“The best way to persuade people is with your ears – by listening to them.”  – Dean Rusk

Two businessmen, Mr. Wants and Mr. Needs, are competing for the same investment dollars of a potential investor. We’ll call her Mrs. Angel.

Mr. Wants has a Monday morning meeting with Mrs. Angel, and he pitches his project. Mrs. Angel says it sounds interesting, but she’ll need to think it over. “I never make investment decisions on impulse,” she tells him.

The following day, Mrs. Angel meets with Mr. Needs. This time, she writes a check for thousands of dollars.

This is a true story. It actually happened to me. (I was “Mr. Needs.”)

The intriguing part of the story is that Mrs. Angel left that meeting feeling very satisfied. From her perspective, “she” was the one responsible for getting that deal closed on the spot. And she felt that way because I had used a very potent persuasion technique with her.

I didn’t start out by showing Mrs. Angel the new investment opportunity and trying to convince her to “want” it enough to buy in. Instead, I made her feel that she “needed” it.

I showed her how much some previous investors had earned on a similar investment. Since the results were very impressive, Mrs. Angel wanted to know what it would cost for her to get in on the deal. I told her that, unfortunately, it was no longer possible to invest in it. And that was absolutely true.

Naturally, Mrs. Angel was disappointed. But then I went on to explain that although that particular deal was no longer available, there was a new one. And because she couldn’t have the first one, she felt the need to instantly close a deal on this similar investment opportunity.

The technique I used on Mrs. Angel is called “Scarcity Deprivation,” a very powerful persuasion secret that allows you to influence people to take the actions you want them to take by stirring their natural survival instincts.

What does persuasion have to do with survival instincts? Let me explain.

Though we’ve come a long way from our “caveman” days, there’s still something in our DNA that makes us react on a subconscious level whenever we think there’s a scarcity of … well, just about anything. We have an overwhelming desire to have it.

Think about it. In prehistoric times, getting enough food was a daily struggle. There was always a limited amount to eat. Those who had the strongest drive to get a share of whatever was available – even if that meant someone else might die of starvation – were the ones who survived. And the powerful instincts of those survivors were passed down from generation to generation.

Getting enough food to eat is no longer a daily struggle – but we still have the instincts that helped our ancestors survive. The way we react to the fear of scarcity and deprivation is one of them.

An interesting study done by researchers in Virginia demonstrates how strong our desire is to have something that we think we might be deprived of.

A group of young children were told that they could go into the next room and play with any toy they wished. When the children went into the room, several toys were readily available – but one toy was sealed in a Plexiglas cube. Over 95% of the children ignored the readily available toys and made sustained efforts to get their hands on the one toy they couldn’t have.

Why do you think trendy nightclubs and restaurants keep people waiting outside in lines … though there may be plenty of room in the bar? Not only to make those people even more eager to get in, but also to make that club or restaurant seem very exclusive and, therefore, more desirable to passersby. (“If only a select few can get in … I want to be one of those people!”)

Copywriters call this technique “The Velvet Cord,” referring to the rope that holds back the anxious people who are waiting in line. But whether you call it “The Velvet Cord” or “Scarcity Deprivation,” this technique is highly effective for selling anything – products, services, and ideas.

According to Don Crowther of 101PublicRelations.com: “True scarcity, properly marketed, incites action. It creates lines (literal door-crashers), thousands of people pounding Web servers to buy before the first-come first-served sale ends, and, most importantly, the ability to charge a higher fee than those who don’t use this tactic.”

And Kim T. Gordon writes in Entrepreneur Magazine: “Scarcity and exclusivity drive demand. They make us long for what seems hardest to possess, and we’ll move mountains – and spend fortunes – to acquire the objects of our desire.”

Thomas Keller, chef/owner of The French Laundry in Yountville, CA, employs this strategy so effectively that he has a two-month waiting list for his restaurant. He could easily expand so he could serve more diners – but by keeping his limited-table strategy, customers literally boast to their friends when they have a reservation.

Whether you want to secure an investor, sell your product or service, find a better job, negotiate a raise, or simply influence friends and family to take actions that you think will benefit them, you have to know how to persuade people to accept your point of view. The technique I described today is just one of many for doing so.

Keep in mind that people are complicated creatures, filled with deeply embedded instincts as well as learned behaviors. As I said in Message #1458, the more you understand about what makes them “tick” – and how to capitalize on those insights – the closer you’ll be to mastering the art of persuasion.

[Ed. Note: Larry Fredericks is an entrepreneur with a history of successful business dealings in retail, direct mail, the Internet, and real estate. In addition, he is a nationally published author and speaker – and has recently released his “Master the Art of Persuasion” program.]