6 Principles of Influence That Exploit Your Lizard Brain

One of the most valuable skills in business and life is your ability to influence the decisions and actions of others. In this article I will explain how to be a good salesman among other successful tips and tricks. Furthermore these principles are essential for your successful business strategy development.

Have you ever wondered how influential people in politics, business and life use the hard wiring of the human brain to trigger an almost ‘automatic’ agreement and compliance from others?

Whether it’s asking for a raise, getting a new customer or asking someone to marry you, most things in life involve some persuasion and negotiation.

After reading this you will understand 6 unspoken principles of influence that can literally change your life, business, and personal relationships. Specifically these principles teach anyone how to be a good salesman.

When you teach these principles to your children, you will give them a head start in life and a lifelong skill in understanding how to exploit (ethically) the psychology of the human brain.

Use these principles as part of a successful business strategy development and get an unfair advantage and ability to influence the world around you in subtle ways.

The Psychology of Persuasion

How to be a good salesman

What follows summarizes what I regard as the 6 golden commandments of influence based on Robert Cialdini’s bestselling book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”

This was first published in 1984 and listed in fortunes all time “75 smartest business books” and has stood the test of time.

These principles are the “golden rules” of influence and have been the subject of decades of research and study.

When used correctly these principles are deadly effective so make sure to only use them in an ethical and honest way. 

They exploit the “reptilian” part of the human brain that craves safety, security, socialization, and survival. These impulses still drive your behavior even after millions of years of evolution.

Often when talking to friends, prospects, and clients about these it amazes them at how often they have encountered them and not realized it.

Apply these principles for your business strategy development!

Social Proof

Have you ever been walking past several restaurants trying to decide where to eat and spotted the one that is almost full? Which one do you usually show the most interest in, the one that’s full right? This is a perfect example of the principle of social proof.

The human brain automatically seeks validation of the safest course of action by following the crowd, this makes social proof a powerful weapon of influence. It’s easy to see how these principles are used so effectively by the top sales people.

Social proof is in use all the time in marketing. Think of slogans like “a best-selling book with 100,000 copies sold”, “20 million customers served at McDonald’s,” or “no one ever got fired for buying IBM”.  


Did you notice the comment about Cialdini’s book at the beginning;

 “listed in fortunes all-time 75 smartest business books”

Did that change your perception of it?

This is the principle of authority at work, we accept without question the opinions of those that are authorities in a particular area.

There is a good reason for this. The brain is wired to take short cuts in order to eliminate any unnecessary thinking that threatens survival. Authority is a key part of any successful business strategy as it “short cuts” the time it takes to develop trust.

Our primitive “lizard” brains accept an authoritative source and move on to more important things, like looking out for sabre-tooth tigers.

In the business world authority is signaled by awards, expert testimonials and endorsements. Would you rather rent a movie that had 3 Oscar nominations or one that skipped the big screen and went straight to Netflix?

If your specialist tells you to lose 30 pounds or face significant health risks, are you more likely to listen to them or your friends?

Authority and credibility allow our brains to shortcut the decision process by reducing the time taken to build trust. Let’s go even deeper into how to be a good salesman and this business strategy development.


Consider how you feel when someone sends you a Christmas card, do you feel the need to send a return a card, guilty if you don’t? 

This is the influence principle of reciprocity and it is one of the most powerful,  people will feel a sense of indebtedness if they receive something.

This effect is so powerful and will often work on just its own to influence behavior.

Reciprocity is useful in society as a way to increases the tendency to work together and help each other. You are hard-wired to reciprocate when you receive something, even a small gift.

Organizations and charities use the reciprocity principle all the time in their business strategy development.  Free trials, samples and give away promotions all work to increase the chance that you will eventually comply and follow through with a purchase decision. 

A well know experiment was conducted to see how a server’s tip sizes were affected by reciprocity. 

When serving diners coffee after a meal, adding 1 free chocolate led to a 10% increase in the tip size. If the server added another 2 chocolates after they finished the first, the average tip size increased by 15%.

If they added a final chocolate with the bill with a personal message in writing, the average tip size grew to 30%!


More often than not, you will do business with, and agree with someone you like more than someone you don’t like.

In sales, you are more likely to buy off the person who builds rapport.

You’re more likely to take your dry cleaning to the shop where you like the owner.

More likely to vote for a political party whose leader you like.

The concept of liking comes down to trust and when we like someone, it’s much easier to trust them than someone we don’t.

Being likeable will get you promoted more often, listened to more often and makes you more persuasive.

How do you get people to like you? The same way you learn how to be a good salesman with business strategy development.

  • Become a good listener. Listen actively and then ask questions repeating back what has been said–seek first to understand, then to be understood.
  • Use language and body movement gestures that mirror who you are talking to, people naturally like people similar to themselves
  • Pay close attention to personal grooming and dress. Well dressed and presented individuals are liked more often.

You will know when the liking technique is being used on you, it will be clear that your “liking” for someone will be greater than normal and is affecting your decision.

The mental trick to counter this is to tell yourself, you are not buying the person you like rather than what they are selling, will you still like what you are buying as much as the person selling it after you take it home?

What if you can’t get someone to like you? a general observation in psychology is that;

  • 25% of people will like you no matter what;
  • 25% like you, but could be persuaded not to;
  • 25% don’t like you, but could be persuaded to;
  • 25% will never like you

So focus on the middle 50% and understand the power that rapport and liking have in persuading your customers, friends, and colleagues.


A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds

Ralph Waldo Emerson

This well-known Ralph Waldo Emerson quote reminds us to not always act with unquestioning consistency.

Society disapproves of inconsistent behaviour, a trait that is taught from an early age at school. Our brain’s need for consistency keeps us on track and acting to follow through with a decision based on previous actions.

Sales techniques try to take a prospect through a small series of steps to get them to make a buying decision, they are exploiting this “lizard brain” trait that is part of our primal thinking.

A classic example is when you take a test drive of a new car or pay a holding deposit to secure it, it is very difficult for you to back out of a sale once you have taken a series of consistent actions towards it.

When the principle of consistency is at work in sales, each step is designed to build commitment and consistency within the prospects mind.

The impulse to proceed becomes almost an automatic decision. Are you starting to understand how to be a good salesman with business strategy development?


Opportunities are more valuable to us when their availability is limited. Apply this principle when perfecting how to be a good salesman.

From collecting baseball cards to ensuring we get a good seat at the big show, the principle of reciprocity plays on our fears of missing out, and in missing out we also lose opportunities.

This technique is most commonly used in sales to prevent the prospect from thinking too long about the purchase.

Scarcity is added with prompts such as “limited time only” or “only a few left”.  Our primitive brain response kicks in based on our fear of missing out, it is a basic survival mechanism.

Consider that every time gun control legislation is brought up in the US. Sales of assault rifles and ammunition skyrocket.

Items that are less available are more valued, scarcity can turn people from indifferent into zealous buyers.

Scarcity prompts a “lizard brain response” causing our emotions take over. This means we are much more likely to make a quick choice and say yes, the logic goes out the window.

Scarcity techniques are in many of the marketing and sales messages, you should be using this principle (in an ethical) way to increase the rate of sales from your potential customers.

Only Use This Power for Good

The principles of influence are extremely powerful, particularly when several are used at once.

Misuse them and you will lose the most valuable asset in business and life–trust. Never forget your trustability when developing how to be a good salesman.

If you like what you have read here then could you please give me an endorphin hit and “like” it, or even better a short comment on what you got out of the article.

I recommend taking a look at Robert Cialdini’s book available on Amazon “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion“, I get no commission for recommending it ?

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