6 Principles to get people to do what you want

A short summary of “Influence — The psychology of persuasion”

Wouldn’t you like to be able to get people to do what you want from them? For instance make them buy or use this awesome tool you built but that they don’t realise it’s awesome until they actually use it?
Or wouldn’t you like to know how to optimise a message so that people prefer the higher pricing rather than the lower one?

Well, every time these kind of issues come up during group sessions lead by the very good Jean-Xtophe Ordonneau where entrepreneurs share their successes and problems, he points out to the book “Influence — The psychology of persuasion” by Robert Cialdini.

So this time I decided to dig into the topic and, at least, watch one of his videos. I have to say that was SUPER insightful, so I wrote down ready to use notes. These are the 6 principles that lead relationships and how to leverage them:

Principle 1: Reciprocation

« I am obligated to give back to you the form of behaviour you first gave to me »
Give and take III, bronze « Lorenzo Quinn »

This means :

  • When you enter a room, don’t ask yourself “who can help me?” but rather ask yourself “who can I help?”.
  • When someone says “thank you” for something you did, do not just say “It’s nothing, I would have done it for anyone” but instead say “Sure, listen, I know that if the situation were ever reversed, you’d do the same for me”.
  • This can also apply to concessions: if you’re interested in getting people to say yes to a favour, instead of starting with your already moderate ask, start out with a larger ask that they are likely to turn down and the retreat to the favour you were interested in all along. Note that both proposals need to be done right after the first one got a “no”, do not wait a week in-between for instance.

Principle 2: Scarcity

« People want more of what they can’t have or what they can have less of »
The « Black Friday » to, paradoxically, illustrate scarcity…

This means:

  • When you present something, you need to explain to people why they can’t get it anywhere else. Do not only talk about things people will gain but more importantly (this has more impact) talk about what they’ll lose if they do not take your offer.
  • This works as well with information that is exclusive so don’t hesitate to state it explicitly by saying something like “no one else has this info” (even better if you say “no one else has the info that this is actually a rare opportunity” because you add the exclusivity of information to the scarcity of the opportunity).

Principle 3: Authority

« You need to tell people about your expertise and background before you try to influence them »
If he has a white blouse, it must be true
  • Before you present your strongest argument, present weakness in your case and then add something in the lines of “However, blablabla overwhelms that particular weakness” where blablabla is your strongest point. This will make you look like you are trustworthy as well as an expert of the topic.

Principle 4: Consistency

« People are significantly more likely to say yes to a request that is consistant with what they already said or done »
  • Whenever you have the opportunity, make them explicitly consent to something.
    Example: in a restaurant waiters taking reservations used to say “Please call if you have to cancel your reservation”. By simply adding “Will you” to the beginning of the sentence (making it “Will you please call if you have to cancel your reservation?”) no shows without calling dropped from 30% to 10% instantly.
    Note that the best type of consent is written consent (a mail, a contract, a letter etc.).

Principle 5: Consensus

« One way for people to decide what to do in a certain situation, is to look at what others like them do in the same situation »
I was lookin’ back to see if you were lookin back at me to see me lookin back at you
  • Whenever you have the opportunity, make it clear that a lot of people do what you are requesting from the person you have in front of you.
    Example: An infomercial used to finish their section by the following call to action “Operators are waiting for you, please call now”. They changed the call to action to “If operators are busy, please call again”. This cause calls to increase dramatically.

Principle 6: Liking

« People prefer to say yes to those they know and like »
  • You can play on that by either “liking flows”:
  1. Similarities: “we like those who are like us”
  2. Compliment: “we like those who do like us AND say so”
  3. Cooperative effort: “we like those who work in a cooperative way to achieve success”
You may kiss the bride

All these principles can seem simple, but when you think about them in the right situation you can for instance deduce that:

  • “If you have two options to present to the client first, which would you present first? The more costly or the less costly?” → the more costly if you want to secure the sale.
  • “Is it better to tell your prospects what they stand to gain by moving in your direction or what they stand to loose if they don’t?” → loose, people are more reactive to the latter.
  • “If you have a new piece of information, when should you mention that it’s new? Before or after you present this information to your audience?” → After “By the way, this is something that is brand knew and that not many people know about”, to increase the importance.
  • If you have a product, service or idea that has both strength and weaknesses, when should you present the weaknesses? Early or late in your presentation?” → Early or at least before your strongest argument.
  • “After someone has praised you, your product or your organisation, what is the most effective thing you can do after you have said « thank you »?” → “I know you/or your company will reverse the favour if you’d have the chance to”.

« With great power comes great responsibilities »

Think about using these strategies when you are sure that your product brings value to the audience or, even better, do it with something people want.

90% of this article is made of direct transcripts of this video. For more examples, please watch the video, and for even more details, please read the book.

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And if you are a tech founder and you are addressing a B2B market, please do not hesitate to book a meeting with me so that I can challenge your startup and tell you more about Startup42!