• There are six universal principles of persuasion so deeply ingrained in our nature that most of the time we're unaware we're even being influenced.
  • Real estate professionals can use these principles to get buyers and sellers to say yes more often.
  • Being consistent in what we say and do is associated with traits such as honesty, integrity and decisiveness. Just as crucial, inconsistency has negative connotations.

If you want to be a successful marketer or salesperson, then “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D., should be required reading. The book explores six universal principles of persuasion so deeply ingrained in our nature that most of the time we’re unaware we’re even being influenced.

The results of Cialdini’s research are eye-opening. But the question remains, how can real estate professionals use these principles to get more business?

Here’s a brief explanation of each principle with tips for how to use each of them to get more potential buyers and sellers to say yes to your requests.


When someone does something for us, we automatically feel indebted to him or her. You’ve likely felt the effects of this principle if anyone has ever picked up the check at a meal or sent you an unexpected holiday card.

This is one of the main reasons the customized magazine we mail on behalf of our customers is so effective in getting referrals and repeat business. When people receive it, they feel obligated to return the favor in some way.

By asking for referrals when they follow up, our customers are giving their magazine recipients the perfect opportunity to reciprocate.

Consistency and commitment

Being consistent in what we say and do is associated with traits such as honesty, integrity and decisiveness. Just as crucial, inconsistency has negative connotations. That’s why we often adjust our behaviors and beliefs to fit with our stated commitments.

In one social experiment, volunteers contacted a group of registered voters asking whether they planned to vote in the upcoming election. On election day, 86.7 percent of those who made this public commitment went to the polls. Only 61.5 percent of voters who weren’t contacted showed up.

You can use this principle by getting people to make small commitments before asking for larger ones. For example, instead of asking for an appointment at the start of a “for sale by owner” call, get the prospect to make a verbal commitment to a hypothetical question first, such as “If someone could sell your house for more money than you’d save doing it yourself, would you consider listing with that person?”

Who’s going to say no to that? Then you can follow up by asking for an appointment to go over how you would make that happen.

Social proof

Often when making decisions, we conform to what other people are doing. It’s a mental shortcut that might be even more effective now than when the book was written because of the information overload we all face.

How can you use this as a real estate professional?

One way is to get more traffic to your open houses. Even if these people have no real interest in buying the property, their presence signals that this must be a great home.

Similarly, having multiple listings in your name demonstrates that you are a competent seller. Why else would all of those other people trust you with this task?


This principle is similar to social proof in that it’s a mental shortcut for making decisions. Complying with authority offers a clear path that mentally eliminates the responsibility of weighing and choosing options.

The authority principle actually has a real-life example from the real estate industry. In a study conducted in a real estate office, the receptionist started stating the qualifications of an agent before connecting the caller to that person. For example, callers interested in selling their homes were told, “Speak to Peter, our head of sales. He has over 20 years of experience selling properties.”

This simple change increased appraisals 20 percent and resulted in 15 percent more contracts signed.


Research shows that we prefer to deal with people we like — especially those who are similar to us.

Take negotiation studies involving MBA students at two well-known business schools, for instance. One group was told to get right down to business, but a second group was instructed to share personal information and identify similarities before starting negotiations.

Within the first group, 55 percent came to an agreement, compared to 90 percent of the second group. And, the agreements in the second group were worth 18 percent more than the first.

To apply this principle, you need to get to know your clients and find common ground. Then reinforce that connection whenever possible. This is the idea behind relationship marketing. You can find a lot of helpful information on the subject in this Inman article.


We want things more when there are fewer of them to go around. That’s why popular travel sites show how many seats are left on airlines, and why retailers run limited-time offers.

This principle is already built into the real estate business. There are only so many homes on the market in any given neighborhood, after all. The trick is to play this up without sounding like you’re pressuring the buyer.

One way to do this is to call out unique home features in ad listings. A simple line such as, “Only two-story house on the block” instantly makes it more appealing and adds urgency for buyers who don’t want to miss out.

Although I’ve given a few examples here, there are numerous tactics for each of Cialdini’s principles. Experiment with these in your marketing efforts to see which work best for you. You might even be able to find ways to use two or three of the principles in a single effort.

If you try these suggestions, I’d love to know how they work out for you. Share your experiences in the comments section below.

Sean Kirby is copywriter for ReminderMedia, a relationship marketing company that helps businesses solidify their key relationships and generate repeat and referral clients. Follow them on Twitter and connect on Facebook.

Email Sean Kirby.

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