Persuasive conduct: Alignment and resistance in prospecting 'cold' calls

Social psychology has theorized the cognitive processes underlying persuasion, without considering its interactional infrastructure—the discursive actions through which persuasion is accomplished interactionally. Our article aims to fill this gap, by using discursive psychology and conversation analysis to examine 153 “cold” calls, in which salespeople seek to secure meetings with prospective clients. We identify two sets of communicative practices that comprise persuasive conduct: (1) pre-expanding the meeting request with accounts that secure the prospect’s alignment to this course of action without disclosing its end result and (2) minimizing the imposition of the meeting to reduce the prospect’s opportunities for refusal. We conclude that persuasive conduct consists in managing the recipiency of the meeting requests by promoting alignment and hampering resistance. Overall, this article contributes to the wider discursive psychological project of “respecifying” psychological phenomena such as attitudes, memory, and emotion from the realm of social cognition to the realm of social interaction.