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Influence is a book about how to be more persuasive, written by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., who admits in the introduction that he wanted to research how and why he became such a patsy. My previous post, this one, and this one showed you some tricks for becoming more persuasive. Today I’ll add a few more.
No matter how independent you think you are, you’re susceptible to what others think and do. Let’s say you’re walking through a busy dining district, and you see two restaurants with appealing menus. One is bustling and busy, filled with happy patrons. The other sits quiet with only a few tables occupied. Which one do you choose? Of course – me too. You’ve just succumbed to Social Proof.
Social proof is a sophisticated version of “monkey see, monkey do,” part of our ancient need to belong to a group. Sociologists describe it as the way people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation. If you’re unsure of what to do, you’ll take your cue from others. That’s why the New York Times publishes a Best Seller list, why Amazon lists reviews. To varying degrees, we all want to do what the cool kids (of whatever tribe we belong to or aspire to) are doing.
“This is our best seller” is a powerful sales tool. That’s why early adopters are so important to products – they provide the critical mass that’s needed before social proof can kick in. A line of people outside a restaurant, movie opening, or Apple Store is irresistible for most of us.
We are also more likely to buy from someone we trust, so as George Burns once put it, “Sincerity is the key to success. If you can fake that, you have it made.”
Cialdini offers examples of masters of manipulation; my favorite was the waiter at a high end restaurant. Cialdini writes that he observed the waiter as he used every trick in the persuasion book to up the diner’s bill (and thus his tip.) Here’s how it worked.
First the waiter establishes his authority by presenting himself as an expert on the menu. Then, he performed an extraordinary act of persuasion, Cialdini writes. No matter what the first person to place an order selected, the waiter would suggest another meal, at a lower price point. This immediately established him as a trusted authority, since he had acted – or appeared to act – against his own self-interest. Then, when he asked if the group was open to suggestions for wine or dessert, they almost always took his recommendations for these items, which is where the big money on your dinner bill happens.
Reciprocity also works for tips. Have you ever wondered why some restaurants bring out mints with the bill? Studies have shown that they increase tips by 3 percent. Mentioning the mints (“In case you’d like some mints”) increase tips by 14 percent. Bringing a couple more mints a short time later (“In case you’d like some for the road”) increased tips by a whopping 21 percent.
The last persuasive tip I’ll leave you with is scarcity. FOMO is real, and one of the most powerful tools you can use to persuade someone to act. Salesmen use this to great effect. They leave a sold item on the floor, just waiting for a customer to come along and fall in love. “Do you have any more of these?” “No, this is the last one. I’m sorry.” Now the item appears even more attractive. The customer starts to feel an irresistible attraction for what she can’t have. “Are you sure there are no more?” “Well, I can check, I guess. If I find another one in the back, do you want to take it today?” Darn right she does.
A waiting list is one of the most important features your event can have.
Social proof + scarcity = craving.
Remember that the next time you’re trying to get your way. Influence was a great read, and I’m putting its techniques to use in my own life.
Back to you: Do you feel influential? Or do you feel more like a sucker in your business interactions? Leave me a comment and let me know.