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online-business-ACTION-1When you’re in business, you’re always trying to persuade people to take an action — opt-in or buy. Much has been written about this topic, of course, but I recently heard a podcast that highlighted Jonah Berger, who has written several books on influence and why things catch on.

In the podcast, he was talking about 5 barriers to change.  I found them interesting but overly academic. When you’re trying to persuade someone, you are definitely trying to get the person to change, but I wanted to simplify the concepts and make them more directly related to persuasion.

So I came up with my own acronym but wanted to give Jonah Berger credit for some of the ideas.

ACTION: 6 principles of persuasion

Here are the 6 principles of persuasion. After this, I’ll discuss each one separately.

A = Agency, the ability of a person to make decisions and take action

C = Cost of Inaction, the downside of doing nothing

T = Two Sides, showing a negative or counter-opinion to highlight your honesty

O = Others’ Experiences, showing the opinions of previous customers with a testimonial or sharing case studies

N = Nudge, moving people in small steps or helping them to make “micro-agreements’

Let’s discuss each one, why it works, and how you can use it.

Agency: Give people control


In social science, agency is defined as the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own choices freely. When you have agency, you feel more free and powerful. When you don’t, you may feel powerless, pressured, and restricted.

Naturally, people like to have agency.

So when you’re trying to persuade someone to do something, a high-pressure sale will make people feel uncomfortable. Instead, you want people to feel that they’re making the decision of their own free will,

Of course, a person can choose not to buy but if they buy under pressure, they will feel resentful and may even return the product after thinking about it for a while.

Here are some ways you can give people agency:

  • Ask, “Is this something you would like? If so, why?”
  • Ask, “If you could design the perfect product, what would it be like?”
  • Ask, “Do you have x problem? (the problem your product or service solves)
  • Give people plenty of time to ask questions and raise objections
  • Pause after asking for the sale to give people time to think of their answer
  • Tell them the choice is up to them

Note that you can combine items in ACTION. For example, you could describe the Cost of Inaction before asking for the sale and pausing.

Cost of Inactiononline-business-ACTION-3

There’s always a cost of action. For example, it might be:

  • The price of your product or service
  • The energy and motivation to make changes
  • The time it takes to learn
  • The time it takes to implement the steps


The cost of action creates inertia and resistance and that’s what you need to overcome. You can do that by explaining to your audience the cost of inaction and showing that it’s as big as or bigger than the cost of action.

You can remind them that the cost of inaction is that their problem will continue unsolved — whatever that is. Some examples:

  • If you’re offering to save them money, the cost of inaction is to continue to spend too much
  • If you’re offering to save them time, the cost of inaction is to continue to be overwhelmed or lack time to complete necessary projects
  • If you are helping them lose weight, the cost of inaction is to stay at the same weight
  • And so on…

Two sidesonline-business-ACTION-4

There are always two sides to a story. In most cases, your product or service doesn’t include everything people need to attain their goals — it’s usually a part of the needed steps. And it might not work for everyone — some people might be better off with a different solution.

Pointing out a negative makes you sound more trustworthy and honest.

You could say, for example:

  • This product is only for people who… but not for people who…
  • This service is best for people who…but won’t be useful for people who…
  • Be aware that this product will give you a, b, and c skills but not x, y, or z skills


No product or service does everything, so being honest will help your potential customers make the right decision. You can even point out alternate solutions such as other products or services of yours.


Insurance is protection against risk and buyers want to know that they aren’t taking a big risk. You can assuage their fears by:

  • Offering a guarantee
  • Offering a free trial
  • Offering a free level


A guarantee usually offers a full refund within a certain amount of time. Some people go further and guarantee results but be careful — although powerful, it can also be dangerous to you. Be sure to stipulate that your refund will be applicable if they complete the lessons and do their homework and still don’t get results.

Others’ Experiences

This is often called “social proof.” Basically, this means testimonials from past customers and clients. Think about the value you place on reviews on major eCommerce websites. People know you’re trying to sell something so they’re less likely to trust you. But they’re more likely to trust others who have used your products.

You can also use a case study of a success you’ve had with clients in the past.

This is a great place to tell stories about your own journey and about client successes.

Always ask your customers to rate what they buy. Whenever you get a compliment from a customer, if it would work as a testimonial, ask permission to use it. You can ask if the person has a headshot you can use.

You can create a “Testimonials” page but also put testimonials on sales pages and opt-in pages.

Here’s an example of a testimonial I received.




People feel safer when they take small steps, one at a time. You can rarely get people to go from not knowing you to paying you $2,000.

Lead people through small steps. There are several ways to do this — some are collapsed to a short period of time and others happen over a longer period.

For example, in a sales webinar, you can use “micro-commitments” to get people to agree to small statements, such as, “Do you have xyz problem?” You can ask them to put their answer in the chat. When people say yes several times throughout the webinar, they’re more likely to say yes to your offer at the end.

When people subscribe to get your free offer, you should send them a series of autoresponders. As you explain what you do, give them further free resources, and create a relationship, they’re more likely to buy from you. You can make an offer after a few emails and then repeat it later on. In this way, people are moved gradually to feeling that they trust you and that you have the expertise they need.

How could you put these ACTION steps together?

Here’s an example of a script you could use that puts all of the ACTION steps together.

Remember, this is your choice. I don’t do hard sells because I only want people in this program who have the Knowledge, time, and commitment to make it work. So the decision has to come from you.

Now, you can do nothing, of course. If that’s your decision, then your situation will stay the same or you’ll be on your own. How long have you been trying to get your Knowledge out to the world? Why are you still trying? So doing nothing means continuing in the same situation — is that OK with you?

This course isn’t for certain people. I help people create information products so if you’re a healer or consultant providing a service, then this course isn’t for you. It’s only for people who have Knowledge that they want to turn into information products that they can sell. Examples are e-books, online courses, workshops, etc.

I’m doing everything I can to reduce your risk. I do this by offering a 30-day test drive

Here’s what others have said about my training…

Does this sound like something you want? If so, wait for the follow-up emails and review the content again. Then, if you think you want to move forward, make that appointment to speak with me. Even then, there’s no obligation — I won’t pressure you. So the next step is a small one, reviewing what I said today. If you’re in a hurry, go ahead and make that appointment now!

Is that something you could do?online-business-ACTION-7

Do you give webinars? Do you want to start giving webinars? A sales webinar is one of the best places to use the ACTION system. Get my Webinar Planning Worksheet. It will help you get up and running easily.

Try it out and let me know the results in the comments! And please share this with other entrepreneurs — use the Sharing icons below.



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    4 replies to "The ACTION principles of persuasion"

    • Jennifer

      Hi Ellen,

      I love this article. It is a great example of the very lesson you are teaching. Very powerful. I am especially fond of your effective “non-pressure” style.

    • Ellen Finkelstein

      Thanks so much for your kind comment. The ACTION technique is powerful without being pushy.

    • Gilbert Mink

      I liked the way you put ACTION together in that little sales pitch. It’s not pressuring at all. Thank you for this.

    • Melinda

      I do have a hard time persuading people to buy from me. I will follow your example from now on..

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