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Using Policy to Persuade


Techniques General persuasion > More methods > Using Policy to Persuade

What is policy? | Selling | Buying | Service interactions | See also


Policy is a lever that can be powerful in buying, selling and other persuasive situations.

What is policy?

Policy is a set of over-arching rules that are intended to guide and direct what people do. To be understood and remembered, they are often (or should be) brief and clearly stated.

Policy can often be quite specific, for example a retail policy that limits returns to 30 days. On a company website it may may be found under other names such as 'Customer charter', 'Our Values' and so on.


When selling, you can use policy as a limit beyond which you cannot go. This allows you to say 'no' in a final way that brooks no argument. Rather than saying 'I don't want to do that' you can say 'It's against policy'.

You can also offer to break policy to help customers, for example saying 'It's against policy, but I'm going to do this for you.' This creates delight in customers who realize you are 'going above and beyond' to help them. It also causes obligation for them to do something in return (like buy more).


When you are going to buy something, it can be helpful to look first at the company's policies that affect you. These include policies around customer satisfaction, such as 'We aim to delight all our customers' to price promises and guarantees of product quality ('We sell only the best'). Also read carefully harder policies such as those about returning goods and general service.

Now when you are buying, bring up those policies. If you are not happy, ask about their policy about customer satisfaction. If you have found the product cheaper elsewhere (including on the web) bring up their price promise. 'I am not happy with this' can be a surprisingly powerful phrase that sends customer agents scurrying to make you happy, as their policy demands.

You can even talk policy if you do not know if they have one, by using common sense comments, such as 'Is it your policy to advertise goods that are not in stock?' This question of 'is it your policy to...' can be used in a host of settings.

You can also ask about policy in the positive sense, such as 'Is it your policy to try to satisfy customers?' of course they reply 'yes' and then you can say what it will take to satisfy you.

Service interactions

Invoking policy when taking to people on the phone can be especially powerful, particularly when they seem not to care too much about helping you (in fact they may invoke policies about things they are not allowed to do).

You can use much of the approach for buying in the service context and the 'Is it your policy...' phrasing can be very successful.

Bringing up policy can seem quite threatening, so it can be better to use this method if they do not offer the help that you need after initial repeating requests.

See also

Sales, Negotiation


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