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Consensus or Social Proof – Influence and Sales Strategies

Consensus or social proof - Influence and sales strategies

Consensus or Social Proof – Influence and Sales Strategies


In consensus or social proof, people say to recommendations by the majority of people who are around us and are like us.

Instead of trying to influence people by yourself, it can be wholly more effective to point to what many others are already doing, or have already bought or done.

Many of us want to conform to societal norms and ‘fit in with what most people do’ and do ‘what should be done’, despite our belief we are individual. If enough people are doing something we see this as acceptable and appropriate behaviour for us too and psychologists have demonstrated this time and time again. When people are unsure of what to do, they look to others to influence their actions, reassure their behaviours, and then they follow suit accordingly. We do this to adapt to the world around us and help us to survive in a world full of different personalities and types of people. 

We laugh at jokes on sitcoms (which may not be all that funny) because a laughter track has been placed over it, or we donate to money into a basket of coins because we see that some coins are already in the basket. Equally so, we don’t dig up someone else’s flowers in their front garden for our own. All of these examples demonstrate how we adhere to social norms and consensus to fit in to society and follow other people’s leads.

Take social media as an example. If we are looking for a particular product or service, we may turn to online reviews. If we find that one product or service has 100 likes and the other has 20 likes, then most people would be more inclined to buy the item that more people have bought. However, if you then realised that of the 20 likes of the other item, the majority were your friends, then you would be more inclined to buy that product or service instead. We are constantly searching for clues and cues to check the reliability and validity of the world around us and are more naturally disposed to believe things that other people believe is true.


Nowadays, decisions are made more democratically, with leaders preferring consensus over command and control. Instead of trying to close one stakeholder at a time understand what the common company goals are in your stakeholder meetings. 

What is their desired set of outcomes? Contribute with your views and insights to a deeper understanding of their common challenges. Then facilitate meetings between several stakeholders to do this all over again and again until there is a group understanding that a change is needed. 

You play a role to actively create moments early in the purchase process for stakeholders to explore each other’s perspectives, engage in productive debate, and develop a shared understanding of ideas and solutions.

For the sake of completeness, it is also worth considering the so-called false consensus effect. If we endorse products or services simply because other people have done so, simply to preserve our own prestige and reputation, then this can create a form of naïve realism. The inevitable consequence of this would be a reduced sensitivity to the notion that the reality may be very different to how it is actually presented. Life in society requires consensus as an indispensable condition.



Duncan shares more influence insights and tactical strategies as well as more about consensus or social proof on his Youtube Channel on Youtube.com/duncanstevens – to discover more about leveraging consensus or social proof 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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