You have an amazing product. A great value proposition. But prospects are still telling you, “no.” What’s a salesperson to do? Read my blog post on 4 science-backed ways to persuade customers, of course.

1. Find a unique thing you have in common

We use a simple mental shortcut when it comes to deciding who to trust: whether someone is similar to us. The importance of establishing trust with customers isn’t new. But according to research featured in Wharton Professor Adam Grant’s Give and Take, “similarities matter most when they’re rare.” Why? An uncommon commonality (as Grant puts it) allows us to fit in and stand out at the same time. Genius.


2. Tell them a story

An oft-repeated statistic (ironically) in sales is, “After a presentation, 63% of attendees remember stories. Only 5% remember statistics.” So give your customers what they want – tell them a compelling story featuring your product or service. After analyzing hundreds of presentations, Nancy Duarte found that the best stories took the audience on a journey from what is” to “the new bliss. A story that results in a happy ending for you and your customer? Yes, please.


3. Show them a graph

According to Google Trends, the term “In one graph” has enjoyed astronomical popularity in recent years. Why? Because it works.


Professors Nyhan and Reifler conducted experiments with an especially tough audience: presenting information that contradicted their political views and assessing whether they changed their minds or not. They tested 3 strategies:

  • Presenting information in text
  • Presenting information in a graph
  • Affirming people’s self-esteem so they’d feel less threatened

Their results found that presenting accurate information in a graph decreased people’s resistance to disconfirming evidence. Self-affirmation (i.e., affirming your important values and feeling secure in your self-worth) had the same effect, even in the absence of factual information.

Another study by Professors Tal and Wansink found that graphs are persuasive because they made the information presented seem more scientific: 67% of participants believed the claim about a new drug’s effectiveness when it was presented in text form compared to 97% of participants who believed it when it was presented as a graph.

The lesson here: Present information about your product or service in a graph whenever possible. You might be surprised at how well it works to persuade customers.

4. Make them feel good about themselves

Research featured on the Harvard Business Review found further evidence that self-affirmation works when it comes to persuading others. These researchers found that managers who self-affirmed (i.e., thought and wrote about their core values) were more willing to ask for feedback from their employees and more likely to reward employees who provided it.


The takeaway for sales? Sometimes potential customers say “no” because it implies that what they’re currently doing is wrong. Doing a little ego-soothing by validating your customers on the personal values that matter to them can go a long way to reducing their resistance to changing the status quo.

The takeaway

The best salespeople know they need to truly understand their customers’ needs and desires in order to provide value. But knowing a few science-backed techniques to persuade customers doesn’t hurt either.

What to learn some more science-backed persuasion tips? Read my previous blog post here.

Got a killer technique you use to persuade customers? Let me know in the comments.

Share on LinkedInShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone
Ji-A Min

Ji-A Min

Head Data Scientist at Ideal
Ji-A Min is the Head Data Scientist at Ideal. With a Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Ji-A promotes best practices and data-based HR. She writes about trends and research in talent acquisition, people analytics, and workplace diversity.
Ji-A Min