At the World Travel, Inc. Client Advisory Board meeting in January, our Board Members discussed strategies for how to get C-Suite buy-in and Executive-level sponsorship. Guest speaker Frank Hoffman from Hoffman & Associates, LLC gave a presentation reviewing the popular article by Robert B. Cialdini published in 2001, “Harnessing the Science of Persuasion.”

While most believe that persuasion is more art than science, Cialdini posits that there is an exact science to persuasion. He bases this on a series of basic ideas he calls Universal Principles

Universal Principles


People want to be liked, and they want to like people. Try establishing personal relationships based on similarities. And remember that praise is one of the must unrecognized management tools.


Remember the Golden Rule? Be proactive and give what you want to receive. It works for a smile; it’ll work for bigger things too.

Social Proof

Humans are social creatures, and science has already proven that we’ll follow the pack. If someone takes the lead, the rest of us often follow.


People align themselves with their public commitments, so know what interests them and what they’re invested in. Then, they can be better persuaded if you correlate your argument with their commitment. For example, if an executive has shared a primary goal with their departments, show them how your initiative supports that goal.


People defer to experts, in general. So make a case grounded in facts asserted and proven by a recognized expert. Just keep in mind what your Executive considers an “expert.”


It applies outside of economics. People want what is in demand (Adele tickets, Hatchimals, consistent ROI), and they don’t want to give up something they already have.

Cialdini also discusses and identifies four basic behavioral quadrants, built on the intersection of an x-axis of assertiveness and a y-axis of responsiveness. On the far left, you have the people who ask, on the far right, the people that tell. Above, you have the people-focused people, while below you have the task-focused people. This creates the Analytic, the Driver, the Amiable, and the Expressive behavioral types.

Four Behavioral Types

You won’t get anywhere with an Executive if you don’t do your research, first. Consider the person’s pace, priorities, irritations, and what kind of pitch they’ll be most responsive to. Then present based on what you know about them – not what you think is best.

There is no recipe for achieving buy-in, but considering your target audience will certainly help.

The Four Behavioral Types

Working successful with AMIABLES:

  • Show appreciation of their work.
  • Give feedback often.
  • Give them time to process information before expecting an answer.
  • Don’t be aggressive or demanding.
  • Give them security.
  • Always be aware of the personal relationship.
  • Approach conflict with caution.
  • Provide them assurance and guarantees when possible.
  • Inform them ahead of time of the meeting agenda or when they may be called upon to speak so they can prepare.
  • Sincerely ask about them as people – their families, hobbies and so on.

Working successfully with EXPRESSIVES:

  • Take time to socialize.
  • Give them recognition and feedback.
  • Don’t talk details.
  • Move quickly.
  • Ask for their opinions.
  • Respond to their emotional needs.
  • Talk about incentives.
  • Support the relationship.
  • Allow time for fun.
  • Link goals to people.
  • Ask about their lives outside of work.

Working successfully ANALYTICS

  • Give them time to make decisions or defend a position.
  • Support their needs for orderliness.
  • Understand their needs for orderliness.
  • Don’t initiate or encourage emotional conflict.
  • Don’t tell them their work is wrong.
  • Understand their needs for privacy and to work alone.
  • Empathize and assist them in socializing endeavors in groups.
  • Ask them questions since they may not volunteer.
  • Limit your socializing or small talk.
  • Recognize that it takes time to build a personal relationship with them.

Working successfully with DRIVERS

  • Be clear and to the point when communicating.
  • Provide them with options.
  • Never say, “You have to do this.”
  • Be organized.
  • Don’t waste time.
  • Limit small talk.
  • Present facts logically.
  • Talk about facts, not people.
  • Provide statistics regarding options.
  • Ask for their opinion.
  • Be assertive; learn to manage conflict.
Image via Unsplash via Olu Eletu
Chesley Turner

Written by Chesley Turner