Robert Cialdini Interviewed: What is the single best "Weapon of Influence" to use?
Dr. Robert Cialdini: Practical Ways to Influence Your Prospects or Customers in Any Market
Dr. Cialdini is a New York Times best-selling author whose books Influence and Yes! have collectively sold over three million copies. He’s the President of Influence at Work, which provides corporate programs worldwide, and I have to say as we lead into this, too, that I think influence is on my Top 2 list of all-time favorite marketing books. So with that, welcome, Bob!
Robert Cialdini: Well, thank you, Bob. I’m gratified to hear that.
Bob: I know that goes for many, many people I’ve spoken to. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t cite Influence, and Yes!, being the newer book, I’m sure that will join the list soon.
So my question for you today is there are many different what you call “weapons of influence”, and if you were told that from now on, you could use only one of those weapons of influence, what would it be?
Robert: Well, you know, I think I’m going to answer that question a little differently than most of your interviewees in the past, and that is to say we have to consider what the circumstances are under which people are operating — the people we want to influence.
And right now, I think the state of the economy, the markets — they suggest that the people we’re dealing with are uncertain about what to do, and when people are uncertain, they freeze. They sit on the fence. They just don’t want to move because they’re just unsure of what they should do under those circumstances.
There are two principles of social influence that work very powerfully under these circumstances, when people are unsure.
The first is social proof, or what we can call “consensus” — the idea that people will follow the lead of those around them, especially those around them who are like them, who have similar circumstances or have a similar situation. I just saw an article in an academic journal from Beijing. That shows you the reach of this principle — the cross-cultural reach of it.
If restaurant owner put on the menu, “These are our most popular items”, they immediately become twenty percent more popular.
Bob: That’s a great example because I know that I’ve certainly been strongly influenced by that in restaurants, and I think everybody has.
Robert: Sure, and when you go into a restaurant, you’re not quite sure what the best thing is there. Well, if you find out what the other people around you have been doing or are doing in that situation, it’s a good choice to follow their lead, and that reduces uncertainty for people when they get information about what those around them are doing.
When people are unsure, they don’t look inside themselves for answers. After all, all they see is that lack of confidence — that lack of certainty. They look outside, and one place they look is to the evidence of people like them.