Saturday, March 20, 2010

Influence by Robert Cialdini

Influence Science and Practice, Fifth Edition, Pearson Education, Inc.

Influence is a guide to living in a communication age that constantly bombards its constituents with soliciting messages.

The book is packed full of example stories that will have you shaking your head and saying "Wow" and "Of Course".

Wow:
  • Woman asks someone in line at a copy machine at a library: "Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerorx machine because I'm in a rush?" 94 percent asked complied.

    Woman asks someone in line at a copy machine at a library: "Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerorx machine?" 60 percent asked complied.

    Woman asks someone in line at a copy machine at a library: "Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerorx machine because I have to make some copies?" 93 percent asked complied.
  • A jewelry store owner is going out of town. She's had major problems selling some sapphire stones, so she sends her employee a note asking him to attach a tag to the sapphires that reads "x 1/2" for half-price. When she returns, as she expected, all the stones are gone. But turns out the employee misread the note and tagged the stones "x 2" for double the price. Turns out, with little expertise, we rely on simple cues for decisions. What is a simple cue for the quality of a sapphire? Yup, price


Of Course:
  • To increase completed sales, Amway asks potential customers to write the sales agreement as opposed to writing it themselves. Just the simple commitment of writing the sales agreement dramatically increased actual sales.
  • Sales people will try to trap you by getting a small commitment and then asking for your follow through. The example in the book is one of an attractive female conducting a "survey". She asks Cialdini a number of questions about things he likes to do (Go to the cinema. Go to the ballet. etc). Trying to appear more suave than he is, Cialdini exaggerates his interest in this topics and the frequency in which he partakes in them. Once he does, the surveyor becomes a saleswoman and says "Well, for $1,250 you can get tickets to all these things, which is a huge savings for someone so involved in these activities." This creates a trap of consistency.


Influence is well organized around manipulation tactics that are broken into stories. Once presented, Cialdini backs up his contentions with research and plays devil's advocate to offer alternative suggestions, which he then debunks. Each chapter ends with strategies to defend against these manipulation tactics.

The book is a fascinating read on its face and a great practical guide for marketing, selling and avoiding manipulation. The latest edition has stories from readers of previous editions who have experienced these tactics personally.

I would recommend this book to just about anyone. I advise a detailed read, including the questions at the end of each chapter. That said, each chapter ends with a nice summary of the techniques, which a rushed reader could take a lot away from.
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