Part of the
Kenno's Blog series.
By Ken Brown
Editor, You Can Learn Series
Updated: 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
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.
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
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
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
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
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"