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Weapons of Mass Persuasion

Not so long ago, a book was published which raised the curtain on a practice employed by millions of people, and in thousands of retail stores. The writer, Robert Cialdini, an innocuous American professor of psychology and marketing, published ‘Influence: Science & Practice’, in 2000. In the book he listed 6 ‘Weapons of Influence’ that persuade people to make a buying decision. We thought we’d share them with you.


Weapons for the Retail Battlefield

Remember them always, use them always. Without further ado, these are your Weapons of Influence:


This innocent-sounding weapon packs a great deal of punch when you remember that the majority of us are rather susceptible to compliments.  In other words, if you compliment or otherwise pay positive attention to someone they will (in most cases) like you. And if they like you, according to Cialdini, they will be much more inclined to do what you ask them to do, even if that something is making a purchase at your store.

But you have to be genuinely nice for people to like you. Nobody likes a fake. And very few people will buy from someone who pays the same insincere compliments.

A better method to persuade with likeability is to commit to building rapport with your customers. Learn their names, discuss non-business topics with them, become a personal friend. That’s when they stop thinking about price, and start listening to your recommendations.


Deeply ingrained in human psyche is the knowledge that we have to give something to get something in return. What many people don’t realise is that the amounts of each or either don’t have to be equal.

That’s right… you can give your customers something small and they will unconsciously feel duty-bound to return the favour in the form of a purchase – even if the value of the gift is much smaller than the value of the purchase they make.

Why do you think VIP evenings with champagne and canapés are such a success in boutiques? Think of the value of the gift versus the value of the sales made. Definitely worth it!


It’s a universal truth in business that it’s much easier to retain than gain customers. That’s because you are wielding the Weapon of Consistency.

Yes, even if you are doing nothing!

Because a customer has already made a conscious decision to purchase from you in the past, the decision to purchase from you (say, as opposed to purchasing from your competitor) is a much easier one to make.

This has nothing to do with the actual purchase, and everything to do with the decision they’ve made in their head. So, for instance, if a visitor to your shop says they can’t afford that item today, but promises to be back when they can, they will be much more likely to return. Just because they said they would.

Moral: Secure commitment as soon as you can.

Social Proof

We start being persuaded by social proof as infants, learning how to walk and talk by observing. This behaviour in the world of retail often plays a big part in making a purchasing decision.

Social Proof existed long before social media, but it’s something that everyone is very aware of today. Prove to a prospective customer that lots of other people buy from you and he will automatically become more inclined to buy from you.

The cognitive reasoning behind this is “if everyone does it, it must be ok”. They will trust you more, knowing you haven’t let down all the other people.


Using the scarcity of an item as a method of persuasion has always been successful. Humans don’t like missing out, and will try to avoid it if at all possible.

You can use this FOMO (fear of missing out) by restricting your product: its stock levels, its low price, its relevancy. For example, people in most cases are more likely to be interested in sale items if they know that the items won’t be on sale for long.

Have you seen “Only while stock lasts” on a sale? You’ve seen a weapon of influence at work, my friend.


The final weapon of influence will have varying degrees of effectiveness, depending on your own confidence. You, as the retailer. If you are truly confident that you understand what you are selling and that what you have for sale is the best on the market, you can position yourself as an authority on the product. Positioning yourself as an industry authority will be more challenging, but also more effective.

People are hard-wired to respect authority. Even criminals, and rebellious teenagers, respect someone as an authority (it might be their gang leader or a revolutionary leader).

And if a figure of respect tries to persuade a person, they are highly likely to succeed.  Prove you are an authority, by displaying knowledge of not only what you’re selling, but also of whom you are selling to, and you will be successful.

Have fun!

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