Persuasion skills

Introduction to Persuasion and Influencing Skills.

Influence is the capacity to transmit messages that result in changes of thought and behavior of other people, where persuasion is a subset of influence pertaining to influencing people to perform certain actions or adopt specific attitudes.

Influence and persuasion are very powerful tools as they can be used in areas such as politics, marketing, sales and leadership.  In many cases it would be unwise to use influence and persuasion as people could feel that they are losing their independence of thought and might resent being manipulated.

In other cases however, such as in negotiations and marketing it would be a poor decision not to use influence and persuasion because the cost of failure could be high. In this tutorial I will define influence and persuasion, describe 10 strategies for influencing people, discuss advantages and disadvantages of these strategies when used in practice, explore the ways that influence and persuasion are used in marketing, sales and leadership. I will finish by summarising the main points of this e-course.

The definition of Influence and Persuasion

Influence is described as “the capacity to transmit messages that result in changes of thought and behavior of other people” (Laurence, 2013).  However, this definition lacks differentiation between the different forms of influence which are “hard-sell”, “soft-sell” and persuasion. I believe that in order to properly differentiate between these three categories, one must first define what soft-sell is.

Soft sell is defined as “the use of persuasive appeals designed to produce a positive response but not sufficient in the respondent to produce compliance” (Len, 1962).  Conversely, hard sell is defined as “the use of persuasive appeals that seek to promote the sale of products or services”. (Laurence, 2013)

What separates soft-sell from hard-sell is how subtle rather than aggressive these persuasive messages are. The distinction between hard-sell and soft-sell can be attributed to the focus of each strategy. For example, hard-sell is focused on the product being sold, whereas soft-sell is focused more on providing information. If one were to try and sell a raffle ticket to someone using only soft-sell techniques (e.g. by telling them how much money can be made if they win) then that person would likely find it annoying because the question of whether or not to buy that ticket would never be brought up. This is because using soft-sell techniques does not give the person any room to decline the offer (Kotler, Burton, Deans, Brown, & Armstrong, 2013).

In summary, influence is a broad term which comprises both hard-sell and soft-sell whereas persuasion is a subset of influence which specifically refers to influencing people to perform actions or adopt specific attitudes.

How do you develop persuasion and influencing skills?

The first step to developing your influence skills is to realize that you already have them. You probably don’t think about them as such (yet), but we all possess the ability to persuade and influence others every day.

We influence others when we ask our boss for a raise, convince our children to get dressed before going to the park, or negotiate with a spouse over where to go on vacation. In each of these cases and countless more, you are influencing someone else’s thoughts and behaviors.

The second step is to understand that powerful persuasion skills give you control over your career, your relationships, and how people respond to you.

It’s a fact of life that we live in a highly competitive landscape where everyone is trying to convince others to give them their attention or compliance. Even kids are working the system nowadays. While you may not be able to avoid having to persuade someone about something (or someone), knowing how to do it effectively can make a big difference in your life.

There are specific steps you can take to master the art of persuasive communication. I have outlined them below, along with some practical recommendations for putting these skills to good use while persuading others.

The Four Keys To Persuasion:

1) Attitudes & Values — to get someone to say “yes” you first need to understand what’s important to them. In other words, you need to know what motivates their choices and behaviors. Once you determine those things that are relevant, motivate your subject by linking those actions with their attitudes & values.

2) Logic — whenever possible link your ideas/arguments with the desires/needs of your audience. This demonstrates that you understand what they want and need to hear in order for them to comply with this specific request.

3) Needs — identifying and understanding your subject’s needs (and how they rank their needs) enables you to craft requests that will be more welcome, thereby increasing the chances of compliance.

4) Emotions — when and where appropriate, use the powers of emotion to help you achieve your goals. This does not mean using any and all tactics that make use of our emotions (i.e., appeals to fear, pity, guilt, etc.). That’s manipulation, and that doesn’t lead to lasting change or compliance in most cases.

Persuasive communication isn’t hard, but it is complex. You need to be able to combine the four keys in a way that makes sense for this particular person (at this time). It may take practice, like anything else worth mastering, but when you succeed at getting someone to say “yes” on command, you feel pretty powerful.


Ten Strategies for influencing and persuading people:

According to Bernstein (2009) there are two main steps in creating a persuasive message:

Find the “gap” or difference between what people believe and what we want them to believe, this is known as the focus of the message.

Create a bridge which links one thought to another such that if they accept your first premise then it will lead them on to accepting your second premise (Bernstein, 2009).

Based on this framework, the 10 strategies are described in the following sections.


The focus of this strategy is to provide reasons why people should follow your advice or accept your argument.  Thought must be given by the listener to these reasons in order for them to consider being influenced by what you have said (Kotler et al., 2013).

Logical Appeals:

The focus of this strategy is to present information that builds a logical chain of reasoning such that the conclusion supports your argument (Bernstein, 2009).

The use of Logic:

This strategy follows on from logical appeals and focuses on the use of logic in persuading people.  For example, if one were to say “If you eat this piece of cake then the calories will go straight to your hips” (Bernstein, 2009).


A further subcategory of logical appeals, stories are used by linking events in order to persuade or influence others. This can be done by describing a product or service that has benefited someone else in some way or by describing the experiences of customers who have used your products/services (Kotler et al., 2013).


Testimonials can be described as endorsements from people who are already satisfied users of your products/services (Kotler et al., 2013).  The use of testimonials to influence people can be done by broadcasting these on your website, social media pages or in any other way that is relevant.

Social Proof:

The focus of this strategy is to convince potential customers that they should buy into what you are saying because many others have already done so, thus making it more likely for them to follow suit (Bernstein, 2009).  This can be done by showing the number of customers you have, the size of your company or even how well your business is known by others.


This strategy works on the principal that if one senses that something is in short supply then one will want to have it all the more (Carr, 2013).  This can be used by indicating that a product/service has limited availability or is only available for a limited time.


Using emotions as a persuasive technique involves evoking intense feelings from those being influenced so as to sway their decision making process (Kotler et al., 2013).  This can be done by describing a possible negative outcome which could come from not taking the advice being given.


In order to use liking as a persuasive technique, you must find out what it is that people like and then you will need to show that you like the same things (Kotler et al., 2013).  Once this has been done then your opinions will appear more agreeable to them and you will be able to influence them with less difficulty.


The main focus of this strategy is to present yourself as an authority figure in order to influence others by implication (Kotler et al., 2013).  You can do this by for example giving out your qualifications and/or demonstrating that you have been in business for a number of years.

Advantages and Disadvantages of using these strategies in practice:

When trying to influence others, there are always advantages and disadvantages so be aware of them.

The good thing about these strategies is that they can be used for example in negotiations, which means you could use it to get the best deal possible. The downside may occur when you implement such as strategy as if some time has passed and you don’t get what you’ve wanted to. The reason for this may be because the other person uses the same strategy to get what he or she wants, which leaves you both with nothing. Another downside is that if you are using these strategies without telling your employees that they are being influenced by it, they will not perform as well as they could have done if they were given a choice.

Influence and Persuasion in Marketing

In marketing, products are constantly being introduced into the market. By using these strategies it enables new comers to the market to acquire new consumers very easily by making them want their product without even having to use constant advertisement, which is quite expensive. Using influence and persuasion can arise a great deal of trust from the consumer due to them being persuaded by someone they see as an expert, so this would mean that if you use these strategies enough times it could allow for a lot of people to buy your product. ##6. Influence and Persuasion in Sales

When selling products such as tickets for example, influence and persuasion are incredibly important as this enables the ticket seller to persuade their customer into buying a product that they may not have bought before. This means that by persuading them, they most likely will buy it because they trust the word of the person who is selling them the tickets. They may even buy more than one which will increase sales for the ticket seller.

Influence and Persuasion in Sales:

Influence and persuasion is important as it helps the seller gain a lot of trust from their customers, which can lead them to buy things that they might not have bought before. Selling multiple products will also contribute to the profit due to people being persuaded by trusted sources.

Influence and Persuasion in Leadership

In leadership, influence is incredibly important as it enables the leader to persuade their followers into making a decision that they may not have done before. If a leader was to use these strategies enough times, it most likely would increase the level of trust between them and their followers which would be especially effective if they used it correctly. If their followers trust them, they will most likely follow the decisions that the leader has made for them as they trust this individual.

Influence and Persuasion in Negotiations

Influence and persuasion plays a huge role when it comes to negotiations as they both help the negotiator persuade their opponent into accepting whatever offer that is given. If the negotiator was to use both strategies effectively enough times, he or she would gain a great amount of trust from his or her opponent which could then result in them accepting whatever offer that is given to them.

If an opponent trusts you, they would most likely go along with whatever decision is given to them.

Influence and Persuasion in Political Campaigns

Influence and persuasion can help a political campaigner persuade their fellow voters into voting for one candidate over another due to the fact that they trust this person’s opinion about certain policies etc., which could cause them to change their views on certain matters. If the campaigner was to use these strategies enough times, it could be incredibly effective in persuading people into voting for them thus making them win the election.

Influence and Persuasion in Public Speaking

Public speaking is used by many individuals throughout society; therefore influence and persuasion can be used to persuade an audience into believing what they are being told. Although there isn’t any research about public speaking, it is a useful strategy that can be used in all different types of situations.


Influence and persuasion is used in all sorts of different situations throughout society which can help individuals get what they want without having to use extreme advertisement. These strategies are helpful in the quest for more attention towards their product, service or idea. If we were to use these strategies enough times, people would become more trusting and therefore be persuaded into believing what is being told to them.


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