Success, like most other things in life comes after a near-perfect blend of hard work, perseverance and even a little bit of luck. It is like saying that the stars aligned and the time and the place was right. But little do we realize that success has a lot to do before the hard work starts. A lot depends on a person’s ability of persuasion. And studies have shown that persuasion can be used at a tool to get as close to the desired outcome as possible without ever needing to use any malice.

When we think about persuasion, more often than not we regard it as the con man’s weapon of choice, like some sort of an art form mastered from when one was of tender age. But what we fail to acknowledge or even notice is that it is more of a science.

Enter Dr. Robert Cialdini of Arizona State University, who has dedicated his life of unlocking the secrets of this science with years and years of intense research coupled with his unwavering curiosity of how one can use influence ethically to achieve certain goals. It is no wonder that he is regarded as the ‘Godfather of influence’.

When we mention Dr. Cialdini, we have to mention his first book titled Influence, which was translated in more than 30 languages and has helped numerous people achieve their goals. Influence deals with 6 basic principles one can use to influence their business. They are Reciprocity, Scarcity, Authority, Consistency, Liking and Social Proof. More than 30 years after Influence was first published, Dr. Cialdini has written another masterpiece after years of rigorous research, titled Pre-suasion.

What Pre-suasion means is to plant an idea, a thought, an environment or even a small instance which can establish a small connection between you and someone you are trying to influence. Let us take a more detailed look at the wonders of Pre-suasion.

What is Pre-suasion?

Pre-suasion, as the word suggest, is what can be done before you try to persuade someone to make it more effective. Simply put, it is the process by which one can make their target audience open and receptive about a new idea even before they encounter it. It is the way in which you can present the persuasion techniques to influence the eventual outcome. And the presentation more often than not does affect the psyche of the target audience.

If you had an amazing painting, would you duct tape it to the wall, or put it in a nice frame, and make it look even more beautiful by how you present it? It is a rhetorical question, because all of us know how we would want stuff to be presented.

A study was conducted that involved the researchers going up to the people walking around a mall, and asking for their email address to send them information about a new soft drink. When the researchers asked for the email address being direct, close to 30% of the people complied. But when the premise of the question was change to “Are you an adventurous person?”, it made people think for a minute about themselves. It took them on a journey about the small or big adventures they would have had in their lives. They connected with the researchers more, and when they were eventually asked for their email address for the same purpose, more than 75% of the people complied happily.

Dr. Cialdini’s journey spanning more than 30 years started with a small question. And he has been asking himself the same question ever since to keep himself abreast with the ways in which his techniques can still be used and modified. He always wondered as to how some salesman made him say yes into buying something he didn’t really want. And to know more about this, we need to go deeper into what ‘selling’ really is.

Selling by Pre-suasion and Influence

A really good definition for ‘selling’ was coined by Daniel Sullivan. He says that selling is getting someone intellectually engaged in a future result that is good for them and getting them to emotionally commit to take action to achieve that result.

A minor change to this wonderful summary of selling is figuring out how one can influence the future result by a few minor techniques. This involves directing a person’s consciousness to the outcome that we are looking for.

A study conducted across various restaurants in Beijing involved the analysis in the sales of various dishes and how minor changes in the menu affected the change. It was found that marking a tiny asterisk next to a dish and calling it the most popular dish or the chef special resulted in the sales of that dish increasing by 13-20%.

This means that even before engaging in a conversation with the maître d and asking for suggestions, the mind has been directed to a certain dish, i.e. the outcome that was wanted.

Things that happen around us, thigs we hear, or smell or see or even feel around us tend to have an effect on our psyche in ways we cannot even imagine. And this in turn leads us to make decisions we may or may not have made under normal circumstances.

Pre-suasion by Environment

What we pay attention to, doesn’t just reveal who we are or how we behave, it actually makes us behave in a particular way in that moment and most of the times we wouldn’t even realize it.

It basically means that we subconsciously take into account everything around us without disturbing our conscious thoughts in that moment, and we let that subconscious direct our decisions.

Research shows that when customers are bombarded with photographs of fluffy clouds before buying a sofa, they tend to buy with a comfort-oriented approach and when they are shown photographs of coins or when they listen to sounds of coins clinking, they tend to be more cost-oriented in their purchases. This is our subconscious mind at work without us even realizing it.

In recent times, we have seen a lot of companies asking for feedback from their customers asking the what they would want to see the company do or make. And it is often thought that this process of engaging will always be beneficial. However, the outcome is solely dependent on the way in which it is presented.

Co-creation using Pre-suasion

Feedback is generally considered to be beneficial. But the secret really lies in the way it is asked for. Asking the customers for their advice and not their opinion usually results in them taking a step toward the company. It makes them feel they are a part of the company. And it has to be known that no one would want to sink the boat they’re riding in.

And this also holds true for building up a better team-work spirit in the organization itself. It is often said that you don’t fight the plan if you’ve panned the fight. It means that when customers or colleagues alike are genuinely made to believe that they are integral to the plan, they are less likely to oppose it and much more likely to be a part of it.

A lot of times when working, we might need help from our peers, or colleagues. The idea is to ask for help in a way that would make the person want to help you readily and not with any sort of frustration.

Pre-suasion when asking for help

Dr. Cialdini tells us about his own experience when asking for help from a colleague at ASU. When Dr. Cialdini emailed his colleague Don politely for some information he needed for a project urgently, he was, in the same polite manner told that even Don had certain deadlines and was swamped with work and could not help.

When he tried again, Dr. Cialdini decided to use Pre-suasion techniques. He started the conversation by telling Don that they had been colleagues in the same department for 10 years and more than that, they were friends and that he would really appreciate the help. And he got what he needed the same afternoon.

The technique here is that a common ground was established and even though Don would know that they have been colleagues for 10 years, it was brought to his consciousness at that moment and the relationship was re-established.


The techniques of Persuasion or Pre-suasion are really powerful and most important of all, they work. Countless studies conducted and hours spent on researching the subject are validation enough that they can be used to make the outcome positive. Just by finding out a little bit about the demographic prior to planning a strategy and adding these techniques while developing the strategy leads to positive results.

This tremendous power lies dormant in all of us, and the trick here is to realize the raw potential, and mould it in a way that would benefit us without harming anyone around us. And to be on the right side, always remember to be good and do good. Nothing ever comes out of misusing this and conning others. Use this double-edged, but use it wisely and judiciously. Be patient, be just but most of all, be honest. And sooner rather than later, you will get where you want to be.