Posts Tagged ‘sales’

Influence: The Science of Persuasion

Sunday, March 19th, 2017 | Books

I will admit it: I’ve been a bit prejudice. When I was recommended a book called Influence: The Science of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, I thought to myself “wow, that is a very Machiavellian-sounding name.

However, as I read the introduction to the book, I was soon corrected. Cialdini is a professor at Arizona State University. His research on influence stems from his own confusion as to how he continues to end up with magazine subscriptions, kitchen appliances and charity direct debits that he never wanted.

He is an academic, trying to make sense of a world in which compliance professionals (sales people, charity chuggers, marketers) keep hoodwinking him. Of course, a true master of the Machiavellian art would disarm me by leading to believe this. But, if so, fair play: I’m sold.

He did his homework, applying for sales jobs and following people around to see how they worked. In the book, he describes many commonplace situations that many of us have probably found ourselves in. Everyone should read this book, if only to understand what has happened to us so many times over the years.

He breaks the tactics down into a series of topics. I will discuss some of the most interesting below.

Contrast principle

Sell someone a less expensive item after selling them something big. For example, why are extras on cars so expensive? The answer is that once you have spent £20,000 on a new car, £500 for a slightly-better-looking tyre seems like small change.

Reciprocity

When we are given a gift, we feel an obligation to give back. It is wired into us. This is a tactic used relentlessly by the Hari Krishna movement. They thrust a free gift into your hand, and then ask for a donation later.

I have a copy of the Bhagavad Gita on my shelf. And yes, I gave the guy a donation after he gave it to me.

It even works when you do not want the gift. At airports, Cialdini observed the Kristina’s in operation, scooping their gifts out of the bins people had thrown them in, to re-use on the next target.

I also fell for this in Milan. Around the major squares are groups of African men who put bracelets on tourists and then ask for money. Before I knew what was happening, there was a bracelet on my risk. And yes, I did give him a euro.

Cialdini points out that the defence strategy we most often use is to steer a wide mark around such people. Why? Because it is to hard to resist our natural urge to give back.

Concession

Concession is about asking for more than you want and then backing down. Say you want to borrow £50. Ask for £100. Then, when they say no, ask for just £50. Because you have made a confession, the other person will feel like they have to make a concession also. It also makes them feel like they have set the terms.

This can often be seen in extended warranties. “Do you want the 5-year super-protect plan? No? Okay, just the 3-year basic plan then?”

Declarations

Companies love to get you to declare that you like their product? Why? Because people are driven to act in a way consistent with what they have said.

Charities do this all of the time. They will give you a free sticker or ask you to sign up for free information. Why? Because once you have expressed that you are in some way a supporter of them, when they ask you for money, you are far more likely to feel you have to.

Written commitments are the best. These were used extensively by the Chinese communists during the Korean war. They would get American prisoners of war to write essay contests and give away small prizes. Once someone wrote something positive amount communism, they would have them read the essay out. Maybe even put it on the camp radio. Step by step, American soldiers were broken down as their guards asked for more and more.

Likability

Bad times for ugly people: being attractive helps. People are more likely to help out and be more generous to attractive people. Shared interests are important too. Salespeople love to find out your hobbies so that they can pretend they do them too.

Similarity is a big key here. You identify with people similar to yourself. So, if you want to market to a certain demographic, you need to use an actor from that demographic.

Finally, compliments are also powerful. Cialdini tells the story of a car salesman who earned more than almost anyone at the entire company. What was his secret? Every month he sent a postcard to all of his previous customers with three words on the front: “I like you”.

Summary

Compliance professionals are experts at getting us to do what they want. We do this because we work on auto-response. There is too much data in the world for us to sort through all decisions and check everyone’s back stories. So we use social cues to shortcut these decisions. Salespeople know we do this and try and exploit it.

Cialdini suggests the best defence is to listen to your gut. If you feel awkward, even if you cannot describe why it may be that you have been pressured into doing something you did not want to do. If so, follow Cialdini’s example and say “I’m not taking your product: no click wurr for me!”

2017: My year of marketing

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016 | Life

In my book Technical Anxiety I write about the important of life-long learning. Continued education and self-improvement is an essential part of keeping the mind healthy. Well, let it not be said that I do not practice what I preach. I am declaring 2017 my year of learning about marketing.

Why marketing? Because it is a skill I really lack, and could really use.

Take the Leeds Restaurant Guide for example. Sales have been underwhelming. Why is that? It could be because the quality of the book is poor. I do not accept that. It took us 18 months to put together, we went round over 250 restaurants, painstakingly reviewing them, and everyone has a high-quality photo taken by me.

Assuming it is a good product then, the next likely explanation is that the marketing of the book has been poor. This is probably true. It was not that I did not try. I set up a lovely website. I ran Facebook ads. I made certificates for every four and five-star restaurant in Leeds and hand delivered them. A few of them went up in windows. I contacted prominent Leeds foodie bloggers. I sent copies out for review.

Despite al of this, it did not end up as a Yorkshire Evening Post best seller (I assume they have a list, to compete with the New York Times).

You could also argue that maybe I just made a product nobody wanted. This could also be true. Maybe people are happy with the quality of the reviews on Trip Advisor (for reference, here is why you should not be). But in this case, too, the problem is marketing. After all, product design is one of the four Ps of marketing (product, price, place, promotion).

So this year I am throwing myself into learning about marketing. I said 2017 to give the post a punchier title, but I have already begun. Luckily, marketers, being in the business of marketing, make it easy for you to find them and offer some great content, often for free. My reading list is stacked high once again and I have enrolled on a course too.

I might blog more about different things I am reading, but for now, here is a list of cool stuff to check out:

Scientific Advertising by Claude C. Hopkins. This is the bible of internet marketing. All of the big marketers talk about it. But here is the craziest thing: it was written in 1923! Nearly 100 years later, the rules Hopkins laid down for marketing are still incredibly applicable today. Technology may change but human psychology does not.

The Brain Audit by Sean D’Souza. Sean is the best teacher I have found so far. He is a lovely guy (also a big foodie, which is perhaps why I like him), gives loads of stuff away for free, and answers all of his emails personally. He as a website, PsychoTactics, and a podcast, Three Month Vacation. The best way to get a feeling of how popular he is is to read these reviews of rival marketing school Zero to Launch.

Podcasts: I am really enjoying Digital Marketer which gives you some great advice on Facebook advertising, and Self Made Man by Mike Dillard.