Dr. Robert Cialdini on the Influence of Influence


Dr. Robert Cialdini wrote the book on influence.


His book, Influence, outlines the six psychological principles behind people’s decision making. From management to sales, this book provides communication strategies you can use to impact the decisions people make.

Dr. Cialdini’s workshop, Principles of Persuasion, provides insights into the psychology behind decision-making. To uncover techniques businesses can use to grow their bottom line, I sat down with Dr. Cialdini after his keynote address at Pubcon.

What are two major principles of influence that businesses can use to help grow their bottom lines?

Dr. Robert Cialdini: The first one that comes to mind is reciprocation. It suggests that people will want to give back to people that have given to them. The implication is we can give first. We should benefit the people that we would like to do business with and they will stand ready to want to give back to us. We should provide first, not in return for their business, but prior to their business. What will be best to give will be determined by each individual businessperson.

Next is scarcity, which says people want to seize those opportunities that are scarce, rare or dwindling in availability. If we can honestly give people evidence of what we have that is unique or uncommon, they will listen differently to the features we have to offer. Often, it is the case that we have something rare. It may be a bundle of features that only we can provide. The question you should ask is what do we offer that none of our competitors can provide? Then elevate that information to the beginning of your messaging. It causes people to start processing your messaging differently.

What is the psychological driver behind scarcity?

Dr. Robert Cialdini: Under this rubric of scarcity is the concept of loss, because loss is the ultimate scarcity. People want those things that are scarce or rare and they are especially resistant to the idea of losing something. It’s called loss aversion. A man named Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in economics a few years ago for showing that the very same unit of value, say a dollar, is experienced more powerfully if it is lost versus gained.

If we can show people the benefits we can offer them and say, “If you fail to move in our direction we would hate to see you loose these things.” That will mobilize them more than to say, “If you do move in our direction we would be glad to see you gain these things.” Loss is simply more powerful psychologically than gain. We should not forget to honestly tell people what they would forgo if they fail to move in our direction.

Let’s say you already have a client, how does influence apply to retention?

Dr. Robert Cialdini: The principle that applies in this instance is commitment and consistency. What you can point out to existing clients is an existing partnership, and existing set of behaviors, that speak to a commitment to the values of your product. You should not leave them alone to develop that thought. Send a message to say, “We are so pleased that you have been using our products or services because of this specific benefit.” Because of your shared commitment, when you demonstrate quality, fairness or social responsibility, it raises the value that individual puts on your product. Not just a history; a commitment to a specific part of your product. That resonates with people and makes them more likely to continue to want to buy your products.

Jabez LeBret is the author of the Amazon No. 1 bestselling law office marketing book How to Turn Clicks Into Clients. As a partner at Get Noticed Get Found, a legal marketing agency, over the last nine years he has delivered over 800 keynote addresses in six countries. His main area of expertise is managing Gen Y in the workplace, advanced Facebook strategies, LinkedIn strategies, Google+, SEO, local directory optimization, and online marketing.

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