Six Principles of Influence

Robert Cialdini is professor of Marketing and professor of Psychology at Arizona State University. In 1985, Cialdini published Influence, in which he identified six principles that all compliance professionals (by which he means anyone in sales, marketing or negotiation) use to persuade people. These six principles have stood the test of time and are identifiable in many campaigns.

1. Social Proof

There is a herd mentality in humanity. People flock to look at the same thing, they can’t help rubbernecking at a traffic jam, they form queues and they can be manipulated into staring into an empty sky if other people are already doing it. It means that if you get any traction at all, it’s easier to develop more.

2. Reciprocity

Good sales people make efforts to be owed a favour. Maybe this is buying the coffee or buying lunch, meeting in nice surroundings or making the effort to travel to where the mark is located. Anything to make it easier. If you do someone a favour, there is an implicit return favour. That can be used to drive a sale.

3. Consistency

Being committed to the process means being on time, being accurate, bringing with you the materials you need. There’s nothing more frustrating than dealing with a functionary who doesn’t know their job. A good sales person will know their limits and work to minimise them, while accentuating their strengths, They will never appear unready.

4. Likeability

There’s a reason that sales people tend to be well groomed, good looking and friendly. It’s easier to like attractive, friendly people and marks are more likely to buy from them or do as they ask. Research has shown that men lose a few % off their IQs when faced with someone they find attractive. This wass exploited by the sales industry long before we had the science.

5. Authority

Authority is a counterpart and companion too likability. If you’re not going to win at the Likeability score, try for authority. Appear to know more and dress to meet that expectation. A golden rule is to dress more smartly than the people you’re going to see. That doesn’t mean a suit every time – but even Steve Jobs wore a suit in Japan.

6. Scarcity

Scarcity, whether real or implied, makes people buy things right now. This is why DFS is always running a sofa sale. It’s why you need a call to action on your web page. Invoke some sense of urgency to make people buy. Maybe there’s a sale about to end? It’s your product, make it sell.

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