Request / Sell

Communications intended to request, persuade, and sell are somewhat related, and requests and sales can be thought of as “flanking” communications to persuade. Requests usually focus more on the actual action needed and less on audience benefits.  Persuasive messages focus more equally on action (measurable gain) and audience benefits.  While sales messages may focus on audience benefits, they often employ additional techniques to enhance audience acceptance and action.

Request, Persuade, Sell



Requests are common professional communications, whether you are requesting information, a meeting, funding for that meeting, a recommendation, a raise, or something else related to your job, your role as a customer, or any other situation. Most requests use a direct approach, unless the request needs to move into persuasion (e.g., a request to fund a new conference).  Requests are often shorter than persuasive messages, and often require less development of desire and evidence, although some of the strategies for creating requests and persuasive messages are similar.

In creating a request, remember the following:

  • Use a direct approach in most requests, unless an indirect approach such as the AIDEA approach is needed, given your purpose, role, audience, context, and other communications variables related to the request.
  • Always use polite wording and tone.  Even though you offer your main idea early in the communication when you are using a direct approach, wording such as “please” or “would you consider” is always appropriate.  No matter what the communication situation is, you will get better results if you do not sound as though you are making demands.
  • As appropriate, briefly compliment your audience or make a positive statement at the start of the request, but only if you are sincere about the support.  Insincerity and/or over-complimenting may make your audience suspicious instead of supportive.
  • Provide all necessary details.  For example, if you’re requesting a recommendation for a new job, let your audience know the online address to access, the details of the job or the link to the job posting, the deadline for receipt of recommendations, and even appropriate the dates you’ve worked with the recommender, if you’re asking a colleague with whom you’ve worked in the past.  If you’re requesting a refund for something you’ve purchased, let your audience know in detail how the computer is not working, or why that batch of flour is bad. Strive for succinct yet specific details.  Your goal is to cut down on your audience’s questions and help them move directly to considering and responding to your request.
  • Maintain focus on your request; don’t veer into other issues or requests, which will tend to derail attention from the thing that you want to accomplish.

Watched this short video on making a Persuasive Request. LinkedIn Learning – Persuasive Request (video 2:30)


Six Sales Principles

What is the best way to succeed in a sales communication? There is no one “correct” answer, but many experts have studied sales and observed what works and what doesn’t. Social psychologist Robert Cialdini[1] offers us six principles that are powerful and effective when used in any sales communication; however, these come with an important caveat, which is the need for ethical communication in sales.

  1. Reciprocity. Reciprocity is the mutual expectation for exchange of value or service. In all cultures, when one person gives something, the receiver is expected to reciprocate, even if only by saying “thank you.”  In business this principle has several applications. If you are in customer service and go out of your way to meet the customer’s need, you are appealing to the principle of reciprocity with the knowledge that all humans perceive the need to reciprocate—in this case, by increasing the likelihood of making a purchase from you because you were especially helpful. Reciprocity builds trust and the relationship develops, reinforcing everything from personal to brand loyalty.
  2. Scarcity. You want what you can’t have, and it’s universal. People are naturally attracted to the exclusive, the rare, the unusual, and the unique. Scarcity is the perception of inadequate supply or a limited resource. By reminding customers not only of what they stand to gain but also of what they stand to lose, the representative increases the chances that the customer will make the shift from contemplation to action and decide to close the sale.
  3. Authority. Trust is central to the purchase decision. To whom does a customer turn? A salesperson may be part of the process, but an endorsement by an authority holds credibility. Knowledge of a product, field, trends in the field, and even research can make a salesperson more effective by the appeal to the principle of authority. The principal of authority involves referencing experts and expertise.
  4. Commitment and Consistency. Oral communication can be slippery in memory. What we said at one moment or another, unless recorded, can be hard to recall. If we write it down, or if we sign something, we are more likely to follow through. By extension, even if the customer won’t be writing anything down, if you write in any format, and/or follow up a spoken communication with writing, it can appeal to the principle of commitment and consistency and bring the social norm of honoring one’s word to bear at the moment of purchase.
  5. Consensus. Testimonials, or first person reports on experience with a product or service, can be highly persuasive. People often look to each other when making a purchase decision, and the herd mentality is a powerful force across humanity. Including testimonials from clients applies the principle of consensus.
  6. Liking. Safety is the twin of trust as a foundation element for effective communication. If we feel safe, we are more likely to interact and communicate. The principle of liking involves the perception of safety and belonging in a communication situation.

Sales Message Strategies

  1. Start with your greatest benefit. Use it in the headline, subject line, attention statement, or caption. Audiences tend to remember the information from the beginning and end of a message, but have less recall about the middle points. Make your first step count by highlighting the best feature first.
  2. Take baby steps. One thing at a time. Promote, inform, and persuade on one product or service at a time. You want to hear “yes” and make the associated sale, and if you confuse the audience with too much information, too many options, steps to consider, or related products or service, you are more likely to hear “no” as a defensive response as the buyer tries not to make a mistake. Avoid confusion and keep it simple.
  3. Know your audience. The more background research you can do on your buyer, the better you can anticipate their specific wants and needs and individualize your sales message to meet them, ethically applying the six principles of sales communications.
  4. Lead with emotion, follow with reason. Gain the audience’s attention with drama, humor, or novelty and follow with specific facts that establish your credibility, provide more information about the product or service, and lead to your call to action to make the sale.

[1] Cialdini, R. (1993). Influence. New York, NY: Quill.