November 10, 2009 in ATDC News

The Power of Persuasion

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This is a guest post from Melanie Brandt of Partnership Gwinnett. Enjoy!

The ability to effectively persuade is skill that can yield rewards on many levels. Persuasion happens externally from company to company, internally within departments, and even at home with your spouse or kids. It is perhaps at its heart an art, and some people are naturals at it. But there is also a science to it, and your abilities to persuade in many situations can be improved upon with some advanced thought.

Consider the following questions:

  • If you have two options to present, which should you present first – the most expensive or the least costly?
  • Is it better to tell a prospect what they stand to gain by using you, or what they will lose if they don’t?
  • If you have new or scarce information, should you mention that it is new or scarce, before sharing it?
  • When should you discuss weaknesses in your solution – early, or late in the discussion?
  • After someone has praised you, your product, or a favor you have provided them, what should you say after you say thank you?

I had an opportunity to watch the “Stanford Executive Briefing: The Power of Persuasion” video, during which Robert Cialdini answered these and other questions by explaining the Six Principles of Influence.

Principle #1: Reciprocation. Cultures around the world place value on returning the good graces of others. In addition to wanting to reciprocate gifts and considerations, people also want to reciprocate concessions. There are two ways to capitalize on this, Caildini explains. First, after being thanked for a favor, reply with the phrase “I know you would have done the same for me.” Too many people offset even monumental favors they do for others by saying something to the effect of “it was nothing.” Even simply saying “you’re welcome” or “it was my pleasure” without that phrase following it misses an opportunity to subtly (see principle #6) invite reciprocation. Second, when you want something, ask for something bigger and then retreat from it to the thing you want. Imagine a boy scout asking you for $15 for a ticket to something, and the guilt you feel in saying no, and how likely you would be to relieve your guilt by buying a $1 candy bar, verses if you were just asked to buy the candy bar at first. If you retreat from no by removing yourself from the situation, verses retreating to somewhere else, you may have missed an opportunity.

Principle #2: Scarcity. People place value on things that are scarce. Studies show that explaining to someone that they can gain $0.50/day per new light bulb they use is less compelling to them than explaining that they lose $0.50/day per improved light bulb they don’t use. When explaining your product or service, you must explain what is to be gained, why it can’t be gained elsewhere, and what will be lost by not choosing your product or service.

Principle #3: Authority. Don’t be afraid to explain why you are an expert in the subject you are discussing. Combining this expertise with trustworthiness is even better, and this can be accomplished by volunteering your product or service’s weaknesses up front and early in the conversation, before the person on the other side brings them up.

Principle #4: Commitment. People tend to honor what is written down and what they have explicitly agreed to. Imagine you are making a reservation. The person taking the reservation says, before hanging up, “please call us if you need to cancel.” Now imagine that same person saying “Mr. Jones, would you please give me a call if you need to cancel?” Research shows the latter approach eliminates more no shows.

Principle #5: Consensus. If others like it, I will too. “Operators are standing by” has been proven to be much less compelling than “If the lines are busy, please call back.”

Principle #6: Likability. Simply put, people do things for people they like. Be likable.

Using these persuasion principles, Cialdini promises, will lead to not just agreement and positive feelings, but compliance – getting people to actually do what you want them to do.




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