The Book,

Influence, How and Why People Agree to Things.

Part of the Kenno's Blog series.
By Ken Brown
Editor, You Can Learn Series
October 20, 2007

If you are looking to increase sales or succeed more often in bringing people to your way of thinking I would recommend you read, Influence, How and Why People Agree to Things. This book is by Robert B. Cialdini, PHD and was copyrighted in 1984. Yes, the book is over 20 years old, and yet the information, methods and techniques are still valid and useful today.

If you feel like others constantly take advantage of you, but you don't know why then check out this book. You will learn the tricks of the master salespeople and manipulators. Dr. Cialdini will educate you on how to "fight back" against the master manipulators. You will then be "in control".

The author breaks the book down into 6 major lessons he calls the Weapons of Influence.
  • Reciprocation: The old give and take... and take.
  • Commitment and Consistency: Hobgoblins of the mind.
  • Social Proof: Truths are Us.
  • Liking: The Friendly Thief.
  • Authority: Directed Deference.
  • Scarcity: The Rule of the Few
The Theory of Reciprocation is simple to explain. You are involved in a transaction. The salesperson gives you something of value. Then you feel obligated to this person to "reciprocate." This reciprocation will normally take the form of you feeling obligated to buy the salesperson's product.

You can see this technique at conventions when the salespeople hand you something for free. Once you take it, now all of a sudden you feel you "have to talk with them." You know in your mind you don't want to talk with them, but now you are obligated. In extreme cases your obligation to the salesperson is so strong you actually purchase an item from them. The author explains how we have been trained by society to automatically "reciprocate" when someone gives us something.

Commitment and Consistency is using the knowledge that most people will stay consistent to what they say. Salespeople use this natural human emotion against you. They have you make a statement and then later use that statement as proof you want (need) their product.

Dr Cialdini does a great job in explaining how the Chinese used this technique on prisoners of war. The prisoners appeared to be turning against their own country. They really were just being manipulated by their captors. The book is a great read for this chapter alone.

The Theory of Social Proof can be used when you are in an ambiguous situation. You aren't quite sure what to do so you look to others to see what they are doing. The doctor ran experiments where people acted sick and injured on busy sidewalks. What would other people do? What would they do if they were by themselves? Did their reaction change if multiple people were around? You will find interesting results from this experiment.

The chapter on the Liking Theory begins by the author stating how many of the tools of influence are used at Tupperware Parties. Then he continues by explaining how people are influenced everyday by people we "like." Has a salesperson ever said to you, "Your friend, Bill, told me to call you, because he thought you would be interested in this also." You can replace friend with neighbor, coworker, or relative. When salespeople use this technique they are using the liking principle. There are many other methods in this chapter on the use of sex and good looking people to manipulate you.

The Authority Theory is used all the time by product manufacturers and advertisers. When we see a doctor wearing a lab coat our emotional compliance buttons are being pushed. When a police officer in uniform tells us to use "The Club" to prevent car thefts, we are being influenced. Even when our favorite sports star hawks basketball shoes, the authority technique helps increase sales.

The interesting point about this theory is people are influenced even when the doctor selling the goods on TV isn't even a real doctor. If the doctor is just an actor that plays a doctor on TV, that is enough to manipulate us into believing what the doctor is telling us.

Have you ever heard a commercial on the radio from an electronics store like Tweeter, Best Buy or Home Electronics? They say, "get your Plasma TV at this incredible price while supplies last." This is the Scarcity Principle in action. You better hurry in and buy or there won't be any plasma televisions available.

This is a great book and a good read. Dr Robert Cialdini has salted each chapter with interesting stories and laboratory tests proving how the techniques work and why. If you want to "influence" others then take the time to read, Influence: How and why people agree to things"

Success is Achieved by doing the fundamentals - Are you happy with the results. Did we get the number of visitors we wished for? Did our visitors click on revenue producing links and ads? Were our page views up for the year or down? Did users visit more than one page? Did they make it to the order form and then abandon or did they continue and purchase our products?

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