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April 21, 2009
Artful Persuasion

Keeping an audience involved is no mean feat at the best of times. But when you’re dealing with a room full of pharma marketing and sales professionals, they might be just a tad sceptical about yet another talk on “persuasion.”

Yet, within minutes of taking the stage at the April 21st PMCQ breakfast, Heath Slawner connected with the near-capacity crowd with his artful and engaging presentation on the principles of persuasion, based on the work of Dr. Robert Cialdini.

Some of that is due to the buzz around Robert Cialdini’s fame as a marketing psychology guru. Dr. Cialdini is a Regents Professor of Psychology and W. P. Carey Distinguished Professor of Marketing at Arizona State University. Two of his books on ethical influence — Influence: Science and Practice and Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion — have been on social psychology and business school curricula for years. His latest book, Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive, is already a best-seller. Heath Slawner is the only certified trainer in Cialdini’s methods in Canada and he graciously offered five copies of the recent work as door prizes.

Part of the picture was the content. Heath was presenting some intriguing material based on decades of solid research. What made the morning work were Heath’s warmth, his wry sense of humour — which he would deftly turn on himself from time to time — and a nicely paced rhythm. Not only was it about persuasion, it was a finely crafted demonstration of being genuinely and effectively persuasive — down to the simplicity and clarity of the slides.

The morning started with a questionnaire: If you had two or more options to present to a prospect, which would you present first, the most costly or the least costly? That provided a fine entry to talking about what causes someone to say “yes.”

So we went through a rapid review of the 6 principles of ethical influence, starting with reciprocity, through liking, consensus, authority, consistency and scarcity. Along the way, we viewed a fun video where you had to track the total number of bounces, catches and passes a girl made with a ball while playing with a group of people. Sorry, I can’t reveal any more as we were sworn to secrecy (though you might find the video on YouTube).

Why are ethical relationships so important in establishing a truly effective influence? Because of the expectations we have as people in the way we interact. For example Heath recounted an experiment with university students. One group was asked if they would be willing to accompany a group of juvenile delinquents on a day-trip to the zoo. Not a single member of that group said yes. Another group was asked if they would mentor a juvenile delinquent two or three times a week for two years as a big brother. Again, no takers. But those same students were then asked if they would accompany a group of delinquents on a day-trip to the zoo. Surprise, surprise, many of the students would accept the second request. So present your most costly option first. It provides you with a moment of power after the refusal as you present your other options.

From genuinely liking the people with whom you’re engaged, to being willing to make concessions, providing a small, yet personal and significant gift, to presenting material with authority, the principles of persuasion laid out by Heath were — you’ve got it — persuasive.

You can reach Heath at HRD at 514-481-0321 or

Alan Conter


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Green Shoots of Opportunity:
How to Find and Harvest Green Shoots in Pharma

Virtual Meeting
Time: 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
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Tel: (514) 486-3458
Fax: (514) 486-4794

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