Dr. Noah Goldstein, Steve Martin, and Professor Robert Cialdini are the authors of the New York Times bestselling Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive. I recently met Steve on a trip to London where he runs Influence at Work, and he shared these top five ways to increase your influence and persuasion with me.
1. Be the first to give. Studies show that we are persuaded more by people who have done something for us first. We give bigger tips to servers who give us a mint with the check. We’re more likely to help work colleagues with their projects if they have helped us with ours. Requests that are personalized are most persuasive of all. When researchers randomly sent out surveys they were able to double responses if they personalized the request by placing a handwritten post-it note on the survey.
2. Don’t offer too many choices. Whether it’s the number of products you offer or the number of plans you allow your employees to choose from, too many choices often frustrate people. Companies offering a small number of retirement plans have far greater enrollment than companies that offer a large number of plans.
3. Argue against self-interest. Trust is a critical component to persuasion. The surest way to be perceived as honest is to admit to a small weakness in your argument, product or business immediately prior to communicating the strongest positive argument for your product or service.
4. Losses are more persuasive than gains. Instead of telling your audience what they stand to gain from taking your advice or buying your product, research shows that people are often more persuaded if you tell them what they stand to lose out on if they don’t take your advice or buy your product. In 2003, the Oldsmobile far exceeded it sales projections despite the company reducing its advertising and product development budgets. Why? General Motors decided to discontinue the car because of slow sales. As a result the car became something people would be losing out on even though before the news few people wanted one.
5. Make people feel as if they’ve already made progress toward a goal. A car wash offering a loyalty card nearly doubled customer retention by changing their offer from “Buy eight washes, get one free” to “Buy 10 washes, get one free—and we’ll start you off by crediting you for two washes.”
Some people have the ability to capture an audience’s attention, convince the undecided and convert non-customers into customers. Some do not, but there’s good news from social science. Persuasion is not just a skill gifted to a chosen few. It’s a science and researchers who study it have formulated a series of rules for moving people in your direction. Learning about these rules can make you a more effective and ethical influencer.
How persuasive are you? You can find out by taking the free five- minute interactive test at www.myyesscore.com. For more information Steve’s and Robert Cialdini’s programs, contact Influence at Work if you’re in the U. S and Influence at Work UK if you’re in Europe.