June 24, 2008

Universal Principle of Influence #6: Liking

The first law of sales is to come to like the people you're dealing with. Because once people recognize that we like them, everything changes in their reaction to our proposals and recommendations and suggestions. They [recognize] they're safe, in the hands of somebody they know likes them. --- Robert Cialdini

Professor Robert Cialdini identified six universal principles of influence: Reciprocity, Scarcity, Authority, Consistency, Consensus and Liking. This time, we're looking at #6: Liking.

We are influenced by people who like us and are like us. Clients want authorities who like them.

At Tupperware parties, guests are twice as likely to buy because they like the hostess than because they like the products.

Through detective work, we can find connections that create true liking in both directions. We can use
  • similarities: they are like us
  • compliments: they like us
"Prospects were more willing to purchase a policy from a salesperson who was akin to them in age, religion, politics, or even cigarette-smoking habits" --- American Behavior Scientists (1963)
You want to create early bonds by mutually discovering common interests (e.g., hobbies, sports teams, music, etc). This creates a presumption of goodwill and trustworthiness will help you from then onwards.

We are all motivated by a keen desire for praise. --- Marcus Tullius Cicero (BC 106 - 43)

The sweetest sound of all is praise. --- Xenophon (BC 431-350)

Praise does wonders for our sense of hearing. --- Arnold H. Glasgow

Charm and disarm through genuine praise. False praise also works, but not as well.

You can find something to sincerely admire in everyone. Value something the other person values. As Cialdini says, "Ask ourselves, 'How can I come to like this person, genuinely?' then both sides win."

... a study [in 1976] of the Canadian federal elections found that attractive candidates received more than two and a half times as many votes as unattractive candidates. ...[V]oters do not realize their bias. In fact 73 percent of Canadian voters surveyed denied in the strongest possible terms that their votes had been influenced by physical appearance. --- Robert Cialdini
Like it or not, admit it or not, physical attractiveness affects liking too. We think good looking means good. If cosmetic surgery is too much of a sacrifice, try familiarity. Repeated contact facilitates liking too.


June 18, 2008

Universal Principle of Influence #5: Consensus

If many others have done this, then I'm likely to do it too. But if those many others are similar to me too, I'm even more likely to follow. --- Robert Cialdini

Professor Robert Cialdini identified six universal principles of influence: Reciprocity, Scarcity, Authority, Consistency, Consensus and Liking. This time, we're looking at #5: Consensus.

We follow the lead of people like us. We like to do what people like us are doing --- especially when faced with uncertainty. We look for social proof. The many influence the few.

We can say things like "Our most popular choice for individuals in you circumstances is"

Small changes can improve results. Here's an example from the world of informercials
  • original: Operators are waiting. Please call now.
  • improved: If operators are busy, please call again.
The second version implied consensus: others are eager to buy. When asking for donations door-to-door, showing a list of other donors in the neighbourhood increases donations. The longer the list, the better the results.

Teenage Smoking
Peer pressure has a dark side too. Here are factors which make a teen more likely to smoke.

Factor Increase
Delinquency + 14%
Depression + 14%
Parent smokes + 26%
2 friends smoke + 1,000%
3+ friends smoke + 2,400%

You may set a good example, but that has little effect. What can you do? Surround your children by the children you'd like them to emulate.

"The best communicators realize when they're not the best communicators and get the person who is: use testimonials. --- Robert Cialdini
The more similar the prospect to the satisfied customer, the better the outcome. We like to do like people like us like to do.

June 10, 2008

Universal Principle of Influence #4: Consistency

Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.
--- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
--- Oscar Wilde

Professor Robert Cialdini identified six universal principles of influence: Reciprocity, Scarcity, Authority, Consistency, Consensus and Liking. This time, we're looking at #4: Consistency.

We want to be in harmony with our previous attitudes and behaviours. Especially in public.

The Restaurant
A restaurant reduced "no shows" from 30% to 10% by adding two words: will you.
  • Restaurant: "Will you please call if you have to change or cancel your reservation? [pause]
  • Client: "Yes, of course"
The clients now felt obligated to phone because they said they would. You want to get a small, clear commitment and then build.
We all fool ourselves from time to time in order to keep our thoughts and beliefs consistent with what we have already done or decided. ... In most circumstances, consistency is valued and adaptive. ...The person whose beliefs, words, and deeds don't match may be seen as indecisive, confused, two-faced, or even mentally ill. On the other side, a high degree of consistency is normally associated with personal and intellectual strength. --- Robert Cialdini
Action Steps
Get commitments that are active, voluntary and public. We'll look at each in turn.

While talk is cheap, the unspoken is worthless. It's much easier to break a New Year's resolution we tell no one about. Get commitments verbally, but ideally in writing --- even if preliminary or tentative.

In my early days as a manager, I'd make notes of action steps after meeting a staff member. This took time and didn't get the intended outcomes. Results improved when I got the person to do the writing. The same works with clients.

He that complies against his will
Is of the same opinion still
--- Samuel Butler

If you've ever asked a child to clean their room (or been asked to clean yours), you know that force or coercion doesn't work over time.
You don't create a commitment inside people that they don't already have. But you can look for commitments that they've already made, and then you can align your requests with that, so what you're offering them gives them precisely what they're looking for in a business partner. --- Robert Cialdini
We want to look consistent to others. That's why small agreements can lead to big results.


June 3, 2008

Universal Principle of Influence #3: Authority

Believe one who has proved it. Believe an expert. --- Virgil, Roman poet (70 BC - 19 BC)

Professor Robert Cialdini identified six universal principles of influence: Reciprocity, Scarcity, Authority, Consistency, Consensus and Liking. This time, we're looking at #3: Authority.

We want to follow the advice of a legitimate authority. In Malcolm Gladwell's terminology, a maven. An expert provides a fast track to decisions requiring specialized knowledge.

Our clients need to see us a credible and trustworthy. There's a difference between being an authority (the meaning here) and in a position of authority (like police officer Cartman).

Establishing Expertise
Experts require credibility and trustworthiness. That's not enough. We also need to bring our expertise to the consciousness of our clients before making recommendations. But how? Tooting our own horn is not effective.
Surprisingly often, people mistakenly assume that others recognize and appreciate their experience --- Robert Cialdini
You can have someone else endorse you (see How Would You Sell Soap?). You can describe how you solved a similar problem for someone else. You can briefly mention your background and experience near the beginning of the meeting. You can mention your online presence, if you have one.

Boosting Your Credibility
Before delivering the strongest feature, mention a weakness. Here are three examples
  • AVIS: We're #2, but we try harder
  • L'Oreal: We're expensive, but you're worth it
  • Warren Buffet: We lost you $3.77 billion în 2001, but since inception, we've had a return of 23% per year
This is why it works:

The mentioning the small weakness focuses the client on the strength, which receives a disproportionate level of attention and credibility.

Contrast Buffett with Bill Ford who said a couple of years ago: I feel good about our plan, but we have a long way to go.

The Ideal Weakness
A good weakness is one the client already knows but doesn't expect you to mention. Here are examples
  • competitors sell similar or the same products
  • your firm isn't the biggest
  • you are new to the firm