As we continue to rush with increasing speed into social and new digital interactions with customers, clients, supply chain partners and other stakeholders in the success of our businesses, it may seem like change is the only constant. If it feels like that, perhaps you’ll be heartened to know that some things haven’t changed. And if you stick to these basics, you will continue to find success in your efforts to persuade and influence, no matter what newfangled media vehicles are encountered.
While these social influence principles have been documented and studied by many researchers and scientists for well over a half a century, Dr. Robert Cialdini is considered by many to be the leading authority of this subject, as documented in his famous book, Influence.
The idea is that you consider these influence mechanisms as levers that encourage responsive behavior. Clearly, these tactics would not be considered alternatives to creating useful and valuable services and products, but they can help you to sway opinions in your favor, all else being equal. So as you are engaging with business stakeholders, consider how each of these influence approaches might be used to increase your persuasion capabilities to help people to say ‘yes.’
There is a sense of obligation to give back when you’ve received from others. If you are the recipient of free calendars, post cards and address return labels, you are well aware of the nagging feeling of needing to make a donation to that worthy cause.
How it works: the basic idea is that you want to give something unexpectedly and be the first to do it. And it should feel personalized. Note that the way you give the gift can influence the size of the response. In a test, a waiter was able to increase his tip from 3% to 14% to 23% just by changing when and how free mints were given to the restaurant diner.
When there is a sense that there is less of something, people want more of it, even if nothing has changed except the perception that there will be less. Opportunities always seem more valuable when there are few. If you’ve been shopping online lately, have seen a product you are mildly interested in only has a couple more in stock, and you’ve felt a mild anxiety along with a pull to purchase, you’ve felt the effects of this principle at work.
How it works: Communicate limitations on availability. Tell people not only the benefits they will gain with your product or service, but also tell them what they will lose if they don’t use your product or service. Particularly with a service business or with a perishable product, there is a real opportunity to paint a picture of loss if a prospect waits too long or misses the opportunity.
People respond more deferentially to those they believe have greater authority in a given situation. By establishing credibility by communicating sources of authority, you will gain greater compliance with your ideas. A frequent occurrence of this when you see educational degrees and certifications on the wall behind someone you are communicating with, such as a doctor, attorney, etc.
How it works: Communicate your ‘credibility factors’ before you attempt to suggest a course of action, whether it be special training, education or years of experience. In an experiment, before a phone call was transferred by a receptionist to a property manager, she communicated the authority of the person she was transferring the caller to. This increased appointments by 20% and closes by 15%. Not so bad just for a change in introduction.
We all want to be consistent with our previous decisions, whether to show we are not wafflers or even just because it is easier not to rethink things again. And, if our first choice was voluntary, or we make a public commitment to that decision, we will be even more consistent with that choice.
How it works: By getting small agreements or commitments, particularly if made in public or in writing, this moves people toward larger decisions. This principle was tested by asking residents to put small placards in their windows before putting signs in their yards, which increased that latter action by over 400% as compared to just asking residents to put signs in their yards.
People like to say ‘yes’ to people they like. And we tend to like people who seem most like us. So making clear your similarities with those you are seeking to influence before making a request is the most effective approach.
How it works: By finding areas of commonality before negotiating, or by having frequent, consistent exchanges in advance of any negotiation, you will increase your odds of success. In a test of this principle, only 55% of MBA students reached a successful negotiated outcome without finding commonalities first, whereas 90% who took time to do this were able to achieve success.
Anyone who has been influenced by a testimonial or by a review has experienced this persuasion principle. We look to the behavior of others as a guide to our own choices and decisions. This is particularly effective when there is a perceived similarity between you and the ‘many others.’ Social proof is a very powerful influencer.
How it works: By pointing out the similarity between the person you seek to persuade and referenced others, you will increase your odds of persuasion. Case studies, portfolios, testimonials by people ‘just like you’ and reviews by other purchasers should all be used as appropriate.
Spending just a little time thinking about your business and how you might position your product or service more positively using these principles will be well worth your time.
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