You’ll find Dr. Robert Cialdini at the top of Warren Buffett’s and Charles Munger’s reading list. In his closing remarks, Dr. Cialdini believes that Berkshire Hathaway’s success can be found in how well its founders have come to understand human psychology.
Cialdini, a social psychologist and professor of marketing at Arizona State University, is a world-renowned expert and top-selling author of many books that deal with the psychology of marketing and selling, including Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.
Cialdini opened the Houston Conference on Selling and Sales Management (which focused this year on Selling and Sales Management in Turbulent Times) on April 2 with a fascinating talk, The Power of Persuasion Under Conditions of Uncertainty. He applied his Six Weapons of Influence to today’s current climate, describing illustrative market place examples of how reciprocation, scarcity, authority, consistency, consensus and liking (friendship) can net positive results for business.= He is one of the world’s leading experts on how psychological science works in marketing.
Cialdini arrived at these six areas after extensive research and actually putting himself in the shoes of sales and marketing professionals around the world. His research encompassed time he experienced in sales training rooms, small businesses, large companies and retail floors to gain an in-depth understanding of how people are persuaded.
The conference was sponsored by the University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business Sales Excellence Institute and the Marketing Science Institute, a non-profit organization that links business practice with marketing science theory.
Excerpts from Cialdini’s presentation:
Influence by Authority
“In a recession, when customers face uncertainty, they freeze.”; This is when an authority or expert figure becomes valuable, he noted. Authority figures also open doors for other people. For instance, having someone with knowledge and credibility introduce or set up an introduction for another person can greatly reinforce that person’s credentials.
Influence by Scarcity
“If I can’t have it, I want it.” Cialdini gave the consumer market fervor over iPhone as an example. “The idea of losing something mobilizes people into action.”
And, when combined with exclusivity, scarcity became even more effective. “People are more convinced and receptive to exclusive information.” A product that is scarce and marketed with information that is exclusive is highly persuasive. Cialdini cautioned that information must be shared quickly or it can lose its potency. “It’s like bread not wine. It doesn’t get better with time. You need to serve it up while it’s fresh and warm.”
Cialdini made a slight modification to a Bose Wave ad that resulted in a 45 percent sales increase versus previously stagnant product sales. Whereas the high end stereo manufacturer was using words like “new” to launch its product, Cialdini instead employed the words “Hear what you’ve been missing.”
Influence by Liking
People are easily persuaded by other people that they like.