Persuasion for project managers

Tiger Woods, champion golfer, drives the ball ...

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 This blog is intended to give a simple no nonsense overview of persuasion based on a single universally accepted theory that can be adapted to any set of circumstances, but I have presented it in a way that is focused more closely on the needs of the project manager.

Six laws of persuasion

Cialdini‘s six laws of persuasion goes like this:

Law of Reciprocity

People tend to help those who have helped them or shown willingness to help.  Marketing departments give small unsolicited gifts in the expectation that a sense of duty will result in the recipient reciprocating. It works.

The project manager can use this law by getting to understand the needs of his/her stakeholders and staff and helping them when he gets an opportunity. The result will be reciprocation when in need of help or goodwill.

Law of Commitment and Consistency

People don’t like to be seen to change their stance on things once they have gone public. They believe that it is a sign of weakness. They will often stick to their guns even when it is costing them money or reputation.

Don’t under any circumstance place key people in a position to oppose your goals early on, because you will face an enormous uphill struggle to affect any sort of change.  Create a situation whereby you are in agreement about something and become allies early on, then respect that relationship by providing a robust rationale for everything you ask of them.

Law of Liking

People do business with people they like and the best deal gets refused when the salesman is someone they dislike or mistrust. We tend to like and trust people who are like us and share experiences.

It’s not necessary to become like someone to get on with them, only to find and focus on the areas you genuinely share interests in ,or experiences you have shared. This is easier than it sounds. You may not play golf, if you are a parent, you have something you can share passionately with Tiger Woods.

Law of Scarcity

Nobody is highly motivated to buy something when there’s plenty of it around, but when it’s the only one in the shop, suddenly it takes on a whole new dimension and you can become obsessed with acquiring it. Don’t make your deal, your proposition or even you too unattractive by making it too readily available.
Be approachable, but decisive and in possession of other options when you present an opportunity to someone to come on board with you. It’s down to you to make sure those options exist and that they are real and believable.

Law of Authority

Marketers and sales-people use testimonials to lend authority to their products.  In management you gain authority by supporting highly cherished beliefs and  goals, by working towards important KPIs, by demonstrating the support of your superiors and that of other important stakeholders.

Law of social proof

Social proof is the idea that everyone is on board with this idea and that to reject it would mean being left out.  One on one persuasion sufficient to get attendance a t a group event is often the best starting point, once they are all in the room you have produced the first element of social proof, now you have to maintain their interest.

 A simple process that may help

This is a process I learned in my marketing days and is widely used for things like writing copy or creating presentations.  It’s easy to remember  AIDA  pronounced “ayeeda” and it goes like this:


First get their attention any way you can.


Now maintain their interest enough to keep reading or listening. This usually requires well presented arguments and rationale.


Make them really want to do this, buy this, be part of this.  This is where your colourful pictures, happy sounds and warm fuzzy feelings come in useful. Once they see themselves in that picture, they are yours.


Don’t waste it all, call for action. It could be enquire now, download this paper, sign here, or a simple question like “what’s the next step?”, but you must conclude the conversation.

That’s it.  Watch the adverts this evening and start noticing how they do this,  especially the lengths they go to to get your attention and to get you seeing the pictures that will convince you.

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