6+1 strategies to convince others

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Last week I went to an engineering conference. “Engineers are generally modest” was the statement of one of the speakers. That reminded me of Ralph Waldo Emerson who said “A great man is always willing to be little.” This may not always be effective.

Later that day there was a discussion panel on stage. One of the panel members admitted he had trouble to convince others. Not so much to be right but rather to have them come along with, for example, a project, an opinion or to convince them of a particular solution to a problem. That I can imagine, especially if you are modest.

In this article I am sharing with you the 6+1 principles of influence by Robert Cialdini. He is a psychologist, speaker and author of “Influence”, which is based on scientific research. I am sure that these principles can help you to convince others better. I’ll give you an example for each strategy you can apply right away.

1. Social proof

The more people buy a particular product or service, the more you tend to do just that. Especially, if you are unsure about a particular action or decision. You look to others what they do, what opinions or experiences they have. One seeks consensus.

Word-of-mouth advertising is a powerful tool to convince others about the value of your services or your solution. Let others recommend you, especially those with whom you do not have a direct connection. For example, you can ask your customers or employees for a recommendation on LinkedIn. In fact, make a video of a recommendation or a successful project and post it on your profile.

2. Reciprocity

People are more likely to do something for you if they have gotten something from you. Think of a free gift (gift), a favor, advice, product or service. Be the first to give something. Make it personal and unexpected. Who gives, who gets.

3. Commitment and consistency

People want to be consistent and they expect you to be consistent as well. No one wants inconsistency. In a negotiation, you can start to ask for small commitments which are easy to say yes to. Examples are: “Yes, this report can be delivered quickly”. “Yes, it can be done within the budget”. “Yes our expert (see 5.) will work on this”. “Yes, we work according to the latest standards/quality requirements”. The customer will then be more inclined to say “Yes!”. Look for small commitments people can keep and let them write them down if possible.

4. Sympathy

People are inclined to say yes to others whom they like. People like us who are similar to us, who genuine compliment us, who listen (show empathy) and who cooperate with us to mutual goals.

So look for similarities (hobbies, education or interests) before you start to negotiate or convince the other. If people like you, they will be likely to refer you (see 1.)

5. Authority

People will follow the idea of credible and knowledgeable experts with a lot of experience. Let others know what makes you an authority in your field if you want to convince them. And as an engineer we are modest enough that we do not proclaim that we are the expert. Let others do that for you (see 1). How do you let yourself know that you are an authority? Write articles or a book. An author is seen as an authority. Join forum discussions on LinkedIn, for example, but also at conferences.

6. Scarcity

People want more things of the things which are less available. Things are more valuable if it is harder to get. It is more exclusive. This is not so much about the advantage of your solution or product. It’s about what is unique and what the other can lose if they do not consider your proposal.

How does this work? Offer product or service for a limited time or make a limited number available (“If you sign have today, then we can start right away. Otherwise it will be next week”).

7. Unity

Cialdiani recently added a 7th strategy! The principle is seen in groups where you share identities (like an association for Engineers).  We are influenced by others, when we identify ourselves with them. It’s different from the sympathy principle. You still want to belong to a group, tribe or family because of the identity without really having sympathy for someone.

An example might be the use of “jargon” in your field or the exclusivity of belonging to a group of registered engineers. One day, while still working at an engineering company, I got an invitation from the executive board for an event on a historical boat. Only a few where invited and I was excited to be one of them. Belonging to that group created a feeling of unity and being part of the family. You could do the same with by inviting a few selected clients to an event and ask them to bring along a client or coworker.


I can imagine that you feel these strategies  focus too much on marketing and sales. This does not go well with “modest engineer”. The question is what you want to accomplish (your goal) with your work? Do you struggle to convince or influence others? If so, then I suggest you check out these principles for your next project. And don’t forget be yourself and stay authentic.

Here is a video which explains the principles of Cialdini well.

What strategy do you like most? What other strategy do you have? Let me know in the comment box below. I look forward reading from you!

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