the same year the Time called him “The web most influential climate-change blogger”. Among books on climate change and business he wrote Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga.

Scott Adams is the creator of the Dilbert comic strip and the author of several nonfiction books, commentary, and business.

He writes in a satirical, often sarcastic, way about the social and mental landscape of white-collar workers in modern business corporations. During United States presidential election was among the first to predict Trump’s victory, even when the official pools gave him 2% chance of winning against Clinton’s 98%. He based his analysis on Trump’s capability as master persuader and it’s book “Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter” explain how he was able to predict it.

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