Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini

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It’s hard to do justice to Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini in a few words, except to say that is very likely the best book on sales ever written.

Read it to find out how salespeople will try to manipulate you–and how to say no.

Key Takeaways

  • Cialdini identifies the six major tools of influence (i.e. sales): reciprocation; commitment/consistency; social proof; liking; authority; and scarcity.
  • On reciprocation: Giving gifts—even very small ones—creates a major sense of obligation in the receiver to reciprocate. Often, they will jump at the chance to get rid of that perceived obligation. The takeaway for salespeople: Give small “free gifts” before making the big sale. Or, ask for something big first, then retreat to something smaller when they say no, so they feel they owe you the sale.
  • On consistency: People have, and want to have, a strong sense of personal identity. If a potential buyer is “primed” beforehand to identify with your product, they’re much more likely to go all the way with it. The takeaway for salespeople: Get potential buyers to identify with your product in some (seemingly voluntary) way, such as agreeing to write a letter, sign a petition, display a small sticker or logo, pass along an email, etc. This also creates a perceived commitment, which they are loathe to go back on later. Or, get someone to commit to a product by making a lowball offer, then raise it later. (This is also sometimes called the “ladder of comittment.”)
  • On social proof: People copy each other. They just can’t help it. No one can do all the research themselves; they rely on others to lead the way. The takeaway for salespeople: Use the cliché pitches: “fastest-growing,” “most popular,” customer testimonials, etc.
  • On liking: Liking is also a super effective way to encourage the desire to buy. The takeaway for salespeople: Think about how can you get people to like or root for your brand—to be on your side, identify with your cause, want to spread the word.
  • The book also discusses the principle of contrast, saying that when you first try to sell a higher priced item, or you artificially raise the price to begin with, when you take it down a notch it feels like a great deal.

About the Author

Robert Cialdini is an American psychologist and professor emeritus of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University. He is widely recognized as a leading expert in the field of influence and persuasion, and is the author of the best-selling book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. In his work, Cialdini has identified six key principles of influence, including reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, likability, and consensus. He has applied these principles to a wide range of fields, including business, marketing, and politics, and has helped companies, governments, and other organizations understand how to use these principles effectively. Cialdini’s insights have had a significant impact on the way people think about influence and persuasion, and his work continues to be widely cited and respected.


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