Imagine this. Yesterday you called at two stores to enquire about a new mobile phone. At one store the assistant was courteous, efficient, knowledgeable, but aloof. At the next store, the assistant was equally professional, but you develop a rapport. Let's say the deals are the same.

You'd buy from the second store, right? If the first store offered a slightly better deal, would you change? How different would the deal have to be to persuade you to go back to the aloof assistant?

We are more easily persuaded by people we like. Liking is one of Robert Cialidini's six principles of influence. Cialdini is Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Arizona. He's done the field work, by working undercover with people who use those techniques to manipulate us into saying yes.

So how can you use the liking principle in a non-manipulative way?

Let's say you want your readers to read all of your report or agree to your recommendations. Just write in a friendly conversational style. Eliminate all the lofty stuff - the jargon and the abstract nouns (nouns that describe things you can't see). 

Show that you are interested in your readers' perspective by answering their questions before they even raise them.

How many ways can you use it?

Write your proposals and business cases in a conversational tone. Show a real interest in your customers' needs and how you can meet those needs - especially the needs they told you about.

Write to you customers in everyday language and as if you are talking to just one person. Don't use salutations like 'Dear valued customer' or 'Dear Sir/Madam' (Yes some organisations still do that.)  

Speak to audiences the same way: everyday language tailored to individuals.  'Many of you will want to know about ...' says you're addressing to the masses. 'You will want to know about... (pause to check)' says 'I'm speaking to you'. 


Salespeople are often taught that they must try to get the customer to like them. Cialdini says it's the the wrong approach. Instead, make an effort to like your customer.

Effort? Think of your customer's perspective. For many people, buying a house or a car is scary. No matter how attractive you make your offer, they may still be anxious about committing their savings or taking on a huge mortgage. Surely that's understandable. Maybe they've felt pressured by salespeople in the past, so now they seem cold, even cynical. Surely that's understandable too.

Not in sales? You are really beause persuasion is selling an ideas. The same principle applies. Make an effort to like your audience by thinking of their perspective.