Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

51rZPhIJD6LRate: *****

Read:  Cover to Cover (Many Times)

Categories: Business, Marketing, Selling, Best Seller

We all say “yes” to people we know all the time.    “Hey, could you do me a favor…” .  Just today, I had a call from a friend of mine in Australia.  He wanted to send some beer (ha! Ozzies – typical) to some guys in Vancouver, Canada who had done him a favor and he was having trouble finding a source that could do it (try googling “beer/Canada”).   He started out by outlining his dilemma –  the great favor his mates in Canada had done for him and that he wanted to thank them with a cold one.  I’m guessing this is a guy thing.  Me, I’m more the chocolate giver – my gift stays on the hips as a reminder.  Nevertheless, I could help him because I have low friends in high places there, so before you could say Labatts, I offered to get the beer to the hard working Canadian lads.  But now, I would have to call in a favor.

So what makes us say “yes”?  Why did I offer to go out of my way to help, when I easily could have kept my mouth shout and just sympathized?  I do that all the time.  Not the shout my mouth part – the sympathize but do nothing part.  For most of us, being persuaded by people we know is an everyday occurrence. Kids do it to us, friends do it to us, spouses do it to us, heck – have you looked at how your dog manipulates you and he can’t even use words.

We all “get” doing and receiving favors on a personal level, but the more interesting thing is, as we run our businesses, we are the ones trying to manipulate or persuade strangers/clients/customers/readers to say yes to us all the time.  Yes, means ca-ching.  Yes, means beans on the table.  Whether you have a small business selling goods or a blogger selling personal views or a web company selling subscriptions, we all need to find the techniques to make total strangers say “yes”.  So, what are the factors that make one person say yes to another person?  And are there techniques that we can use to bring about compliance?

It turns out, Dr. Cialdini, a distinguished researcher and professor outlines six universal principles and how to use them to become a skilled persuader.  Yippee.  Yes.  Count me in.  He admits to his own sucker status for being a patsy for peddlers, fund-raisers, pitches and magazine subscriptions, and implies that it may be the reason for his interest in the study of compliance.   He wants to know why a request stated in a certain way will be rejected, while a request that asks for the same favor in a slightly different fashion is successful.

His book is organized around six principles: consistency, reciprocation, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity.  He uses examples from his observations and studies that are interesting and relatable.  For example, if you were a billiards-table dealer, which would you advertise – the $329 model or the $3000 model? Chances are, like me, you would have said promote the lower-priced item and hope to trade the customer up when he comes to buy.  Well, chances are we’d have a lot of inventory.  Cialdini explains the aspects of the larger-then-smaller sequence occurs in the practice of “talking the top of the line”.  If you show someone the top of the of line and they buy, very nice.  If they don’t buy, the salesman effectively counter offers with a a more reasonably priced model.  We see this technique on the web all the time.  Think about how many times you’ve gone to a website and the price list is in three columns: One cheap, the second highlighted is mid-priced and the third is the Pro, Executive or Corporate fee. The original price is in the middle – that’s the one they wanted to sell you in the first place.  But without the other choices, we might not have recognized the value.  We know we don’t need “Pro” (typically a lot of fluff) and we always see our businesses as more than “Basic” – after all we are on the road to success.  So what do we see?  Just like in the Three Bears story, the perfect fit in the middle – not too big, not too small – just perfect.

As for my beer run, my friend just sent me a text that said, “Sure. No problem. Does it have to be cold?”

My Takeaway

This book sits very near my desk and is dog-eared and smeared with yellow highlighter on almost every page.  Every time I need to write a tag line or copy, I flip through to find the section I need to be persuasive.  I like brain science and I like psychology.  We have so many experts these days that are saying things that frankly, I think they just make up.  Dr. Cialdini is on my people bucket list of folks I’d like to meet.

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