How to Be Persuasive
Excerpts from Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive
I've been a huge fan of Dr. Bob Cialdini for many years and have used his classic book Influence in university classes and courses for years. Now he has collaborated with colleagues Noah Goldstein, Ph.D. and Steve Martin (the Ph.D. not the comedian!). The new book, Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive is an excellent read for any student of the discipline and any business person who wants to improve business. Here are just a few examples:
1. Reciprocity: In one experiment a social scientist Randy Garner tested the effect of yellow 3M Post-it Notes. He sent out a survey and cover letter three different ways: one set of surveys contained a yellow sticky post-it on top of the cover letter with a handwritten note requesting completion on the sticky note; one set of surveys had a handwritten request only on the cover letter; the final set of surveys contained only the cover letter and survey, with no personalized note of any sort. The results: 75% survey completion rate for the first group (with the handwritten Post-It note); 48% return rate for the second group (with the handwritten note on the cover letter itself); and 36% with only the cover letter. I just bought more sticky notes!
2. Commitment/Consistency: Researcher Anthony Greenwald discovered that when people are asked whether they will engage in socially desirable behavior (such as, “Will you vote?”), they usually answer “yes.” Those people who answer yes tend to live up to their promise (remain consistent with their previous commitment) at much higher rates than those never asked. For example at one restaurant (where people notoriously are no shows despite reservations), one manager changed his request from "Please call if you have to cancel" to a direct question: "Will you please call if you have to cancel?" People always answered "Yes." The results are in: Just by asking the question versus getting people to answer yes (which they are compelled to in such socially desirable situations), the manager dropped his no-show rate from 30% to 10%--a huge revenue booster to be sure. Will you read my latest book The Journey of the Accidental Leader?
3. Consensus: In an experiment involving compliance of hotel guests used to measure the effect of social pressure or consensus, researchers (Goldstein, Cialdini, and Griskevicius) simply placed a sign in each hotel room asking guests to reuse towels for the sake of the environment. There was an immediate uptick in the number of people who cooperated. When the wording on the sign was altered to not only appeal to the environment but also that the majority of guests complied with this request, the compliance rate shot up 26%. Finally, when the sign was altered yet again, this time to say that not only did most guests reuse towels, but also that guests who had stayed in the very room being asked to ruse (direct peers), had in fact, recycled, the compliance rate shot up to 33%. Please recycle this paper after you read it!
4. Liking: Benjamin Franklin once wrote: ‘He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.” Though this sounds counter-intuitive, it is not. Researchers (Jecker and Landy) conducted a study in which participants won money during the experiment. At the conclusion of the experiment, the researcher approached one group of winners and asked if they would be willing to return some of the money they’d won from the researcher because he had used much of his own personal money to run the experiment. The rest of the group was not asked. In a follow up survey, the group that was asked the favor rated the experimenter high than the un-asked members of the group. Bottom line message here: Ask people for help. Not only will you likely get a return for asking, but they’ll also like you more.
5. Authority: Everyone has experienced the effect of authority on influence. From bosses asking us to stay late to football coaches telling us to drop down and give them twenty push-ups and from products recommended by the American Medical Association to the advice given to us by our lawyers—authority helps us make up our minds quickly. In one experiment, the researchers (Pfeffer, Fong, Cialdini, and Portnoy) asked participants to play the role of senior editor for a book publisher dealing with an experienced author. The “senior editors” were asked to consider sizeable book advance for the author. The editors were divided into two groups: One group read positive comments about the author, which were made by the author himself. The second group read the identical comments made by the author’s agent. The result: the “editors” rated the author’s comments more favorably on every element of comparison, especially likability, when those comments were made by a third party (the agent) than by the author himself. Bob Cialdini and his colleagues have written a great book—I suggest strongly that you consider reading it!
6. Scarcity: Brian Ahearn of State Farm Insurance Company is responsible for recruiting new independent insurance agencies from across the country to partner with State Farm, thus giving State Farm expanded territorial coverage. And every year, Brian and his team send out recruitment letters with little direct success from the mailing. More recently, he decided to use the scarcity principle in his letter by using legitimate information about the offering. His new letter now includes that while they are looking for new partners, they were looking for only 42 firms nationally and that State Farm had already lined up 35 firms. His letter contained this sentence: ‘It’s our sincere hope that your agency will be one of the remaining agencies that we appoint before the year end.’ Within days, he began to get eager responses from agencies that did not want to lose out on the opportunity. Scarcity derived from legitimate information drives behavior.
That’s it, if you want more…lots more about persuasion, go to Amazon today buy the book: Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive( 2008, Free Press).