Sales Action Triggers: 6 Ways To Light A Fire Under Your Prospects

According to Dr. Robert Cialdini, there are 6 proven psychological triggers that generate action. The most successful marketers and sales reps use them to generate leads and set appointments with their best local prospects:

How sweet is it when your prospect says “yes”…

…to take your call, click on your email, agree to a meeting, or buy your product?

“Yesses” are the lifeblood of the sales profession, and we all want a lot more of them.

But it’s not just the quality of your product or service that determines whether your prospect says “yes” or “no.” Often, seemingly small subconscious triggers can dramatically increase your the chances of a “yes.”

In fact, there are 6 proven psychological triggers that generate action, as described by Dr. Robert Cialdini in his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

The book was first published in 1984, but Dr. Cialdini’s “principles of persuasion” remain just as relevant and effective—and the most successful sales reps continue to use them to engage prospects and set appointments.

For an overview, watch this great whiteboard video:


Get all that? If not, here’s a cheat sheet on Cialdini’s 6 principles, along with some ideas for how you can use them to get your prospects to say “yes” more often:

Trigger No. 1: Reciprocity

The principle of “Reciprocity” is rooted in the fact that people feel obliged to give back to others what they have received.

If a friend does something for you—invites you over for dinner, say—you feel indebted to them, and are more likely to reciprocate the generosity.

Reciprocity in Action:

A study showed that restaurant diners tipped more when their server brought a small gift (e.g., a piece of candy) along with the check at the end of the meal.

How you can use it:

Give referrals liberally, including to prospects. Your generosity may be repaid in the form of reciprocal referrals, or better yet, you may ultimately turn grateful prospects into future clients.

Trigger No. 2: Commitment & Consistency

The principle of “Commitment & Consistency” is rooted in the fact that people like to be consistent with the things they’ve previously said or done.

Consistency means that small actions now can translate into much larger and more meaningful actions in the future.

Commitment & Consistency in Action:

As an example, a study showed that people were more likely to agree to put up a “Drive Safely” sign in their yard if they had previously agreed to put a small sticker in their window.

How you can use it:

Having problems getting a certain prospect to keep their appointments? Next time, ask your prospect to send the electronic meeting request. That small but overt statement of intent can increase the chance they’ll follow through.

Trigger No. 3: Social Proof

The principle of “Social Proof” is rooted in the fact that people look to the actions of others as a guide, especially when they’re uncertain about what to do.

Social Proof in Action:

One study showed how powerful social proof can be when it’s more specific: while people are more likely to reuse hotel towels when there’s a note suggesting that the majority of other guests do so as well (makes sense)…

…the likelihood is even higher when the note references other guests who stayed in the same room.

How you can use it:

On your website, prominently feature client testimonials. When your prospects see how others have benefited from your products or services, they’ll be more receptive to hearing about how you can help them, too.

Trigger No. 4: Likability & Familiarity

The principle of “LIkability & Familiarity” is rooted in the fact that people prefer to say yes to those they know and like—people who are similar, who flatter them, or who share common goals.

Likability & Familiarity in Action:

Students in a negotiation class were far more likely to reach agreement when they were instructed to get to know each other first, rather than prioritize speed.

How you can use it:

Before you meet with a prospect, check out their LinkedIn profile to identify shared traits and interests, then use that knowledge to create a personal bond with your prospect. Even if it doesn’t lead directly to a sale, your prospect will be more receptive to what you have to say.

Trigger No. 5: Authority

The principle of “Authority” is rooted in the fact that people follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts.

Authority in Action:

This one’s not hard to understand—of course you’d rather take medical advice from a doctor or financial advice from Warren Buffett.

But authority can be conveyed in subtle ways, too: for example, physical therapists get more patients to follow recommended exercise programs when they display their diploma on their office wall.

How you can use it:

Take every opportunity to mention your company’s and team’s experience and expertise when describing how you can help your prospects. They’ll be increasingly receptive when they perceive the source as authoritative.

Trigger No. 6: Scarcity

The principle of “Scarcity” is rooted in the fact that people want more of the things there are less of.

Scarcity in Action:

Scarcity can refer to quantity (there’s only one left!) or time (sale ends at midnight!). In a illustration of the latter, the day after British Airways announced it would soon cancel its daily Concorde flights from London to Rome, sales skyrocketed.

How you can use it:

Put a time limit on your email marketing offers. Your prospects may be more likely to take action to get something when they know it won’t be available indefinitely.

Now that you have proven strategies for persuading prospects say “yes” to take your calls, click your emails, and set appointments, all you need is some prospects to connect with! Want to know the exact number of good, local prospects you could reach using the BWise prospect database?

Use our free Prospect Finder.