- Knowledge Centre

The 7 Principles of persuasion

Effective influencing and persuasion are skills coveted by top performing marketers and sales professionals, yet often envied by leaders and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Summit Founder Scott Watson, has studied the extensive work of Dr. Robert Cialdini for more than a decade. Indeed, Scott was personally certified as an Influence Professional by Dr. Robert Cialdini himself.

The focus of Dr. Cialdini's work is how to influence others ethically and positively. A renowned psychologist and author of the best selling book "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion" and "Pre-Suasion", Dr. Cialdini identified seven universal principles that form the foundation of persuasive communication.

In this blog post, we'll explore each of these principles so you can understand how you can apply each principle ethically and effectively in various scenarios.


The principle of reciprocity revolves around the idea that people are more likely to give when they have received something first. In essence, when we receive a favour (however small), gift, or assistance, we feel a sense of indebtedness and a natural urge to return the favour. This principle is commonly used in marketing through tactics such as free trials, samples, or gifts, which can lead to increased customer loyalty and conversions.

Commitment and Consistency

Human beings have an inherent desire to be consistent with their past actions, beliefs, and public statements. The principle of commitment and consistency leverages this inclination to influence behaviour. Once an individuals commits to a specific idea or action, s/he is more likely to follow through to align with their prior commitments. Marketers often use this principle through techniques like enticing customers to make small commitments initially, which then makes them more open to larger commitments and purchases later on.

Social Proof

The principle of social proof is founded on the notion that people tend to follow the actions of others, particularly in uncertain situations. When individuals observe others endorsing a product, service, or idea, they are more inclined to do the same.

Testimonials, reviews, and social media influencers are powerful tools that capitalise on social proof to build credibility and trust. Do bear in mind though, in some instances what is deemed 'social proof' by a social media influencer is little more than a business deal paid for by the brand being promoted. Fake reviews when identified can significantly damage trust for the brand concerned. It is vital that integrity abounds where social proof is concerned.


Authority refers to the influence that experts or authoritative figures hold over us. People tend to obey, respect, and listen to those who appear knowledgeable, experienced, or in positions of official power. By positioning oneself as an authority or leveraging endorsements from experts, persuasion can be significantly enhanced. Consider in the workplace environment, the most senior manager and/or most experienced subject 'expert' are likely to benefit from skewed compliance purely because of the authority they hold, even if their thinking is flawed!


The principle of liking underscores the fact that we are more easily influenced by people we like or those who exhibit similarities with us. Building rapport, finding common ground, and being genuinely likeable can significantly increase the chances of persuading others. This principle is often employed in sales situations, where salespeople aim to establish a connection with their prospects. This must though be done ethically. Manufacturing commonalities with a prospective customer in an effort to curry favour is not the way to go.


The scarcity principle is rooted in the fear of missing out. When something appears limited or exclusive, it becomes more desirable. Creating a sense of urgency or highlighting limited availability can be an effective means of persuasion. Sales promotions that emphasise limited-time offers or limited stock, and include a deadline too, at which point the offer will no longer be available, play into the scarcity principle to stimulate action.


The principle of unity centres on the idea that people are more likely to be persuaded by those with whom they feel a sense of belonging or shared identity. By emphasising common affiliations or highlighting similarities, communicators can enhance persuasion. This principle is often employed in advertising, where brands align themselves with societal values or community and charitable causes. When unity is solidly in place 'We' becomes a common statement.


Understanding and applying Dr. Robert Cialdini's seven principles of persuasion can significantly enhance one's ability to influence others ethically and effectively.

By harnessing the power of reciprocity, commitment, social proof, authority, liking, scarcity, and unity, individuals and organisations can navigate various communication situations with finesse.

It is crucial to remember that while these principles can be potent tools, ethical considerations should always be at the forefront. Ultimately, employing these principles responsibly can foster positive relationships and build trust, leading to more successful outcomes in both personal and professional endeavours. Isn't life so much better when everyone wins?

To find out more about Summit Influence and Persuasion training courses for leaders, sales teams, marketers and customer relations teams, get in touch.

Scott Watson is the UK's first Certified Influence Professional personally certified by Dr Robert Cialdini to deliver Cialdini Insitute training and consulting programmes.

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