How to persuade anyone to do anything

For sale signI’m not big on psychology, voodoo, long copy sales pages and stuff like that but it’s clear there are things you can do when dealing with a stranger to improve your changes of success whether you are trying to buy or trying to sell.

I was reading the BBC Focus magazine for December in which there was an article which covered something I had been pondering that I was going to do a post on, specifically I tried a different technique for trying to buy a good domain for a fair price from someone who didn’t want to sell and if they did they wanted big bucks. I’ll still do that post later but I wanted to share the theory from the article I read.

Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser from Stanford wanted to see if they could persuade 112 people in the same neighbourhood to display a very large sign which read on it ‘Drive Carefully’ which was designed to cut speeding, the sign would be big and dominate their gardens. Almost all of the 112 asked refused.

The researchers then approached a different set of 112 residents and asked them exactly the same question except this time the sign was just 7.5cm, tiny. Almost everyone accepted.

Two weeks later the researchers returned and asked those that accepted to swap the tiny sign for the larger version, 76% agreed!

It seems by agreeing to show the small sign they felt they were somehow helping out and making a sacrifice so when it came to asking about the big sign they were more inclined to say yes.

Shhh!The experiment shows that people are much more likely to agree to small changes and then embrace larger ones, this can be applied to many different situations, people can agree to small purchases and then be up-sold larger one’s, people can agree to losing small amounts of privacy and soon find out they have agreed to larger invasions of privacy. A simple and effective demonstration of a technique that can be used for good and bad, for us we could use it for buying & selling online.

Anyway, Christmas Eve and the wife needs the house cleaned from top to bottom and I have a list of chores to do  before I get to kick back this evening with a drink and wait for the big man, a Merry Christmas to everyone and a peaceful and prosperous New Year!

About Scott Jones

Scott hails from the north east of Scotland and started earning online at the end of 2000 building websites for local businesses during which time he won an award from Lord Alan Sugar for Excellence in Enterprise. After having quite a bit of success with domaining Scott mainly runs educational evergreen websites which generate over 3 million visitors per month but is always on the lookout for a fresh thinking out of the box way to turn a buck. Follow on Twitter.


  1. I have found the same to be true when convincing my wife, who has a harder time with change. I knew I could make a success of self-employment, but she was very worried about me quitting my job. So I started my business gradually on the side, so she could see it grow incrementally. After a while she was all for it!

  2. Starting small and growing from there, looks like you have found the right way to do it. I have been trying to prove to my significant other that I can make money online. I set a goal of $1 by the end of this year as a proof of concept. So far I am at 93 cents and it looks like it will be close. My biggest ‘success’ so far is my one parked domain at and I am really hoping it gets that one more add click by Jan. 1 so I can start working for my second goal – $1 per month to be achieved by June 2008.

    Thanks for the excelent info on ‘up sizing’ instead of big selling.

    • I’m sure you have already, but check all the info on mini sites here on self made minds. Your goal of $1 a month is an easily achievable goal in my opinion. Adsense will help a lot with that too.

      It’s good to set goals though. I am currently at the $2 a day average and would like to be hitting $10 a day by the end of the year.

  3. Yipee!!! I just made my first dollar on-line 🙂

    That is my first goal – $1 by the end of this year. It was getting close and I was starting to get worried, phew just in time.

    Now on to my next goal of $1 per month by end of June 2008. Have some pieces in place for some commerce type sites, more on that to come once I get one launched.


  4. merry christmas and happy new year to Scott and all.

  5. That was some interesting research done and not something I had really thought about. I am going to work out where I can apply it to the work I do now.

  6. Nice post there. I am going to try and find that paper and read it as it sounds pretty interesting

    When I need a big thing from my parents (still 16 :D) I always ask for little and expand to bigger, justifying why

    It works most of the time.

  7. I do something similar with domain buys too, especially if I’m not already familiar with the seller. I find it’s best to always allow them to state their desired price or range first though, as it’s a minefield if you do. Too high and you’re pushing their expectations in the wrong way, too low and you’re making them stubborn.

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