The Top 5 Persuasion Techniques of All Time

Persuasion TechniquesHow would you like to have the power to persuade your boss to give you the day off, to persuade your husband to mow the lawn, to persuade your friends to buy you that expensive birthday present or even to persuade your customers to buy more of your products?

This article lists the top 5 persuasion techniques of all time, taken from the best-seller
Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini.

Everyone is susceptible to being persuaded to doing something that they don’t like. There are experts that have discovered and mastered these incredible persuasion techniques and they’re using them on you every single day.

Yes…you’re being persuaded to buy things you don’t want or need and you’re being persuaded to do things you don’t want to do on a daily basis!

These master persuasion experts work for almost every major media and advertising company in the world. Their persuasion techniques are applied to advertising in all sorts and forms, and I’m willing to bet that at some point in your life (if not on a regular basis) you’ve been persuaded to buy something or agree to do something that you would never have voluntarily done if it weren’t for the persuasion technique used on you.

Knowing these top 5 persuasion techniques outlined in this article will not only allow you to have an edge over others when you need someone to do something for you, but you’ll also know when people are trying to take advantage of you. That’s right, you’ll know when someone is using a technique on you to persuade you to do something you don’t really want to do.

Persuasion Technique #1- The Reciprocity Rule

Reciprocity Persuasion

When someone does a favor for us – we feel obliged to return the favor

When executed correctly, you can appear to be doing someone a favor and the reciprocity rule will cause them to feel obliged to do something for you in return. The secret is that the return favor doesn’t have to be equal to the initial favor…the return favor can be much bigger.

Example: Let’s take the online world. How many times has someone offered you a free report to get you on their email list? And once you’re on their email list, they give you free helpful content. After a while they will ask you to buy something from them, and if they really gave you good content you’ll want to do something back for them and buy their product.

An expert at this technique has the ability to choose the initial favor AND the return favor, meaning that they have total control to persuade you as they please.

Why Does This Technique Work?

In society we needed a system that will allow us to do things for people without fearing that we would lose out. That is why it is so deeply rooted in our thinking that when someone does something for us, that we will return the favor. This way, we can do something for someone else and be sure that they will return the favor one day. Everyone benefits.

People who don’t return favors are avoided and cast out by society, hence the deep sense of obligation to return favors.

How To Exploit This Technique

Give something for free first. This is hardly ever refused. Once the prospect accepts the free gift, he is indebted to you and feels obliged to return a favor (which you can then ask/decide).

Persuasion Technique #2 – The Rejection and Retreat Rule

Rejection Persuasion

First ask a large (but not unreasonable request) and when (most likely) rejected, appear to make a concession and ask only for a much smaller (but initially desired) request which is usually met.

Example: Ask someone to buy a genuinely helpful video course for $97 and when (most of the time) refused, make a concession and ask them to buy the book version for just $15.

Why This Technique Works

When you make an initial large request that’s not ridiculous but still too large to be accepted, the prospect doesn’t hesitate to decline. You’re fine with that because you planned that initial request to be rejected. Then when you appear to make a huge concession by making a much smaller request in comparison the prospect firstly sees that you’re taking a loss and still trying to help and secondly feels bad if they were to decline your request a 2nd time.

The prospect will likely think something along the lines of “Well…he made a big concession and his second request really isn’t that bad, so I’ll make a concession too and agree to his smaller request”.

How To Exploit This Technique

Start by making a very large (but not unreasonable) request, have it rejected and then appear to make a concession and make a much smaller request (both in size and in price/time/effort).

The prospect thinks that you are making a concession but actually you are achieving the result you wanted the entire time.

Persuasion Technique #3 – The Consistency Rule

Consistency Persuasion

People want to be consistent in their actions. When someone make a commitment, they base their successive behaviour on their previous committed action and look for ways to verify and confirm that commitment.

Example: If you were to make a public declaration to all your friends and family that you’re quitting smoking you’re going to try as hard as you can to quit smoking (at least in front of the people you made the declaration to).

Why This Technique Works

The trait of consistency makes someone viewed as high-value, trustworthy, loyal and successful whereas inconsistency is viewed as flaky, prone to failure and being untrustworthy. We are conditioned to be consistent in our actions.

Once again this can be traced back to the early days of society where there is a clear benefit of being viewed as trustworthy so that the rest of the group will help and protect you when you need it.

How To Exploit This Technique

Get people to make a commitment, which then changes their self images. (E.g. get someone to sign a petition to save energy) Much larger requests and even requests only remotely connected to the original can be extracted from the person due to them wanting to stay aligned with their new self image (eg asking the prospect to allow a huge billboard in their front lawn to reduce accidents).

“What may occur is a change in the person’s feelings about getting involved or taking action. Once he has agreed to request, his attitude may change, he may become, in his own eyes, the kind of person who does this sort of thing, who agrees to requests made by strangers, who takes action on things he believes in, who cooperates with good causes.”

Public commitment turns people into the most stubborn resistors. Once someone makes a public declaration (writing or video), they are very unlikely to change their view even when evidence suggests that their view is incorrect.

Persuasion Technique #4 – Lowballing

Lowballing Persuasion

Lowballing entails making an offer that is never intended to be executed in order to get the prospect to make their own decision to buy from you. Once the prospect has made their decision to be loyal to you, there was an “accidental” mistake in the initial offer but you can get another offer for just “Insert reasonable offer here”.

Example: A car salesman goes on a rant about the sale on the latest BMW how the price went down from $40,000 to only $25,000. He goes on telling you about the safety features, the warranties and the sheer drivers pleasure you’ll get from owning that BMW. He even lets you go for a drive. At this point you’re totally ready to buy the BMW, but when you sit down to sign the papers the salesman says that there was a mistake of some sort. The BMW is already sold or there was a mistake in the sale price or something. Either way, you want a BMW and you’ll be much more likely to buy one, even if the price is higher than initially mentioned.

Why This Technique Works

The strongest influence comes from your own mind. You are much more likely to do something when you’ve decided in your own mind that you need it or want it compared to when someone is telling you why it’s such a great thing to do, blah blah…

The lowballing technique works to create and support the idea in your mind that you need to do X through an offer that seems to good to be true (X being whatever the persuader wants you to do). Once that idea is settled in your mind and you’ve accepted it, the persuader removes the “support” and the idea of wanting to do X still stands in your mind because you’ve accepted it as being something you want and need.

How To Exploit This Technique

Entice the prospect with an incredible offer. The idea is that once the prospect makes up their mind to buy or take part, the consistency rule comes into action and you have them hooked.You can remove the initial bait and the idea planted in the prospects mind will still be valid because it is now supported by the prospect’s own thoughts and beliefs. It has become a part of his reality and personality.

Persuasion Technique #5 – Social Proof

Social Proof Persuasion

We tend to judge correct behaviour by the degree in which others behave. It is believed that the more people who do something in a certain way, the more correct it is to do it that way too. This is human nature to follow the herd, and can easily be manipulated by others.

Example: You’re much more likely to watch a video with 20 000 000 views than a video with 10 views, although the numbers could be fake and the video with 10 views could be much better.

Why This Technique Works

Social proof has the strongest effect when you are unsure of yourself (uncertainty). That is when you are most likely to turn to the actions of others as a guide for your own actions.

Social proof is also most powerful when it occurs to similar people as yourself. You are much more likely to bend to social proof when the other people are similar to you as opposed to being someone you totally can’t relate to.

It’s much more difficult to stick to your own beliefs when everyone else thinks differently. The reason is that you’re making yourself an outcast if your beliefs or habits are different to the rest. If your beliefs or actions are correct then you don’t have a problem, but if you are uncertain you risk being wrong and it would be safer to follow the actions of others.

How To Exploit This Technique

Social Proof is very easy to display, and it’s also very easy to fake but even fake social proof has a very strong effect.

Testimonials are a big source of social proof. That’s why they’re always present on products and sales pitches.

On most blogs and websites you’ll see many examples of social proof like a subscriber count, comment count, Twitter following etc. When you land on the blog and you’re not sure whether it’s any good or not, you can turn to that social proof and think, “Wow! 35,000 people are reading this blog. It must be good. I’ll stick around”.

The trick with social proof is to display it through people that are as similar as possible to your prospect. The smaller the similarity, the weaker the effect of the social proof.

Parting Words

I hope that you learned something from this article; both in the form of knowing how to persuade someone next time you need a favor, and in the form of recognizing when someone is trying to persuade you.

Now you know how to get that expensive birthday gift you’ve always wanted. ;)

This was my personal summary of Robert Cialdini’s book: Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion. If you’re interested in this topic I highly recommend you get yourself a copy to get a deeper understanding of the psychology of persuasion.

  • Steven Fabian

    These are all great (and effective tips), I tried several of them myself and they work about 70% of the time, which is a great rate. However, some of them seem way too unethical to me, especially number 4 with the car salesman example. Personally, I think I could never trick someone in that way (not saying the technique doesn’t work, I’m just saying it smells a bit fishy). Another great book on the subject is Get Anyone to Do Anything, by the way. It’s on Amazon as well and one of my personal favorites, full of actionable advice.

  • Jason Byron

    I like how at the end of the article, after being provided free helpful content, we are asked to buy a book; I almost clicked the link, but a little voice said I should know better… :)

  • Dominic Guana

    i love these techniques! great article Diggy!

  • Ag hast

    Great tutorial to teach people to be deceptive a holes, because, we don’t have enough of those in this world.

  • Pino

    Number 3 sounds perfectly logical, but completely fails for me. If I want to achieve something I always need to keep it to myself for some weird reason.

  • tayyaba

    Excellent !

  • Rakesh Aggarwal

    Diggy,could you give me examples of influencing how to apply them in sourcing business for Consulting and Training business and also influencing prospects in the Real estate Business.

    • matt thim

      With real estate, a very known good one is the “rejection and retreat rule” where you show them this decent house for a very high price (the stage house), and then you bring them to the house you really want to sell that is just as good if not better, for a much cheaper price.

      Read the book, there are tons of techniques you can use in that book which can be analogous to Real estate.

  • Rakesh Aggarwal

    You have really summarised these techniques very concisely and appropriately.The examples you have given are absolutely relevant. You have influenced me i am now committed to buying the book. Bye

  • Allan

    Haha I loved these techniques Diggy, especially when they are so true.

    I’ve personally exploited technique 2# quite a few times back in the days.
    However the moral and ethics about using this stuff on a business related agenda or even with your blog readers, is perhaps a bit jaded.

    Definitely the route to take is build trust and honesty with your customers for the long run. Then getting a quick sale.

    But nonetheless interesting stuff. ;-)

    • Diggy

      Hi Allan!

      Oh I agree with you completely, honesty and value is essential to building a great business.

      But you can still apply these principles and techniques AND remain honest and provide value. Not that I know a huge amount about sales or marketing, but I’ve seen what an enormous difference even a single headline can make to conversions. Displaying social proof can be done by showing real reviews and testimonials from happy customers and it can be the deciding factor that makes a reader buy your product. Etc.

      I hope you’re enjoying Cloud Blogging btw, if you have any questions send me an email!
      All the best!

  • Brian

    Hey Diggy… Great post…

    I do have 1 question though… Under “Social Proof” you said:

    “The trick with social proof is to display it through people that are as similar as possible to your prospect. The smaller the similarity, the weaker the effect of the social proof.”

    Would you please elaborate on that?



    • Diggy

      Hi Brian,
      Long time buddy! How are you doing? I hope life is good?!

      Yeah re: social proof, it is much more effective when you can relate to the proof. So for example let’s say I’m looking to buy new sneakers and I’m given two types of social proof for a new type of sneaker being promoted:

      1- The sneakers are worn by middle-aged, overweight balding men who seem to be very comfortable and loving their shoes.
      2- The sneakers are worn by trendy, ambitious entrepreneurs and late 20-year olds.

      The first group of social proof would do little in convincing me to buy the sneakers as I totally can’t associate with middle-aged men. In fact, it would actually deter me away from the sneakers because I don’t want to relate to middle-aged men.

      The second group are people who I can identify with, who I can see myself being a part of and who fit my identity. Thus, when there are many people who fit my identity (and who I relate to) who look cool and happy wearing the sneakers, I’ll be much more likely to buy compared to the social proof of the middle-aged men.

      It’s not the best example, I just want to bring the point across.

      Social proof has a much stronger effect when you are able to relate to the proof (situation or people). The more you can identify with the proof, the more likely you are to be persuaded. The further the relation between you and the proof, the less of a persuading effect it will have.

      Does that help?

      • Brian

        Life has been awesome since the last time we chatted. We had our 2nd baby girl last Valentines Day in Uruguay… Moved back to the U.S. to Big Bear Lake California in July of last year. We’re at 2,100 meters elevation, so I learned how to really snow board over the winter which is awesome and we live 3 blocks from the lake, so summer is rad too… (You’ve got a place to stay if you’re ever out this way.)

        My wife’s blog has taken off and we’re really starting to make some $ with it (we’re doing a bad-ass cookbook that will be done in about 6 months, I’ll get you a copy) & started another site which is picking up momentum & we’re seeing $ from it.

        I’m selling “spice” wholesale through-out L.A. & San Bernardino and I’m in the process of starting a distribution company specializing in selling hydroponics & survival seeds/food & gear online… So I’m going to be blogging regularly again on to help promote that. I haven’t been on any blogs in months… I’ve been glued to watching the U.S. Govt run the dollar in the ground and destroy the economy.

        Your blog looks great… Dude, you’re Alexa is at 56,230, outstanding and your marketing is on point… How’s life in South Africa treating you?

        Re: Social Proof… Totally makes sense… I always used social proof with chicks by demonstrating higher value and taught that a guy should never be the one wanting and it’ll make the chick want you more (I was a date coach before I met my wife)… It’s the elusive obvious for me, I never really thought about using it online… I’ll be implementing some major changes across all of our sites… Thanks bro…

  • Joel

    Hello again Diggy,

    First let me say that I love the new logo and look of Upgrade Reality. I’ve already commented on your facebook page about it.

    There is no substitute for a simple layout. I find it feels more personable.

    Now about the post…

    As an artist in the tattoo industry, I have the opportunity to use all of these techniques almost on a daily basis. And while some of these seam immoral on paper, it’s how the human mind works and in reality sends customers away with smiles on there face and money in my pocket.

    I try and go a step further to make the marketing a bit more ethical. Such as giving three options and price points while giving more value for larger purchases. Not unlike a small medium and large drink option. Spend what you want to spend and but don’t go away empty handed.

    When customers leave without a service rendered they feel defeated and let down. Who am I to deprive them of making a purchase?

    Because people truly want to buy, sometimes these techniques add to that experience. Even though you and I see it differently because we are freethinkers that don’t need external motivation or mind games in order to make a decision.

    Love the post, It’s deep. Just like the new look.

    • Diggy

      Hi Joel!
      Thanks for the kind words man, really appreciate it!

      The theme still needs some tweaks but I’ll perfect it soon and then I’ll have lots of time to focus on creating awesome content for the readers.

      I’m sure that you’ve learned your fair share of persuasion techniques when working as a tattoo artist. You probably get many people who want a tattoo but who are still hesitant to get it because its permanent or it might be the wrong choice or whatever.

      I totally agree with you and I like how you put it: it’s no crime to give people what they want. They’re looking to buy, and you should just give them the package that suits their needs.

      Thanks for stopping by and let me know if I can help with anything (blog wise or even life wise) :)


      • Joel

        For sure Diggy. I appreciate that and I will be in touch with you when I get more organized.

  • Mike Radivis

    Oh, you have surely written a pretty fine article here, Diggy. This is the first time I comment on your blog, so I’ll quickly say hello to you and all other participants. :)

    Ok, yeah, these techniques work, and I’ve already heard about most of them before. There are also some good persuasion techniques in Richard Wiseman’s book 59 Seconds, like that you can become friends with a person easier by asking her for a (small) favor than given her a favor. It sounds paradoxical, but it works!

    However, I’m not so happy about this kind of manipulation. Those methods are often used by pretty dishonest people and using them yourself may make you look dishonest in turn. Methods of persuasion that work that way aren’t really win/win, because the persuaded person might feel cheated afterwards.

    You might want to use some additional techniques to turn the deal into a win/win situation. Give a x day 100+y% money back guarantee, for example. And over-deliver every time. And do not blatantly lie. Really, if I notice that someone is lying to me, I will simply ignore him from that time on.

    Of course, you may use some “tricks” to make yourself and your offers more interesting, but please stay honest and think win/win. :)

    • Diggy

      Hi Mike,

      Welcome and I’m happy that you left your first comment on Upgrade Reality. I’ve seen you Tweeting many times before:)

      Yeah I totally agree with you about not being dishonest. I wouldn’t lie to my audience or manipulate them in any way. Besides, I believe that the best way to build a business is by offering value for money. That’s what I always do when creating my products, but at the same time it can make an enormous difference applying some of these persuasion techniques on the sales page.

      It’s all about presenting an idea in the right way. And then you need to follow up on your promise or even over-deliver.

      I fixed the ‘submit’ button. There’s still a few more tweaks I need to do to the new design, but overall I think it’s looking good!
      Stay in touch,
      Have an awesome day!


  • Justin | Mazzastick


    I see these tricks being used all of the time and I’m not fooled by them.

    My perception may be different than others and I can see how others could be easily persuaded to make a purchase or follow a blog.

    I need a deeper meaning or connection in order for me to do the same.

    • Diggy

      Hi Justin,

      Good to hear that you’re aware of all these tricks. They’re not just present with online marketing though.

      It’s interesting when you analyze those charming and charismatic people who always have so many friends and connections. When you pay attention to them you’ll notice how they use so many of these persuasion techniques naturally which allows them to make a deep connection.

      What makes you connect with someone when you don’t know them?

      • Justin | Mazzastick


        I tend to listen to them and also find ways to be of service to them as well. One trick of my own that I learned was through Tony Robbins. He called it the mirror technique.

        Basically match the other persons body language and voice tone. Also discuss what the two of you have in common. I have been very fortunate in my life to easily make friends with people regardless of our differences.

  • Sean

    Very interesting article Digg man,

    It’s so true about how we’re bombarded with these techniques on a daily basis, and some techniques are far beyond what we’re even aware of most the time. They have this down to a science, they can convince people to do almost anything through the media.

    They love using hidden techniques and symbols to try and persuade us, but some of these will be very helpful in my own online ventures, used in a good way of course! Especially giving away things for free, that seems to be working the best if you don’t have social proof yet. :)

    • Diggy

      Hi Sean,
      Yeah but even giving things away for free in return for your email address is not working as well as it did a few years ago because people know that it’s just a trick to get you on their mailing list.

      There’s such a science behind all this persuasion and I’m loving learning about it.
      Hope you’re well?

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Justin

    Great article. I have been in sales for most of my life and you have some good advice.
    It would go really well with a article I just wrote on instant connection. Thanks Justin

    • Diggy

      Hi Justin,
      Welcome to Upgrade Reality and thanks for leaving a comment.

      I don’t really like people leaving url’s in their comments to promote their own content. If you want to mention your blog then why not send me an email or ask to do a guest post first?

      Anyway, I read your about page and it seems like you’ve had quite a journey so far. I’d love to hear more, send me an email. :)
      And we should talk about some changes to your blog’s layout, it could do with a few tweaks.

      Have a great day!

      • Justin Troupe

        No problem Diggy. I have a new round of tweaks coming along soon but. I am always open to advice.

  • Alin

    This is my first comment on your blog even though I’ve been reading it for a while now, so Hi.

    I actually have this book on the “to buy” list but with this summary I think I will just order it today.I see these methods and a few other used everyday and I would like to have more knowledge in this area.
    I think we used to know some good persuasion methods when younger, like “The Rejection and Retreat Rule”, asking our parent for a big and expensive toy then making a ‘concession’ for a smaller and cheaper toy. We knew from the beginning that will not receive the first one but somehow also knew this method works.

    The social proof is also really important in marketing as in our social life. As you mentioned The Mystery Method in another post you know faking(or having) social proof will help a lot in ‘getting girls’. Almost every girl knows this and uses social proof but many guys forget or don’t know it.

    • Diggy

      Hi Alin, thanks for saying hello.

      Yeah as kids we learned many of these persuasion rules, but it’s funny how we forget them as we get older.

      Social proof is huge! So many “gurus” always hype their sales pitches with fake testimonials, expensive cars and screenshots of mass sales figures even though they are not true, but people buy into the hype.

      When it comes to getting girls, it’s a thousand times easier to get a pretty girl if she’s seen you out and flirty with another gorgeous girl. The logic there is, “She’s absolutely gorgeous and if he’s good enough for her there must be something worth getting to know”. As a guy you can take advantage of that by either going out with friends who are beautiful girls or even just paying a pretty girl to come out clubbing with you as your social proof. Haha. I think they did that in some movie. :)

      Hope you enjoy the book Alin!

      • Alin

        Yeah, I think I saw that in a movie too. Have you watched Life As We Know It? It is a pretty good movie and the guy uses a baby girl as social proof for getting girls(its not the subject of the movie though). If the baby’s mother has a kid with you or at least letting you watch him/her, then “there must be something worth getting to know”. :)

      • Alin

        btw, this is a good article I just read and is related to your post: “Gurus” also use these beliefs to make people buy their products.

    • Diggy

      I haven’t watched that movie yet. Maybe I’ll pick it up next time I’m at the video store.

      Cool article too, thanks for sharing! It’s amazing how much psychology is behind every commercial action.

      I honestly think that if I had to choose a degree it would be a combination of psychology and marketing. It fascinates me to no end:)

  • An

    first. Awesome.

    • Diggy

      Hi An!
      Did you mean Awesome that you’re first to comment or Awesome for the first persuasion technique? ;)

      • An

        Now that you ask, I think I said that because I was both the first one to reply and impressed by the article. :)

        I was thinking about learning salesmanship, as I’ve come to realize that selling skills are actually very important in business (well, unless you do Google Adsense, which I do!) so the article kind of resonated with me. End rant. :)