November 8, 2022
Social Influencing Skills – How you are being sold to.

The view of a Hostage Negotiator based on the Principles of Influence by Robert Cialdini.

I am going to take the opportunity in this blog to consider some of the tactics salespeople and advertisers employ to sway our intentions or encourage us to conclude that considered purchase.  For some, this may be the first toe dipped in the water of Negotiation.  If you are interested in exploring the skill of Negotiation further and developing your ability to a higher degree, then enquire about the services we offer. If you are an experienced Negotiator this will be entry-level stuff but still worth a read over that morning coffee.

We will all have sat across the table from the car dealer, the financial advisor, the real estate agent, and the gym membership rep and later reflected on the deal that was struck.  This is not to say that the deal was a bad one, rather that perhaps it could have been a better one.  This is also the case if you are the car dealer, financial advisor, real estate agent or your company’s deal closer. These are some tactics that you could look out for or employ. But first, let’s look at what we mean by Social Influencing Skills.

Social Influencing Skills is not just about getting others to agree to our point of view; it is more akin to the ability to influence others to cooperate with us while not always necessarily having to agree with us.  It is not about winning at all costs or having to get our own way all the time.  It is also not about forcing or manipulating others to change – we cannot really change others. Instead, what we do is behave in ways that offer others an invitation to change their behaviour, attitudes, thoughts, emotions etc.   This invitation comes with its own rsvp which empowers others to choose to accommodate our interests in the context of reaching a mutually agreeable negotiated resolution.  If we feel something is being done to us and our interests and choices are being eroded, we may disengage and can potentially lose out regardless of which side we are on. So, it is in our interests to listen to others, look for the cues and get the best outcome regardless of whether you are the vendor or the buyer.  Hostage Negotiators take Social Influencing Skills to the next level, but you can also use them in everyday situations.

Six Sales Tactics:


This is top of the salesperson’s tactics.  Reciprocity can lead us to feel obliged to offer concessions or discounts to others if they have been offered to us.  A salesperson will offer a modest pricing saving or throw in an extra if the prospective customer will commit. Likewise, a buyer can agree to proceed if feel they have secured a discount or other benefits such as free delivery, installation etc.  This is a basic human interaction – you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.  From a buyer’s perspective I would remind you that, as a buyer, you are in a position of strength as you can always walk away. I’ll touch on this again later.


The moment you walk through the door you are flagging up that you are interested in the offer being made which is why sales staff are encouraged to engage you straight away.  Once we've committed to something we’re more inclined to go through with it which is why companies will value someone who ‘closes’ a sale. Are you a good closer?  If you are the buyer don’t let a salesperson exploit your obvious interest to get you committed to the product, service, or lifestyle they are offering instead of what you want or need.  You are giving them your hard-earned cash in return for that considered purchase not speed dating for a new friend!  Keep your focus, remember your red lines and never be afraid to make a counteroffer, walk away or turn the tables if it is obvious that the salesperson is committed to making the sale – it may be the day before the monthly sales results are finalised and your business may never have been more important.



This is an effective tactic that advertisers and sales staff will use. This is the safety in numbers argument and can work when we feel uncertain. We, humans, are more likely to be influenced if the people we see seem similar to us which is why advertising promotes an incredibly diverse world.   In addition, if an item or service is ranked well in reviews or is a top seller, we can be drawn to it.  On that note, online reviews can be misleading given the number of fake reviews created to exploit that Social Proof tactic.  Do your own research and like-for-like comparisons as this has never been easier in the digital world. You can take this preparatory research into the real world and get the deal YOU want and not the one you are being told you should take.


By our very nature, we are more likely to be influenced by people we like. Likability is important but never forget that authenticity is more important than faking it.   We don’t have to be friends to be friendly.  We are more likely to like people who show interest in us, respect us, or have similar likes. You should want to cultivate the ability to engage in everyday conversations as this makes it more likely we can identify similarities and make us more likeable.



Hierarchy is an important factor in the sales and deal world and like Social Proof we can place more weight on those in authority and may feel a sense of duty or obligation.  By way of example, who’d have thought the safety ratings of cars would become so important in that competitive market.  Automotive manufacturers in the UK and US will rely on the result of tests conducted by Euro NCAP and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to tell us which vehicles we should buy to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. But when we distil it down, we often buy a car because of how it makes us feel and how we may be perceived – does it match our self-worth; is it the right colour; or is it the safest in class?


Simply put things are more attractive when their availability is limited – the deal is only available today; the last item in stock and not sure when more will come in; interest rates are soon to rise etc. This is where you may wish to think about walking away to secure that better deal. Don’t feel pressured, just say you need more time and see what happens.  By this stage in the negotiation, the salesperson is simply trying to close. Remember this is a negotiated resolution to a sale and you want to get the deal that meets your needs and wants. The other side may be using scarcity to close the deal which takes us back to their level of commitment!  You are in charge; you are in control; you are the buyer.

I hope that I have given you something to think about, to look out for or perhaps even use in your negotiations in your personal and professional life.


On a final note, as business structures flatten, and roles expand, developing personal effectiveness and Social Influencing Skills is essential in today’s workplace. Success and strong outcomes can only be achieved through, with and from others.  Our ability to influence without formal authority is a key skill.  This cannot be achieved without self-belief, strong communication skills and clarity of purpose.  As a business leader, your role requires that you draw on who you are, as well as what you do to inspire and engage others.

Thank you for reading my thoughts. Next time I want to have a look at rhetoric and rational thinking.

Stephen McNeill

Read More

“Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having.” Lord Justice Sedley in Redmond-Bate v DPP

Stephen McNeill

Protest Liaison should be considered a critical function in managing demonstrations and activism on campus and is intended to contribute to ensuring compliance with the Act.


A Former Hostage Negotiator's Guide to Active Listening

Listen to this podcast episode where we explore the art of negotiation and the power of active listening. Negotiation is an essential skill in both personal and professional life, and it requires a unique set of skills to master. In this episode, Kirk shares his insights and provides practical strategies for success in negotiations.