We all have products, services, or ideas to sell, but selling is challenging. This is where Robert Cialdini’s Six Principles of Influence come in really handy.
Here they are and how to use them to grow your business:
1. Reciprocity: It’s human nature to appreciate gifts and favours and pay them back in some form or another. Receiving a gift psychologically wires us to want to return the favour in a similar or another form. Marketers use this all the time when they give out free samples of their products.
If done in the right way, the recipient feels a larger urge to pay it back. Some customers do, and some don’t. But to most companies, the cost of providing something free is far offset by the acquisition of a group of new customers.
2. Commitment: We all know that when you set your mind to achieving something, there is nothing that can stop you. Similarly, asking someone if they like your idea, product, or service and getting their verbal or written commitment to use it generally means you have successfully influenced the person.
A good way to do this is to ask their permission: “Would you use this product to solve your problems?” or “Are we in agreement that this service is right for you?”
3. Social proof: This principle relies on people’s need to ensure that their decisions are the right ones. Many people decide based on the choices similar people have made. They feel a sense of relief knowing that if other people are doing something, then it must be okay. Dishonest TV commercials show actors pretending to have some sort of problem and endorsing a product that provides the miracle solution.
The best way to do this is to do it honestly: get some of your current customers to say a few words about how they are now better off. Then share that powerful language with other potential customers.
4. Liking: We are more likely to be influenced by people we like. Its therefore important, when selling anything, to be liked! A few simple tactics you can adopt taken from Cialdini’s work include providing compliments and finding a similarity of opinions, personality, background or lifestyle.
It is worth mentioned that it’s important to “look” likeable too. Dressing well, smiling and laughing really help in being more likeable to customers.
5. Authority: For the most part, we tend to feel a sense of duty or obligation to positions of authority. They therefore have a real influence on us, both good and bad. One experiment measured the number of series errors nurses made when a phoney but authoritative-sounding doctor told them what to do.
Even though the nurses knew the prescribed treatments were wrong, they nearly carried them out anyway, until they were stopped by experimenters. In business, becoming a recognised authority requires a lot of effort, but can significantly increase your chances to influence others.
6. Scarcity: The law of supply and demand holds very true in how we think. When something is scarce, it is perceived as valuable. Make it more scarce (as in, begin to take it away) and it becomes even more valuable.
Promoting limited time and quantity discounts is one way marketers encourage customers to take action.
It is worth mentioning that using techniques to influence people is not about being dishonest. It’s true that dishonest people use compliance techniques to do dishonest things and trick people. But if you genuinely want to help people with your products, services, or ideas, you will have to adopt one or more of these elements of persuasion to get them to buy in.
The writer is the managing director of ACK Solutions.
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