R. Cialdini: Pre-suasion


This book was most probably one of the hardest reads I did in the last time. Because it was hard, I want to share some key points on my blog: in part for you, but in part also for me. Robert Cialdini is often described as the resource for sales and marketing theory. And it is so. In his latest book he describes what he calls pre-suasion – the process of influencing people before the sales pitch/presentation even starts. It is the process of making the audience susceptible for the message before the message is delivered.

He also includes the six factors of influence from his previous book, Influence: reciprocation, liking, social proof, authority, scarcity, consistency. At the end he discusses the possibility of existence of the seventh factor: unity. With unity he regards the sense of belonging to a larger group or to a common goal. The book is the exploration of the phenomena of influence, giving some practical tips, but also the limitations of persuasion.

Lets go down chapter per chapter.

Part 1: Pre-suasion: the front loading of attention

1. Pre-suasion: an introduction

It is all about studying the best persuaders to understand how persuasion works. And he did study them. The best persuaders become the best through pre-suasion – the process of arranging for recipients to be receptive to a message before they encounter it. It is about skewing the circumstances in way to make the recipient more favorable to your message. There are three stories in the introduction which caught my eye:

1. A salesman was having problems negotiating for the price of the product, as it was always too high for the consumer and he wasn’t making any commission. As soon as he introduced a sentence into his pitch, the price problem went away. When the discussion over the price started, he said: “As you can tell, I am not going to be able to charge you a million dollars for this, but…” the receivers were now anchored on an unbelievably high price, and were much more receptive on his desired commission.

2. Jim was a fire alarms salesman. He was a door to door salesman and he built trust by asking people if he let himself out and back into the house. This way he was perceived as more friendly (non threatening), and after building so much level of trust was much easier for his sales pitch.

3. There is an another story about arranging the environment properly. To sell more French wine, play French music.

2. Privileged moments

The goal is to identify points in time when the individual is particularly receptive to a communicators message. The usual starters, I am sure many have already encountered, sound like:

pools: are you dissatisfied with__?

– cult recruiters: “well, if you are unhappy with, don’t you want to change that, right?”

– researchers start interviewing people with: “do you consider yourself a helpful person?” Quite often are people then more willing to fill the survey.

Sometimes it works to do the opposite to get attention. Go unexpected. If you are losing the conversation, start speaking more quietly, for example.

3. The importance of attention…is importance

People tend to assign importance to an idea as soon as one’s attention is turned to it. When you focus on an idea, you will regard it as important and will more likely follow the influencer. Tell people what to think about. But pulling attention to an idea will only be successfully when the idea has merit.

Recognition/recall is a widely used index of campaign success, used by advertisers. But it might underestimate the influence of banner ads → third type of result: lack of direct notice. Ads are noticed, but cannot be recalled.

If the competitor goes low price/poor quality, go the opposite way. don’t get caught in a price war with an inferior product. Make the quality the battleground instead.

4. What’s focal is causal

If people see themselves giving special attention to some factor, they become more likely to think of it as a cause. Conviction, not reason, wins.

5. Commanders of attention 1: the attractors

The three naturally occurring commanders of attention are: the sexual, the threatening, the different.

Humans encountering threatening circumstances have a strong tendency to be part of a group. A group is a safe environment. Opposite is true for sexual possibilities. Then people want to be alone with possible partners. “don’t be left out” / “be one of the few” campaign types.

People are more likely to pay attention to and be influenced by stimuli that fit the goal they have for that situation. Sex doesn’t always sell.

As a rule, communications that present the most frightening consequences of poor health habits work better than milder messages or messages that present the positive consequences of good habits. (smoking kills).

People people are tested for hypoglycemia in a public space. They are on spot offered invitations to workshops. They were 4x more likely to sign up, because they believed the workshop would have a favorable impact on their health → belief for better, not denial of the problem. People want to manage their anxeites.

6. Commanders of attention 2: the magnetizers

After getting the attention, the question is how to keep it. Sometimes the attractors are not enough. The persuader, or the magnetizer fastens audience’s focus onto favorable elements of an argument, excluding the opposing points of view. Pulling power with staying power: the self-relevant, the unfinished, the mysterious. Storytelling is an important part of this chapter, and Cialdini dissects how a story should be structured.

When an important outcome is unknown to people, they can hardly think of anything else. There was experiment where women were asked to rate men in according to their interest in meeting them. They saw their photos, some of them saw also their other details, their social ratings etc. They found most interesting men without social ratings, because they were wondering who they are. Picture as a bait.

He learned that he could increase my classroom effectiveness, by beginning each lecture with a special kind of unfinished story: a mystery. Descriptions require notice, questions require answers, but mysteries require explanations. Structuring your mystery story:

1. pose the misery: in 1960s tobacco use was slowly declining. Tobacco companies then maybe did the best spin in marketing ever. They increased the sales, but they also reduced their marketing costs by 1/3. what was it?

2. deepen the mystery: On 1969 the tobacco companies asked congress to ban their own ads from TV and radio, even though those were the most efficient channels to market tobacco. Tobacco has been absent from these channels since 1971.

3. Suggest alternative explanation: could it be that the companies wanted to protect the health of Americans? Doubtly. They merely shifted their marketing channels to print ads, sport sponsorship, promotional giveaways, movie products.

4. Provide a clue: so for executive logic, print ads were OK, but TV ads not anymore. What was so special about broadcast media? In 1967 was applied the fairness doctrine, which required equal advertising time to all sides of a controversial topic. If one side purchased broadcast time on one topic, the other side had to be given equal, but free time to counter argue.

5. Resolve the mystery: this way tobacco companies eliminated all debate about dangers of smoking.

6. Draw the implications for the phenomenon under study: enhance audiences acceptance to your message by reducing the availability of strong counterarguments to it.

Part 2: Processes: the role of association

7. The primacy of associations: I link, therefore I think

Associations trigger the favorable shift in responding. The primary goal of language is the influence. It is so since the beginning. The main function of language is to influence (only second is to express or describe). The strongest tool is the metaphor. It starts as a part of the recipients reality, but shifts the point to the favorable of the communicator’s view. Metaphor is a meta door.

If you want to change the world, change the metaphor” (Joseph Conrad).

Speak no evil, leak no evil: change your language. The example of a hospital, which removed war-oriented language with care-oriented language. Also don’t say price, but rather purchase/value/investment. People will be more inclined towards a higher price.

8. Persuasive geographies: all the right places, all the right traces

Also places can trigger shift in response.

9. The mechanics of pre-suasion: causes, constraints, and correctives

The presuader focuses recipients on concepts that are aligned, associatively, with the information yet to be delivered. After that, when readied, the elements can fire. Focus on concepts that are aligned (associations) with your message. The basic idea is to move recipients into agreement with the message before they experience it.

What is more accessible in mind becomes more probable in action. This accessibility is influenced by informational stimulus and our association to them.

Let me ask you a question, for your information

Part 3: Best practices: the optimization of pre-suasion

10. Six main roads to change: broad boulevards as smart shortcuts

The six influence factors are: reciprocation, liking, social proof, authority, scarcity, consistency

Gift giving is complex: people feel obligated to repricotate a gift designed to meet their particular needs, regardless of gift’s value or size.

If praising, praise people’s: taste, personality, work habits, or intelligence.

When people work on computer tasks and receive task related flattering feedback, develop more favorable feelings toward the machine.

Salespeople should show customers that they genuinely like themselves. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. The medium is the message Vs the messenger is the message.

A communicator who references a weakness early on is perceived as more honest.

if you act now, you will win 1.000 €” Vs “if you don’t act now, you will lose 1.000€

Dr. Neidert developed a core motives model of social influence. It has three steps:

1. Cultivating a positive association. Use reciprocity and liking. The communicator should be perceived as favorable from the receiver.

2. Reducing uncertainty. Before people change, they want to see such a decision as wise. Principles of social poof and authority. Pointing to evidence from peers or experts increase the chance of persuasion.

3. Motivating action. Use consistency and scarcity.

11. Unity 1: being together

Seventh principle of influence, according to Cialdini, is unity. It is about how to build good relationships, blood, family, business relationships. It is how to be perceived as part of a larger group. Put simply, we is the shared me.

12. Unity 2: acting together

This is the emotional sense of connection.

Systems thinking 1: fast, emotional, associative, intuitive. To close the sale: “I feel this product is right for you.”

Systems thinking 2: slower, deliberative, analytical, rational. To close the sale: “I think this product is right for you.”

Anything too stupid to be spoken, is sung,” Voltaire. If you cant make a case to an audience with facts, sing it to them.

Music should be used to advertise familiar, feelings based products.

Coordinated action: it is a turn taking exchange sequence. In happy relationships partners engage in a turn based exchange sequence. They give each others favors, creating a relationship rather than an unmet obligation. Also products could engage users in sharing tasks.

The IKEA effect. People value their amateurish creations as much as experts’ creations. Consumers should be engaged in collaborating to co create novel or updated products/services, but it should be framed as their advice to the company.

Advice is a mechanism of unification., because when we are asking for an advice, we are looking for an accomplice.

13. Ethical use: a pre-pre-suasive consideration

14. Post-suasion: after-effects

Creating lasting change by asking for strong commitments. If the patients were asked to fill their cards for the date for the next visit, they were more likely to come.

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