Let’s assume you’ve come up with a fantastic idea for a new product. How are you convincing others to say yes? Do you have compelling convincing skills for your client focus?
But there is a catch. You haven’t had much success with this in the past. So, how can you get everyone to support your idea?
Influencing others is challenging, which is why it’s worth understanding the psychological principles behind the influencing process.
This is where it’s useful to know about Robert Cialdini’s Principles of persuasion.
Persuasiveness is one of the most important skills anyone can learn because it is useful in countless situations. At work, at home, and in your social life, the ability to be persuasive and influence others can be instrumental in achieving goals and being happy.
Learning about the tricks of persuasion can also give you insight into when they’re being used on you. The biggest benefit of this is that money will stay in your pockets as you realize just how sales people and advertisers sell you products that you don’t necessarily need.
In this article, we’ll examine these principles, and we’ll look at how you can apply them to influence others. We’ll also think about the ethics of doing this, and we’ll explore how you can “see through” people who try to use these principles to manipulate you.
Shane Parrish of Farnam Street reads a lot of books—up to 14 each month—so it means something when he picks Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion as one of the most important books he’s read. In the book, Cialdini outlines six principles of persuasion, most of which will likely sound a bit familiar based on our previous discussion on psychology.
One of the common threads from Cialdini’s list is that of social. The principles of liking, authority, and social proof all deal with relationships with others: We are persuaded by those we like, by those whom we deem to be authority figures, and by the general population.
Here are a few unique applications of these, as told by Cialdini and Parrish:
Client focus … liking
One way people exploit this is to find ways to make themselves like you. Do you like golf? Me too. Do you like football? Me too. Although often these are genuine, sometimes they’re not.
Liking is similar enough to the consistency that it bears pointing out the difference here. Someone might say, “Do you like having more visitors to your blog?” They aren’t necessarily looking for a connection with you (as in Liking) but rather they’re seeking Consistency. Of course you’ll say yes, and in theory, you’ll have a harder time backing off that statement when you are pitched a product or service later.
Client focus examples … authority
Something as simple as informing your audience of your credentials before you speak, for example, increases the odds you will persuade the audience.
Noah Kagan does this for the each guest post he publishes at OK Dork. He writes a quick intro on how he made the connection with the guest writer and all the amazing credentials the guest writer has.
Here you can use both your authority and the authority of others, as influencers.
When you use your authority, be careful not to use it negatively. An article on French and Raven’s Five Forms of Power has more on different sources of power and explains how you can use power and authority positively.
To use authority, get support from influential and powerful people, and ask for their help in backing the idea. (Use Influence Maps to help you network with people who can help.)
If you’re marketing a product or service, highlight well-known and respected customers, use comments from industry experts, and talk about impressive research or statistics.
Client focus skills … social proof
People will more likely say yes when they see other people doing it too. Social proof is not all bad. It’s one of the main ways we learn in life.
Basecamp has a great example of social proof on their website, showing the wide variety of respected clients that use the product—and doing so in a fun, approachable way.
Two others that are worth pointing out are consistency and scarcity.
Personally, consistency is the one I find myself most susceptible. I identify with how Parrish describes the effect: “If you ask people to state their priorities and goals and then align your proposals with that in mind, you make it harder for people to say no.” This concept hit home for me.
Parrish connects this to the Ikea effect, the way you love your IKEA furniture because you’re invested in it from building it yourself.
As for scarcity, Visual Website Optimizer wrote an extensive post on all the different ways you can use scarcity to increase e-commerce sales. Have you noticed that Amazon tells people there are only a certain number of products left? That’s scarcity at play.
Client focus … persuasion applications
You can use these principles whenever you want to influence or persuade others.
First, make sure that you understand the people in your audience and that you know why you want to influence them. Think about your ultimate objectives, and decide which principles will be most useful in your situation.
Let’s explore some strategies you can use with each principle.
To use reciprocity to influence others, you’ll need to identify your objectives and think about what you want from the other person. You then need to identify what you can give to them in return.
Our article on the Influence Model takes an in-depth look at how to use reciprocity to gain influence.
Remember that you can sometimes use this principle by simply reminding the other person of how you have helped them in the past.
Here, try to get people’s commitment early on, either verbally or in writing.
For example, if you’re building support for a project, talk about ideas early on with stakeholders, and take their comments and views into account.
Or, if you’re selling a product, sell a very small quantity (a “taster”), or make it easy for people to change their mind once they’ve bought it. (Here, buying the product is the early commitment, even though they have the right to return it if they want to.)
You can use this principle by creating a “buzz” around your idea or product.
For example, if you’re trying to get support for a new project, work on generating support from influential people in your organization. (These may not always be managers.)
Or, if you’re selling a service, highlight the number of people using it, use plenty of relevant testimonials, encourage people to talk about it using social media, and publish case studies with current customers to demonstrate its success.
Also, don’t try too hard to be liked by others – people can always spot a phony!
With this principle, people need to know that they’re missing out if they don’t act quickly.
If you’re selling a product, limit the availability of stock, set a closing date for the offer, or create special editions of products.
This principle can be trickier to apply within your organization if you’re trying to influence others to support your ideas or projects. You can, however, use urgency to get support for your ideas. For example, you can highlight the possible urgent consequences of the problem that your idea helps to solve.
Here are 9 of the best tricks to be persuasive and influence others:
Framing is a technique often used in politics. A popular example of framing is inheritance taxes. Politicians who are opposed to inheritance taxes will call them death taxes. By using the word death instead of inheritance, all kinds of negative connotations come to mind.
Framing is quite subtle, but by using emotionally charged words, like death, you can easily persuade people to your point of view.
Mirroring someone is when you mimic their movements. The movement can be virtually anything, but some obvious ones are hand gestures, leaning forward or away, or various head and arm movements. We all do this unconsciously, and if you pay attention you’ll probably notice yourself doing it, I know I have.
How to mirror someone is self-explanatory, but a few key things to remember are to be subtle about it and leave a delay between the other person’s movement and your mirroring, 2-4 seconds works best.
We are all natural born followers. It’s sad but true. We constantly look to those around us to determine our actions; we have the need for acceptance.
A simple, effective way to use this to your advantage is to be a leader, let the herd follow you.
We all try, subconsciously, to be consistent with previous actions. One great example is a technique used by salespeople. A salesperson will shake your hand as he is negotiating with you. In most people’s minds, a handshake equates to a closed deal, and so by doing this before the deal is reached, the salesperson is much more likely to negotiate you into a closed deal.
A good way to use this yourself is to get people acting before they make up their minds. If, for example, you were out and about with a friend and you wanted to see a movie but the friend was undecided, you could start walking in the direction of the theater while they make up their mind.
This is one that advertisers use a lot. Opportunities, whatever they are, seem a lot more appealing when there is limited availability.
This can be useful to the average person in the right situation, but even more importantly, this is a method of persuasion to be aware of. Stop and consider how much you’re being influenced by the fact that a product is scarce. If the product is scarce, there must be a ton of demand for it right?
It’s the old saying, “Do unto others…”. When someone does something for us, we feel compelled to return the favor. So, if you want someone to do something nice for you, why not do something nice for them first. In a business setting, maybe you pass them a lead. If at home, maybe it’s you letting the neighbor borrow the lawn mower. It doesn’t matter where or when you do it, the key is to compliment the relationship.
People are more likely to be agreeable and submissive when they’re mentally fatigued. Before you ask someone for something they might not be quick to agree to, try waiting until a more opportune time when they’ve just done something mentally taxing. This could be at the end of the work day when you catch a co-worker on their way out the door. Whatever you ask, a likely response is, “I’ll take care of it tomorrow.”
When we talk, we often use little interjections and hesitant phrases such as “ummm” or “I mean, ” and of course there is the ubiquitous “like.” These little conversation quirks have the unintended effect of making us seem less confident and sure of ourselves, and thus less persuasive.
If you’re confident in your speech, others will be more easily persuaded by what you have to say.
Friends and Authorities
We are far more likely to follow or be persuaded by someone we like or by someone who is in an authority position. Not only is this a good one to be aware of to combat persuasive techniques being used on you, but it’s also a good one to use on others because you would be surprised how easy it is to get people to like you and establish authority within groups.
Give some of these ideas a shot and let us know if you are suddenly selling more, having more favors done for you, or becoming a master of delegation and persuasion at work!
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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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