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How to Influence Buyers and Win Friends

How to Influence Buyers and Win Friends

One of my favourite books on selling is Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. It may sound like a theoretical text book but, trust me, it’s a great read.

In his book, available through Amazon, CLICK HERE Cialdini gives example after example of crafty ploys people get us to act the way they want us to.

In one experiment he sets up a queue for the photocopier in a large office. The company  had a photocopier on each floor that were all pretty busy so he shut all but one down to ensure there was a big queue of people needing photocopies.

The first man who saw the queue simply asked if he could jump the queue and was quickly consigned to the back.

The second man said he needed to go the front because he needed to make some copies for the boss. Not surprisingly he was allowed to the front of the queue.

Then a third person tried to jump the queue by saying “Can I go next because I need to make a photocopy.” To his and the researchers surprize he was allowed to do so.

The moral of the story is to give people a reason. I’ve seen this work myself. A few years back when every car over 3 years old needed a regular top up of oil most people kept cans of motor oil in their garage.  A garage owner I knew got a job lot of very cheap motor oil so he was able to put them on his forecourt at a very attractive price. Sales were very slow until a shrewd friend of his told him to whack each can with a hammer and show the same price with an additional “Damaged Cans – Special Price”. The stock cleared in 3 days. The customers thought that the cheap oil must be substandard but once a reason for the great price was given they couldn’t get enough.

If you haven’t read the book, I urge you to get a copy it’s a very easy and interesting read and the Kindle version is only a fiver.

The book lays out in detail the 6 major influences every marketer should be aware of:

1.    Reciprocity – People tend to return a favour, which is why free samples are used so much. Charities mail free Christmas cards that people can then send to their friends in the hope of a donation – this must work as many charities do it year after year.

2.    Commitment and Consistency – You will stand a better chance of reaching your goals if you commit, orally, or in writing, to that goal. If only we could get a prospect to write down what they will spend the money that they will make using a product or service I’m sure responses would soar.

3.    Social Proof – People will do things that they see other people are doing. For example, in one experiment, one or more confederates would look up into the sky; bystanders would then look up into the sky to see what they were seeing. At one point this experiment aborted, as so many people were looking up that they stopped traffic. Testimonials in promotions are also a form of social proof.

4.    Authority - People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts. Cialdini gives incidents such as the Milgram experiments in the early 1960s. Here volunteers were asked to give ever increasing strengths of electric shocks to other volunteers who pretended to scream in pain after each pretend shock. Because the first volunteers were told by a doctor that is was OK to continue, despite evidence to the contrary, most complied. While I wouldn’t recommend a celebrity gave electric shocks to your prospects the use of a celebrity falls under this heading. I have seen celebrity endorsements work really well and health mailers tend to feature people in white coats that the readers will assume are doctors.

5.    Liking – People are easily persuaded by other people that they like. Cialdini gives the example of Tupperware in what might now be called viral marketing. People were more likely to buy if they liked the person selling it to them. The best tele-sales staff are the ones who are most easily liked. The waiters who get the biggest tips are also those who are able to have an instant rapport with the dinners.

6.    Scarcity – Perceived scarcity will always generate demand. This is something we use a lot in direct marketing – only 7 left – the price goes up in 2 days’ time, etc.

Enjoy the book, I’m sure it will give you bags of ideas.

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