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Authority Principle – Influence and Sales Strategies

Authority Principle - Influence and Sales Strategies

Authority Principle – Influence and Sales Strategies


Leveraging the authority principle, people say yes to people in positions of authority. We have been conditioned from a young age to agree with people in positions of authority such as school teachers, our parents or the police and as such, we have a natural tendency to comply with individuals we perceive have authority over us. We find their opinions more accurate and trustworthy and are likely to follow their instruction. 

In 1955, researchers in Texas conducted a study in which they arranged for a male participant to cross a street against a red light and into traffic. At some points throughout the experiment he was dressed smartly in a suit and tie, and other times he wore less formal clothing like jeans and a sweater. The researchers observed that when he was dressed in smart business attire, more than three times the number of pedestrians followed him into the traffic than whe he was dressed more casually.

There are many sources of authority you can leverage to your advantage to inspire others to follow your lead. Some of the most important strategies of authority include Your Expertise, your Relationships or Your Corporate and Organizational Standing – all can be perceived as authoritative or not dependent on the comparison to other expertise, relationships or business hierarchy.

In effect, people are more quickly influenced by others whom they believe to be credible or reliable experts in their field. A doctor, for example, holds a title that he or she has had to study for, often for many years. We trust them to make the correct assessment of our illness or ailment and offer the correct treatment. We do this in blind faith simply because they sit in a doctor’s surgery and hold a certificate. We have also been brought up to follow the process – if you feel unwell, go and see the doctor.

Yet, whilst they have studied for many years to learn how to cure us from our ailment, they may not have the training, or expertise to cure our underlying health condition. Our ailment may, perhaps, be better treated by the correct nutrition and attention to our diet. For this, a nutritional therapist would be the more appropriate health practitioner. They too have had to study for many years and their approach may be more beneficial than a doctor as they examine the underlying condition with more rigour.

However, simply due to the authority a doctor holds and our perception of them as being the most credible and reliable experts in the field of healthcare, we place our utmost trust in them, trusting that they are the most capable to treat our condition.

In day-to-day life, waiters also demonstrate their authority in a restaurant by recommending a particular bottle of wine. Often this is a more expensive choice, yet we are swayed by their recommendation as we perceive them as an authority on wine, simply because they are working in the restaurant. Rarely will a waiter or waitress be an expert of wine unless they are a sommelier.

Of course, it’s relatively easy to convey authority by influencing people’s perceptions but this won’t stand up to scrutiny in the long term. You can also share relevant stories about what others think about you, your product, brand, or service, to convey authority. However, if these same stories are shared by others, this adds even greater credibility to your position of authority.

The same can be true for conveying to others the authority that your product or service holds in the marketplace. It is to convey this same message, in the third person using examples such as:

 “I’m not going to tell you to buy something just because it’s the highest quality and market leader…..” 


“I’m not suggesting that you engage in our services purely because we have won the industry-standard awards for the last two years and offer the best value for money in the industry….”

These kinds of statements create strong emotions within us, and it is emotions that support our behaviors, decisions and actions and thus supports the power of the authority principle of persuasion.


Duncan shares more influence insights and tactical strategies as well as more about the authority principle on his Youtube Channel on Youtube.com/duncanstevens – to discover more about leveraging the authority principle or to even hire him to speak about influence, sales, leadership or collaboration at your event you can follow the link below. Duncan is a professional keynote speaker and global authority on influence and persuasion. 

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