How to influence anyone with Robert Cialdini
Robert Cialdini: So I called him and this guy, let's call him Tim, who was known to be a kind of irascible sour character. He said," I know why you're calling Bob. And the answer is no, look, I can't be in charge of your poor time management skills, Bob. That's up to you. So no." And before I had read this research on unity, here's what I would've said," come on Tim. I need this it's due the next day." He had already said no to that. In fact, he had made a commitment to, I said," Come on Tim. We've been members of the same psychology department for 12 years now." I had the data that afternoon.
Devin Reed: This is Reveal, the Revenue Intelligence podcast here to help go to market leaders do one thing, stop guessing.
Sheena Badani: If you're ready to unlock reality and reach your potential. Then this show is for you. I'm Sheena Badani.
Devin Reed: And I'm Devin Reed coming to you from the Gong Studios. Take a step back and remember that at the end of the day, sales is psychology. There's another person on the other end of that email or Zoom or the conference table. And that person wants to feel connected to you and what you're selling. Robert Cialdini is the godfather of psychology. His book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion has sold over 5 million copies and has helped countless salespeople learn the fundamentals of creating connections and influence in their sales efforts. As a seller, this is one of my all time, favorite books and truth be I still use it today as a marketer. It's required reading for my entire team and I couldn't be more excited to sit down with one of my idols and favorite authors of all time. We discussed how sales leaders can use his research to thrive internally within their organizations. I can't wait for you to hear this one. Today, we have a very special guest, Sheena you know once in a while, we get someone on the show that we admire and respect everybody. But once in a while, we get a true idol. Someone we really look up to and I am beyond thrilled to say that we have Robert Cialdini joining us today on the show. So Robert, thank you for hanging out with us. It truly is a pleasure.
Robert Cialdini: Well, thank you, Devin. I'm looking forward to our time together.
Devin Reed: For those who don't know, you have one of the best books that I say of all time, I've read it. And it was helpful when I was in sales. It's helpful now that I'm in marketing. It is truly required reading to anybody who joins my team, Influence the Psychology of Persuasion, a New York Time bestseller, psychology classic. And we're going to break apart a little bit of that today, but I know that you just hung out with us on an event where you talked about how we can apply those things to a sales role, sales interactions, to understand how people make choices. And so today what we're going to do is focus on how sales leaders can use your research to thrive internally with their orgs. How does that sound to you?
Robert Cialdini: Perfect. It follows a trajectory. When I give speeches or we do some training, it's usually to sales or marketing audiences. But after a while, when the principles that we talk about have worked people come back to say, it's just as important to get yes, it's just as important to get people on the same page as us inside the organizational envelope as outside. It means the same for profits. So can you come in and talk to us about how the principles of influence work internally? So I'm glad to do that today.
Devin Reed: Lovely. Well, I'm looking forward to it because like I said, I've read the book, but I haven't gotten this version. So I'm, I'm excited. Robert, do you want to give us kind of a high level overview of these principles and then we can go into how they apply day to day for our leaders?
Robert Cialdini: Yeah. I mean, if we're talking about the principles that lend themselves to stronger relationships, to closer connections that people feel to one another, there are four. And by the way, the evidence is very powerful that if you can get those stronger relationships, you're more likely to get a yes in any request or proposal or recommendation. There was a study done by KPMG. They had their partners describe various kinds of business sales attempts, where they were trying to get new business. And they rated the extent to which they were successful in terms of how strong the relationship was when they made the request. If the relationship was weak, they got about a 36% success rate. If it was moderate, they got a 65% success rate. If it was strong, they got a 76%. So the bond is crucial as a lever for change, a lever for ascent. People want to do business with those they like.
Devin Reed: Well, if that applies internally, I now know why I can't say no to Sheena. Anytime she asks me for a favor or help, I'm increasing that average. So that makes a lot of sense.
Robert Cialdini: So yeah, we can talk about the four principles that I think give us that kind of traction. The first is the principle of reciprocation. The one that says people want to give back to those who have first given to them. So depending on what you want inside the office, let's say you want a better attitude. Come in with a better attitude. Let's say you want your people to give you better information so you can do your job more efficiently and effectively, make sure you give them the information they need to do their job. And it's an automatic tendency. They will give back to you what you have given to them. So it's something that's just a no brainer. It exists in every human culture. I'm sure you're dealing with people in your team who may not have been born in this culture or grown up here. It doesn't matter. This rule was trained into every child in every human culture. You must not take without giving in return. And people say yes to those they owe. So if we go first and we provide benefits, advantages, they're going to flow back to us. So that's the principle of reciprocation. Then there's one that everybody will nod to, it's the principle of liking. People like to say yes to those they like, right? And everybody knows that, but the are two small things we can do to increase the sense of rapport that people feel with us. One is to identify genuine commonalities that exist between us and raise them to the surface. We like those who are like us. And if we just show them that we have these parallels, they're more likely to want to do business with us to say yes to us and so on. The other is praise, genuine praise. Not only do we like people who are like us, we like people who do like us and say so. So if we give them genuine praise, they feel really positive about us. There's a connection there that makes them feel like there's a rapport and that tilts them toward yes when we ask for a favor request. Next principle is the principle of commitment and consistency. People want to be consistent with what they have already committed themselves to. Decisions they have made, actions they have taken. If we can show people inside our group or that what we're asking is congruent with what we know about them, the things they value, the things they prioritize and we show them that there's a connection there, well, they're more likely to say yes and they're more likely to feel good about us because we've taken the time to really understand them, to know them as people. So commitment and consistency is a strategy. And if we don't know a lot about them, we can begin by asking questions of them. Tell me what are your goals? What are your aspirations? And so, and when they've put themselves on record, we can then say," Well, what I'm suggesting that we do together is completely consistent with what you just said, how important it is that there be quality and transparency or ethics or a profit involved in what the changes that you make." Here's what we're going to do to make sure that commitment that you have to those particular values are commitments that you can realize. And then finally, there's a new principle of influence that I call unity. The perception that you and the other person are partners. What I call we relationships, where people feel they are not just like the other person they are of that group, that entity, in which they share. If I were to say," Devon is like us," that's one thing. If I were to say," Devon is one of us," everybody in the group now feels more positively toward Devon because he's one of us. So that kind of, that kind of connection, it's not just similarity, it's belonging together in the same unit.
Sheena Badani: It's interesting how just, changing how you phrase something, even minimally can have a huge impact on how it's perceived on the other end. And it will have a huge result in the impact, and the work that person provides or how they engage with you and that long term relationship building.
Robert Cialdini: Exactly. Right. This is one of the things I love about the psychology of influence. It involves changing just some small things about the way you phrase something, the way you sequence your request. Some small wording shifts engage big psychological levers within us. They press those levers. They get that action because we've now connected to people in a genuine way.
Sheena Badani: So I think some of these principles may come very naturally to some folks and for others, this is new or at least some of the principles may feel new to them. How do you suggest that folks incorporate these principles into their day to day, without it feeling forced from the recipients end?
Robert Cialdini: One of the things, this is a really good a point because, I wrote a whole book on this and your audience members can't walk around with that book on a chain around their necks, right? And every time they come to an influence situation, well, it turns out that we have available and we're willing to give probably through you folks, anybody who asks a PDF of a little card that we give, a little plastic card with the principles of influence on it and hints as how to use each of those principles when you come up. On an influence situation. So that's something you can put in a pocket or a purse or a wallet. And every time you come to a situation where you want to be influential, check the card, just check what's available to you. Is there a real we relationship that already exists point to that? Is there a genuine similarity? Is there a genuine commitment that this person has already made that's consistent with where you want that person to go next? Point to that commitment. So if you can remind yourself of these rules, these principles of influence, then you're free armed to employ them when appropriate.
Devin Reed: I'm going to call you Bob, because you asked me to Bob, which I'm happy. I feel like I'm one of you now, when I'm in your, I feel unity and play when you offered me to call you Bob. You did a great job breaking down each one, kind of the what and the why. So that's why Sheena and I are interested like, okay, such a concise job there. How can we apply some of these things? One I'd like to start with is commitment. And I have actually an idea or a question for you. If you can use the law of commitment to help people change their mind? Now, here's kind of a scenario that I ran into, which was someone, one of our colleagues here kind of had this project they were working on and they were fully committed. Maybe they said they're committed or not, but we all could tell they're very committed. And something had changed out of their control, which essentially made that project kind of null and void. Like, it didn't make sense to do it anymore. Right? But they had committed to it. And so they were trying to find a way and they're trying to push through and they're providing all of these different options. Now I'm not trying to toot my own horn, but this book comes to my mind where I'm like, maybe this person has the law of commitment. They've committed so deeply to something that they're unable to consider uncommitting that. I'm curious if that's commonplace or if there's anything else you can kind of unpack of kind of being aware of where maybe employees or colleagues have committed in where it's possible to kind of reframe that and say," Hey, it's actually okay to uncommit."
Robert Cialdini: Yes. And I think the thing to do once again, is to be authentic and to say, we really appreciate the commitment that you show. That's impressive. That's going to steer you in the right direction in your future. The being willing to do that. In this particular instance, that commitment you had to the task, that was commendable. But the truth is the circumstances have changed. The conditions have changed that make that commitment no longer viable for this task. We love the commitment, but we need to move that commitment, that ability to concentrate your effort and prioritize in terms of a particular purpose. We need to move that to another task where it will bear fruit for all of us.
Sheena Badani: I'd love to get your perspectives on some of these principles and how they apply in this more remote and distributed environment. I can imagine some things like liking and reciprocity are much easier to come by when you're face to face with folks in the office. It's the ability to connect on things that are similar when you're having a conversation in the cafeteria, for example, or across from desks. So how do you think about these principles at play when we're in this hybrid world or fully remote for some folks?
Robert Cialdini: Sure. Let's take those two that you mentioned. And I agree they're difficult ones when you have remote contact with people, but one of the things for reciprocity, for example, that's been shown, reciprocation is send people white papers, send people information that will help them with their business ahead of time. You go first and give them something, send them an article that says the three biggest mistakes to avoid in your particular situation or the top 10 hints for saying the right thing at the right time, whatever it is, it shouldn't be something designed to increase the profile of your business because then it's not a gift. Then it's just a marketing strategy, but it should be something designed to help you do better, get better outcomes in what you do. You send those things on a regular basis. You send them ahead to the people in your audience and that you've done them a favor and they know it. And so when you come around, they're ready to give you one in return. Now, liking I saw an article of 6, 700 online commercial sites, a review of those sites, where they did AB tests to see which factors in those sites were most likely to produce a conversion from a visitor to a customer. And they had all kinds of factors. There were some that were economic, like we'll give you free shipping. Some were technological, there's a search function inside the site. Some were psychological, was there an ask, was there a call to action at the end of every interaction, these kinds of things? Well, one of the top converters was whether on the site there was a welcoming letter to people as they landed on the site, somebody said," Hi, welcome. We're so glad to have you..." The sort of thing you would do if somebody came to your home or somebody came to your brick and mortar business, you would welcome them in a positive way, which would increase. Like if we can do that, why not? Instead of a landing page that just has a lot of information or welcome them first and welcome them, usher them in to your products and services.
Sheena Badani: I mean, I think the same thing even applies for internal communication. For example, sometimes I receive requests over Slack with somebody asking a very direct question and maybe somebody I have never met at my company or somebody I met six months ago, but it's a very direct question. Do you know this person, can you make an introduction? Then there are other folks who will actually take that time to be more welcoming, get to know me for a couple of minutes and then make the ask. And it's a very different dynamic I must say
Robert Cialdini: It is. It is. It's that connection. And the more we become electronically mediated in terms of our connection, the more we miss the humanity of a cordial interaction before we begin the business process. And the more we can replace that online, the better. I saw an article that showed that if in a negotiation the bargainers shake hands first before they begin, both sides have better outcomes because they like one another more. There is a statement of cooperation and intent to cooperate. Well, if you're online or you're doing a presentation, a PowerPoint presentation, have it start with an image of a handshake. Why not? Why not build that back in because it's possible. The other thing about this that I always like was that it seemed to me that these negotiations that were better when there was an initial handshake at the beginning of the negotiation, I always thought to myself, you know what? If I was one of those negotiators after lunch, they'd shake hands again. I do it again. I have a reinforcement of the extent to which there's an intent to cooperate and to mutually succeed.
Devin Reed: It's interesting there's some studies behind that because Sheena to your point about Slack, I have noticed where in my head I'm like, I guess it's a sign of familiarity, while with Sheena, I can just get straight to the point. We know each other, we talk pretty frequently. I'm going to get right to it. But Joe, on the sales team who I've never spoke to, or haven't spoken to a lot, I'll definitely make sure," Hey Joe, how's it going? Here's..." A little bit more of that intro. So I viewed it a little more casually, but it does make a lot of sense. And Sheena, maybe before we make an ask, we just put the little handshake emoji in Slack before we talk to. Oh, okay. That's right. Friendship and unity and I like you and we'll get into the actual ask. Okay. So you just heard me say that there are studies around checking in with coworkers. So guess what? I'm here to back myself up with data. Cordial check- ins are still necessary in a virtual workplace. According to a study done by the Center of Talent Innovation, 39% of surveyed workers said they feel a greater sense of belonging when their colleagues check in on them. This could be as small as asking the colleague, how are you doing when you Slack them? Or it could be as personal as asking them about their family or checking in after a big meeting. The survey also revealed that employees who feel a greater sense of belonging at their organizations were actually three and a half times more likely to contribute to their fullest potential. That's a huge payoff for a small action. So we want to challenge you this week. Instead of jumping into your conversations with your team or prospects and getting right down to business, genuinely check in on them because sometimes the smallest things aren't so small after all, let's dive back in with Robert as we go a little deeper from checking in with customers to the power of co- creation. I'd love to dig into unity if you're up to it. One, it's the new kid on the block of the principles. But I think too is like, as we, Sheena and I talked to a lot of leaders about trying to build, evolve their culture, while they're hybrid, fully remote. And I think it's easy for teams to lose sight of their mission statement and kind of like the mission of the company when you're in your home office, your living room working day to day, and you don't get those connections that we're all used to. So I'm curious, Bob, if you have any examples of maybe how leaders can really bring that unity mindset, right? And so one thing that maybe came to mind, as you were saying, Hey, we have to show that we're truly partners. I know one way might be, and you can correct me, could be like co- creating things together, right? When people both come to the table, even if I only contributed 5% or 10%, I'm going to feel like I had bigger contribution, be more bought in and I'm just speaking for myself. So is that something that you would prescribe as like co- creating when possible? Are there other things that leaders could be doing as well?
Robert Cialdini: Yes. Co- creation is crucial with our customers, right? They become more satisfied. They become more loyal. If we've asked them into the interaction with the development of our next stage or model product and so on. But there's an aspect that fits not only outside, but inside. When we ask for their input on something, we usually ask for their opinion. Can you give us your opinion on what we're thinking? And that's a mistake. It turns out when you ask for someone's opinion, you get a critic, somebody who steps away from you, not in a partnership way, but steps away from you with a distance and then provides an evaluation of this idea or whatever it is that you're hoping this new initiative that you're hoping to develop. If you change one word and ask for their advice, rather than opinion, you get a partner, you get someone who's standing with you together. And the research is amazing. It shows that if you ask for advice rather than an opinion, you get better feedback. You get better input into what it can be done to improve the thing or how you can present it and so on. And they like the idea better, significantly better because they're part of it. The newest research shows you get exactly the same effect if you, instead of using the word, can you give me your feedback on this? You say, can you give me your advice on this. Same thing happens. Advice is a partnership associated word and it wins the day. Now, let me give you one other example and it's one that I had of how to manage using unity. A while ago, I needed some help on a project. I needed a colleague of mine in the psychology department where I work to give me some data he had collected the previous years for a report I was writing that was due the next day. Well, I sent him an email and I said, Tim, I told him my situation. I'm going to ask you if you can go to your archives and get the data out and send them to me today because I need it. But I'm going to call you and talk about how to do this. So I called him and this guy let's call him Tim, who was known to be a kind of irascible sour character. He said," I know why you're calling Bob. And the answer is no. Look, I can't be in charge of your poor time management skills, Bob, that's up to you. So no." And before I had read this research on unity, here's what I would've said," Come on Tim. I need this. It's due the next day." He had already said no to that. In fact, made a commitment to it. I said," Come on Tim. We've been members of the same psychology department for 12 years now. I really need this." I had the data that afternoon. I reminded him of a connection we have and the power, I mean, the rules of this... This is what we do for the people who are of us, who are partners with us. This is what we do. We help them. And I'll give you one more example. So how often we can just find instances of particular kinds of unities. I grew up in the state of Wisconsin and the football team there is the Green Bay Packers. So I'm a Green Bay Packers fan, always been my whole life. And I read a newspaper article a little while ago that said there are two celebrities, Justin Timberlake, and Lil Wayne who are avid Green Bay Packers fans. Devin and Sheena, I immediately thought better of their music. And secondly, I wanted them to succeed more. They were Packer fans like me. They were one of us. So whenever we can find those unity opportunities to bring into the surface, that's going to be gold.
Devin Reed: Those are fantastic examples. I've got my... Sheena knows my thinking face, or at least my writing faces. I'm writing some examples down. What I like about the we're in this together concept Bob was, you were very specific. You didn't say," Come on Tim. We're in this together." That wouldn't have been enough and together for what? And I think sometimes you see that in marketing, we're in this together. And you're like, in what? Like what are you talking about? But you said," Hey, we've been in the same department," insinuating we have the same mission. We've been committed to this for 12 years. And so I think that extra specificity is probably why I was so powerful. Like I was just kind of like, I wish I was in that psych department. It sounds like they're on a mission. I want to be part of that too.
Robert Cialdini: So if you're ever in a position of trying to move one of your colleagues in your direction, and you have a long term connection with that colleague start out by saying, we've been together for a long time. That's the preface. That's the prologue and everything that follows and becomes more positively colored.
Sheena Badani: So Bob, you've probably worked with a lot of leaders who maybe were not exemplifying all of these pillars in how they engage with their teams. Tell us a little bit about the downside. What happens to folks who maybe don't exemplify one or any of these approaches in their day to day?
Robert Cialdini: Let's take one with reciprocation. Have you ever done a really big favor for somebody? You go beyond the call of duty and you put out this effort and you get it done. And that person says," Thank you. I really appreciate that." And here's what I've heard. A lot of people say a in response. Oh, don't think anything of it? There's no big deal. Just part of the job. No, don't say that. You earn that moment. It's a moment that's dominated by the principle of reciprocation. Don't slap it away. Don't dismiss it. Don't minimize it. So that's the wrong thing to do, but we do it out of politeness or something. Here's what I recommend you say to somebody in your organization under those circumstances. Of course, I was glad to do it. It's what we do for one another here. It's what we do for one another here. You put it on the map and this person is going to nod. Yep. That's what we do. And when you have... Now, when you need a favor, this person is on record, knowing that this is what you expect that we do for one another. And there's a commitment.
Devin Reed: It feels like a quadruple whammy. It's like all of the principles kind of put together. Right? I know, honestly, it's like, you're going to like somebody more. I'm guessing Bob, you correct me where I'm wrong. You're going to like somebody more, you touched on the law of reciprocity. To me, it's almost like a commitment to return that favor. It's like, oh, this is what we do. Well, I'm in this group and I'm committed to the group therefore I'm committed to this kind of code if you will. And then that unity was, this is what we do. So if you're going to keep on keeping on with us, yes, this is what we do.
Robert Cialdini: I think one thing that I like to do sometimes when I'm talking to sales people, sales managers, and so on is define what I mean or what constitutes effective sales? What leads to effective sales, right? These principles that we talked about, they all do that. But there's one thing that I don't have structured within the principles. And that is empathy. If we can put ourselves in the position of the recipient of our message. Think about that person, not in terms of your goals, your purposes, why you're there and so on, but what are those things for that individual that allows you to resonate with those goals and wishes of that particular individual, which then really gives you an open window to how you should approach that particular sale. If you understand that person's needs and challenge and put yourself in that person's position before you begin your strategy, it changes how you proceed.
Devin Reed: All right, Bob, there's one question we did not prepare you for, but I am fully confident that you will be able to handle it. And we ask all of our guests this question, which is how would you describe sales in one word?
Robert Cialdini: Oh, well, that's nice because I just gave you the answer by saying, I'm going to cheat and give you two words. How do I describe effective sales? Effective sales is through empathy with your customer, your prospect.
Sheena Badani: It really connects all four of the pillars together through empathy.
Devin Reed: Well, Bob, it has been a pleasure. I started with that. If I started liking you and I'll tell you what I continue to like you, I'm committed to liking you. So thank you truly for hanging out, sharing your wisdom and a lot of really cool research and insights. We appreciate it.
Robert Cialdini: I enjoyed it. I have to say.
Devin Reed: If you want to continue to grow your selling skills, head over to go. io for more data- backed resources on everything sales. And if you like what you heard today, give us a five star review on Apple Podcast, Spotify or wherever you're listening from.
Robert Cialdini is the godfather of the psychology. His book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” has sold over 5 million copies and has helped countless salespeople learn the fundamentals of creating connections and influence in their sales efforts.
His principles are the difference between going through the sales motion and actually persuading your buyer to make a purchase. In this episode, Robert joins Devin and Sheena to dive into some of the tenets of his book, and share his advice for ethical influence in selling.