At some point in your life, you’ve probably felt manipulated by a salesman and wondered how the hell that happened. Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Power of Persuasion will tell you how that happened.
It’s worth reading on that basis, alone, but if you’re running a business, you should read it because it lays out the scientific basis for all the scammy tricks marketers have been using for decades.
“But wait,” I hear you saying, “I don’t want to be a scammy marketer.”
Good for you. Neither do I. The information Cialdini presents is a set of tools. Whether you use it for something scammy or not depends more on your relationship with your customer or client than it does with the tools you use. The scammers used those tools to sell my mother a salad slicer into which you can fit one radish and half a carrot. You can use those same tools to sell someone something that will truly make their lives better.
If you want to sell something without being a scammer, read the book.
What you’ll find is a discussion of six principles.
- Social Proof
You’ve seen these at work. If you’ve ever received return-address labels from a charity with a donation request or downloaded a free e-book that includes a link to buy another book, you’ve seen reciprocity in action.
If you’ve ever had a salesman or politician say they like the same baseball team or the college you attended, that’s consistency.
If you’ve glanced at the number of reviews something has before buying it online, you’ve looked for social proof.
If you’ve bought Girl Scout cookies from the daughter of a co-worker instead of some random scout that comes to your door, that’s liking.
Would you rather hire a plumber with ten years’ experience or someone with ten days’ experience? That’s authority.
All those infomercials that put a countdown clock on the screen and beg you to call now are using the scarcity principle.
Here’s a nice, quick-to-read interview that introduces the concepts in a little bit more depth than I have room to do here.
The downside of Influence is the downside of a lot of authoritative books—it’s written from an academic bent, so it reads like a textbook. Cialdini strikes me as one of those writers who has been trained from a relatively early age not to use five words when fifteen would do.
Read it anyway. Think about the concepts. Don’t adopt his writing style.
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