If you need to understand effective persuasion techniques, Robert Cialdini’s book Pre-Suasion is a must-read. Cialdini explains how the situation before people decide or act, highly influences what choice they’ll make. For example, when voters received a men email with a small American flag in the bottom corner, they were more likely to vote Republican. If the email asked them to take an action, e.g. click something, fill out a survey, they were much more likely to voter Republican.
Lessons learned include:
- Your surroundings and associations matter. Research has shown that having photos of your customers in your office helps you create messages that better connect with them. When Cialdini was writing a book intended for a popular audience, the tone was suitable when he wrote at home, but when he wrote in his campus office, the tone was too academic.
- Multi-tasking is impossible. When we try to multi-task, we’re just switching from one task to the other. When we’re switching there’s a moment when we aren’t concentrating on what we should adding up all these inattentive moments amounts to a meaningful time wasted not concentrating on what we should.
- Humans, even babies, are quite wired to reciprocate. When you do some small, kind thing for someone they’re likely to reciprocate. My favorite examples on this are that when Osama bin Laden’s captors were getting no where interrogating him. They had given him cookies and tea everyday, but he never touched the cookies. They found out he was diabetic and so the interrogators started giving him sugar-free cookies. After this personalized, kind treatment the body guard answered all their questions.
In a similar case, the CIA was questioning a tribal leader in Afghanistan who they noticed was quite fatigued. They learned he was overwhelmed with responsibilities including keeping his four wives happy. The CIA gave the man four Viagra pills and soon afterwards the man fully cooperated. Personalized touches work.
The book is full of clear examples and shows you how association, trust and directing attention impact successful persuasion before you even start to persuade.