Natalie Peters

Why do people say yes? 

More importantly, how can you make people always tell you yes, no matter how crazy the ask?

We set out to understand what makes people say the three letter word marketers love to hear…yes!

We read Influence by Robert B. Cialdini who details the “why” behind the “yes” so we can become better persuaders.

Why is it important to know how to persuade?

As marketers, you’re always persuading

You’re persuading your friends to choose your favorite restaurant for lunch. You’re persuading your boss to fund your new campaign idea. You’re persuading consumers to become customers after viewing that campaign.

In order to be a good marketer, you need to be great at persuading.

We’ll show you what we learned from the incredible book, Influence, and how it can help you become a better marketer.

Justifying Compliance

People like to have reasons for the things that they do to justify their compliance.

It’s almost too simple a concept.

So naturally, we usually forget to do it.

When you ask somebody for a favor, if you want to be successful in eliciting a yes, you must provide a reason.

Let’s imagine that you’re driving to work and you’re running late.

The car in front of you is going 15 miles below the speed limit on a one-lane highway. 

You begin tailgating the car and flashing your brights, but they won’t go faster. 

You get angry and frustrated and start honking your horn. Eventually, they pull over so you can pass.

You honk a few more times for good measure before speeding off in a bad mood.

Now imagine the same scenario, but this time the car has a sticker on the back that says “Baby on Board.” 

Seeing that sticker, you’re much less likely to get angry at the driver and act in the same manner as before. 

Why? You now know the reason for their behavior– you’ve received justification for your compliance of driving slow.

Contrast Principle

The contrast principle affects the way we see the difference between two things that are presented one after another.

This Contrast effect will result in an enhanced or diminished perception of the second thing depending on how you viewed the first. 

This principle is used a lot for selling cars.

Let’s say you’re considering purchasing the Tesla Model S.

You’ve done your research and have prepared to spend $80,000 on this car.

You’re next prompted for optional upgrades that cost significantly less than the price of the car.

What’re a few more thousand dollars when you’re already paying 80 thousand? Nothing, right?

Now, what if you were buying a $2 cup of coffee and were asked if you wanted to pay $2,500 to get a new coat of paint on your car.

You would be in a completely different mindset and likely say no.

Your brain evaluates things based comparison that’s easily accessible at that given moment, rather than absolute values.

In the book, Cialdini gives the example of a man who enters a fashionable men’s store to purchase a three-piece suit and sweater. 

Should the salesperson show him the suit first or the sweater first to make him likely to spend the most money?

The contrast principle suggests that the salesperson sells the suit first because when it comes to looking at sweaters, their prices will not seem as high in comparison.

Rule for Reciprocation

People say yes to people they like.

The rule of reciprocation reminds us that our brains are wired so that we repay in kind what somebody else has provided us. 

This rule is employed in the free sample and free trial tactic we are all too familiar with. 

You do something nice for somebody (give them a free sample or trial of your product) and they’ll do something nice for you (purchase your product).

A person who acts in a certain way towards you is entitled to a similar reaction. People will change from non compliant to compliant when a seller changes from a larger to a smaller request. 

This is called the rejection-then-retreat technique.

Let’s imagine you’re at a Girlscout cookie stand debating on which box of cookies you want to purchase. 

The Girlscout asks if you want to buy 10 boxes of cookies for $50. 

You shake your head no at the absurdity of purchasing so many boxes. 

She then retreats and asks you to just purchase four boxes for $20. You smile and hand her a $20 bill and walk away with your four boxes. 

As you get to your car, you realize you only intended to buy one box of cookies and are wondering how you ended up walking away with four. 

The answer, she used the rejection-then-retreat technique.

Another resourceful way to use that technique is to make your retreat strategy to obtain the names of referrals from a sales prospect.

If you’re trying to sell a woman on your new line of purses, but she insists she can’t afford one at the moment, instead of walking away defeated, simply retreat and ask her for the names of friends, family, or neighbors who might be interested in the purses.

You’ll quickly find that the percentage of successful sales increases significantly when you mention the name of a familiar person who “recommended” the sales visit.

Power of Commitment and Consistency

People want to appear consistent. 

From political decisions to the way they dress, to the movies they watch, people always want to appear consistent.

We often fool ourselves to keep our thoughts and beliefs consistent with what we’ve already done.

Think about phrases like, “I’m the type of person who….isn’t good at math…is addicted to coffee…always tries new things.”

These types of mindsets can drive us to act in ways that are clearly contrary to our own best interests.

Cialdini notes that once we’ve made a choice or taken a stand, we’ll feel pressured to behave consistently with that commitment.

For example, I always talk about how good it is to eat organic and natural foods. 

This has caused me to occasionally spend way too much on organic foods when the incremental benefit of that food compared to the cost is marginally small.

Sometimes I wonder why I just spend $17.00 to get the organic salad while at lunch with my friends while my friends spent $6.00 on a sandwich. 

The sandwich would have tasted better, would have saved me money, and would have probably had the same amount of calories.

This simple reason is subconsciously I was trying to appear consistent and suffered as a result.

Commitment strategies are aimed at us by people trying to get us to comply.

For a salesperson, the strategy is to have someone make a large purchase by first starting with a small one. 

Sometimes the initial commitment can be as small as agreeing to a meeting or a phone call.

The first sale is for the commitment, not the profit.

Another thing to keep in mind is that written confirmation is superior to verbal.

The more effort that goes into a commitment, the higher the ability for it to influence.

If someone agrees to something verbally, ask if they wouldn’t mind writing it down on a piece of paper or respond with a “yes” over email.

Social Proof

We often decide what’s correct based on what other people think is correct.

This is true of everything from the clothes we decide are fashionable to how much money we ask for in a salary negotiation to where we go to get a cup of coffee.

We are most likely to look to the actions and decisions of others when we are unsure about a situation.

This operates most powerfully when observing the behavior of people just like us, people who claim similar backgrounds and interests.

This is similar to the bandwagon effect, a psychological phenomenon where people do something simply because other people are doing it.

It’s a powerful tool and one that your parents have likely rebuttal with, “if you friends all jumped off a cliff would you too” after you claim you did something because everybody else was doing it too.

When trying to influence someone, if you can point out that some of their friends or people similar to them have already said yes, they’ll be more likely to say yes too.


Familiarity affects liking.

We prefer to say yes to people we know and like.

Our attitude toward something or someone is influenced by the number of times we’ve been exposed to it in the past.

This is true of seeing an ad for watches on your Instagram feed, then on your computer and later on a podcast, you listen too.

It’s also true of running into somebody multiple times and only receiving kindness and no requests for compliance.

Always make a conscious effort to give praise and compliments.

There’s a natural tendency to dislike somebody who delivers unpleasant information, even if that person isn’t the cause of the bad news.

An association with bad or good things will influence who people feel, regardless of whether or not the association is innocent.

Authority and Scarcity

These are Cialdini’s final two points in his book.

He notes that there is a strong power of obedience and authority in our culture and if you can understand how it works, you can use it to your advantage

Symbols of authority that can trigger compliance are titles, clothes and trappings.

Titles are both the most difficult and easiest to acquire. While it can take years of hard work and achievement, a little embellishment can dramatically alter the way people view you.

Think about Cassie Randolph from the 2019 season of the Bachelor. She said her title was a “speech pathologist” when in reality she’s actually a “speech therapy assistant.”

She boosted her appearance and image by giving herself a title of greater authority.

Clothing also plays a major role in the way people view and judge you.

There is a common saying that you should dress not for the job you have, but for the job you want to have.

We live in a materialistic society where preference is given to people to dress in expensive clothes and not to the individual in a t-shirt and jeans.

The last authority trigger is trappings which are essential accessories, and in this case, we’ll talk about cars.

It’s a fact that owners of prestige autos receive special treatment from us all.

People are less likely to honk at a red Ferrari but usually won’t think twice about honking at an old, beat-up Honda.

It’s important to be aware of these authority biases so they can’t be used against us.

In regards to scarcity, the best way to get someone to want something is to show them they might lose it. 

Have you ever found yourself wanting to purchase something that was sold-out simply because it was sold out?

The weapon of scarcity is effective because we know that things that are difficult to possess are typically better.

This also draws on the rule of social proof because we know that the reason an item is scarce is because other people want it.

The second source of the power of the scarcity principle is that as opportunities become less available, we lose freedoms which is something we all greatly dislike.

So, Now What?

Now it’s time to put what you just read into practice.

We’ve gone through all of Cialdini’s major points in his book, Influence, and given you some examples of how they work in our everyday lives.

You learned that people like to have reasons for their compliance and it’s your job to give them that reason.

We talked about how according to the contrast principle, the order in which you describe two different items affects how they’re perceived.

Next, we explored how our brains are wired to repay in kind what somebody else has provided us– the rule for reciprocation.

We learned the power of commitment and how we’ll all do whatever it takes to appear consistent, regardless of the consequences.

The principle of social proof made us aware that our motive for action is often based on the actions of people like us.

Lastly, we reminded you that people prefer to say yes to people we know and like and we ended by discussing the power of authority and scarcity.

Now, go out and implement what you learned so you can become a better marketer.

If you’d like to purchase the book, you can do so here.

The next time you want to close an important deal or convince a prospect to purchase the product you’re trying to sell, try using one or a few of the principles in this article!