Title: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
Author: Robert B. Cialdini. Per his bio, “Dr. Robert Cialdini has spent his entire career conducting scientific research on what leads people to say ‘Yes’ to requests.”
My opinion of this book: This is a classic book on persuasion and marketing. It’s hard to read any book on those subjects that came afterward that doesn’t reference this book or its principles. The ideas in this book changed the way I see the world and I probably use some principles from it every day. It’s that good. This book won’t make you a master marketer or persuader but it will lay a foundation for understanding those areas more clearly and quickly. This is an accessible book and I think anyone interested in the human condition will find it interesting, at the very least.
Should You Read This Book?
If you have these challenges:
You need to persuade.
You are tired of being persuaded into things and want to understand why that keeps happening and how to stop it.
… then it might help you:
understand six time-tested principles and how they work so that you can use them and better defend yourself against them.
But you might not want to read it if:
you have no interest in how humans work or how people are influenced. Even if you’ve read other books on the subject, I’d encourage you to read this one.
What I Got Out Of This Book
Cialdini describes six methods of persuasion: reciprocity, liking, authority, social proof, scarcity, and consistency. Not only does it help you persuade others but helps you be more alert to the persuasive tactics of others. Once you learn them it’s hard not to see them being used everywhere in marketing and sales.
This book has been reviewed to death on a million blogs and articles before me, so instead of rehashing the book, I’ll give some examples of it’s worked for me and on me.
I sell wall calendars. One of my sales channels is apartment communities that buy them in bulk and use them as move-in gifts. I used to call them and email them links to my website so they could see it. Once I started offering a free calendar for them to examine and keep, I started getting more sales. There’s something in our nature that feels obligated to return favors. For those that asked for a freebie I made more sales.
It’s in our nature to look around and see what others are doing and then do it too. Often mindlessly. My main customers are grocery stores. In the first year I couldn’t get the attention of bigger stores. I started with small local ones that weren’t the easiest sell, either. The next year I got a small local chain of grocery stores. I was able to show that to a slightly bigger chain and then they took me on. Eventually I got Costco to buy from me. Now, assuming I can find the buyer, I can just name-drop Costco, HEB, Randalls and the doors open far easier. The mere fact that their competitors carry my product gives me credibility.
“Hi Sarah, I hope you’re well. How did the calendars go over with your clients last year? Last year you bought 200, would you like to do the same again this year? I’m able to keep the price the same again”.
Humans prefer consistency because the don’t have to spend time thinking. In this email example I’ve said “same again” (purposely redundant emphasis of consistency) twice. Assuming all went well for them, I’m making this an easy no-brainer for them.
(Followup to a previous customer that has not returned my emails) “Hi Carlos, I hope you’re well. We’re down to our last 500 calendars. They’ve been moving faster than I expected. Since you’ve purchased them the last two years I wanted to make sure you were aware and saw my previous email…”
This example uses both scarcity (last 500!) and throws in some consistency (you’ve purchased them the last two years) for good measure.
This isn’t just about being “in charge”, though that certainly helps get people to do things for you. It’s also when people yield to the experts: “For over 15 years we’ve been trusted my hundreds of thousands of Austinites to deliver the names and dates of Austin’s biggest and best events so you won’t miss out”.
This one is simple, but probably more powerful than people realize: we do things for people they like. One discovery I’ve made is that people love flattery – even when they know it is flattery. This is the guiding ethos of the newsletter I write for the Austin Events wall calendar. A curious and attractive person such as yourself won’t want to miss out on the next one, so sign up here!
Important Note: Be Honest
We’ve all seen marketing that is obnoxiously abusive about these principles of influence and often outright lie. Be careful to use these “powers” only for good.
I don’t lie in these emails. I ask myself “what can I emphasise that is persuasive?” If I’m down to 500 calendars to sell then I tell them that because I know that helps get them to move. I’m not just going to make that up to get them to buy. (I also don’t want them coming to me later disappointed that I have none left).