Influencers from Around the World – Where Do You Focus: Problems or Successes?

If you’ve followed Influence PEOPLE for any length of time then Hoh Kim should be
a familiar name to you because of his contributions to the Influencers from
Around the World series. Like me, Hoh is a Cialdini Method Certified Trainer (CMCT). In addition to that prestigious certification, Hoh also has his masters
in intercultural communication from Marquette University. You can learn more
about Hoh by checking out his website, The Lab h, and his blog, Cool
. I encourage you reach out to Hoh on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter
Brian, CMCT 
Helping You
Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Where Do You Focus: Problems or Successes?

In my last guest article I posed a question to
readers about what they would do in a particular situation. This time I’d like to do a follow up of sorts, only
in a slightly different context which I will elaborate on.
Many people make mistakes by highlighting negative social proof, rather than the positive ones. This is not only a phenomenon in surveys
but everywhere. I am sure you are very familiar with a general business term, “problem
solving.” Yes, we all want to solve problems and in order to solve “problems”
we should identify and analyze in depth what the problem really is because most
of us think we can solve problems once we know what the problem is.
Is that true? Not always. Maybe it is true for medical
doctors when treating patients’ diseases, and perhaps for engineers when fixing
a machine’s problem but what about problems in human beings and organizations?
Recently I attended the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) workshop
and heard a real story. Once, an organization had a “problem” – only 79% of
their customers were satisfied with their service. So the company did some
research to figure out what the problems were for the 21% of non-satisfied
customers. They found it and announced it to the organization. What happened?
Executives and employees started to blame others for the problems and the
satisfaction rate dropped even further!
The CEO was disappointed so he changed the strategy. He
conducted another study to figure out why 79% of their customers were satisfied. Yes, their success cases.
Next, the company tried to spread the cases within the organization. The result
this time? The satisfaction rate shot up to 95% within eight months!
Chip Heath, from Stanford, and Dan Heath, from the Aspen
Institute, wrote a great book called Switch.
One of the secrets to switch people’s behavior, according the brothers, is to
find ‘bright spots’ rather than focusing on problems. They wrote, “Don’t solve
problems. Copy successes.”
The Heaths quote the late Insoo Kim Berg (1934-2007) who was
a globally known psychotherapist who pioneered the Solution Focused BriefTherapy method. When Kim counseled her clients, she didn’t spend time asking
what their problems were or analyzing them. She simply focused on identifying
solutions. If a kid has the problem of not focusing at all during class she
would approach the child not to find out why she or he acted in that way, but
trying to find the conditions in which they pay attention to the teacher during
the class. Sometimes the child follows one specific teacher well, then, Insoo
Kim Berg would analyze why that was the case. On an interview, Kim Berg said,
“You don’t need to know what the problems are. You just have to know what the
solutions are.” It sounds like a joke but during my recent consulting work I
have applied these “bright spots” concepts and it has worked well. Here’s a
quote from the AI workshop, “If you focus on problems, you will create more
problems. If you focus on successes, then, you will create more successes.”
We work with different bosses, colleagues, staff members,
clients, consultants, etc., and see that some of them focus on bright spots, while
others focus on the “dark spots.” Each side has pros and cons but you will see most
people say things like this, “That’s the problem” or “This is the problem,”
without ever suggesting solutions. It’s true that criticizing problems is easy
and offering solutions can be difficult but I think the real problem are the “people
who always talk about problems only” and fail to offer solutions.

Influencers from Around the World – A Nightmare on Persuasion Street

This month our Influencers from Around the World guest post comes from across the pond from my old Irish friend Sean Patrick. Sean owns a sales training company, Sales Training Evaluation, and writes a blog, Professional Persuader. Sean is a big fan of Dr. Cialdini and attended the Principles of Persuasion workshop I led when he visited the States in October 2010. Always thought-provoking, Sean’s post this week is no different.
Brian, CMCT 
Helping You
Learn to Hear “Yes”.

A Nightmare on Persuasion Street
Persuasion is one of my life long loves.  It is constant learning and working out practically what makes people say “Yes.”  There are many types of persuasion principles and methods and one of those is coercion. When I refer to coercion, I mean two things; unethical use of persuasive techniques and emotional tampering.
The world is a changing place and has changed dramatically over the past three to four years, in particular. People realize we have moved into a new reality in which economic uncertainty is here to stay. As a result many bury themselves into fantasy land with the help of the internet and television soap operas.
Television has become one of the most potent forms of persuasion abuse in recent times. Politicians remind us constantly that we are all ok, that we’re being looked after, and that the sons and daughters of our countries are doing the right things by sacrificing themselves to affront a common enemy. As this all goes on we remain ignorant of the true facts even as our pension funds, life savings and home values erode to nothingness.
What I have just described is known as the “Lucifer Effect.”  What makes people accept brutality and evil as normal? The Lucifer Effect raises this question and also delves into the psyche of perpetrators of abuse or coercion. Throughout history we have been conditioned to accept one rule of thumb as being our normal even if other people in different countries vehemently oppose our ideals. Yet we gladly accept that what is normal should not be questioned in case we are ridiculed or have our loyalties questioned.
Human character is a dynamic thing, it transforms on the basis of different chronologies. What makes normal, law abiding, educated and healthy people become raving stewards of hate? When we look back in time at the inquisitions of the Catholic Church, The Third Reich, Rwanda, the abuses of the U.S. military in Abu Ghraib, Iraq and similar episodes in Afghanistan, what we see are normal law abiding citizens becoming perpetrators of sadistic evil.
This is where social proof in the influence process comes in. Robert Cialdini’s principles of persuasion are subliminal and powerful! In all of history’s foibles you can spot the persuasive mechanisms at work. Even today in North Korea, the power of the crowd plays an important role in keeping the population at large from uprising against a despotic regime.
It isn’t just politics where the abuse of influence is at work, we can see it every day in the mainstream news media, the press, soap operas, Hollywood films, advertising, and even religion. Once you’ve become accustomed to seeing the six principles it becomes more and more apparent how each principle is embedded in the context in which it is given.
Finally, where we see dehumanization at work we need to ask questions about what is really going on, and we can do this by seeing exactly how much effort is being put into the persuasive mechanism and how much others really want us to buy into it. Usually, such efforts are preceded by what I call the “Carrot and Stick” approach. This is the highly coercive act of offering a solution to a perceived problem by provoking a public reaction.

Hitler’s genocidal policy began through the introduction of a re-education of school children. Educational propaganda is nothing new and is intentionally designed to form dehumanization towards the common enemy.  This necessarily doesn’t need to be targeted towards people; it can be attitudes towards finance, work, immigration, foreign policies, centralization of government etc. A manipulation of public attitudes is definitely affected by this principle.
I’ve become more intrigued about this principle that was coined by Philip Zimbardo and to this end the fascination of watching the trial of Anders Breivik in Norway keeps reminding me that there is a greater degree of understanding needed when normal people become evil.

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The Worst Kind of Loss

In this month’s Influencers from Around the
World post we get the distinct privilege of hearing from Anthony McLean, CMCT.
Anthony is the only Cialdini Method Certified Trainer in Australia. His
background is unique, having spent more than a dozen years as a police sergeant
and an intelligence officer, he now uses the skills he learned on the job in
his study of behavioural intelligence, the role of emotions and most
importantly, influence and the science of persuasion. He’s currently the
Executive Director of NewIntelligence.
You can connect with Anthony on Facebook,
and Twitter.
Helping You Learn to Hear
The Worst Kind of Loss
We are all familiar with Dr Cialdini’s Principle
of Scarcity
and the notion that it motivates people to act to avoid losing something of
value.  As a universal rule that guides
behaviour, it is as prevalent in Australia as elsewhere around the world. 
But is all loss the same? 
A study found that 75% of people polled
said they experienced greater regret for the things in life “they did not do” over the regrettable
actions “they did do” (Gilovich and
A second study asked people between the
ages of 20-64 if they could live their life over to do something different
would they rectify a regrettable inaction or a regrettable action.
Overwhelmingly the study found people would rectify a regrettable inaction
(Kinnier and Metha).
Anyone who has experienced a situation in
which they did not act and later came to regret this inaction knows the
sensation of opportunity lost.  This is
opposed to the regret associated with a decision we have made but due to the
consequences that often involve loss we come to regret the active decision made.
Personally I know that I reflect
differently on the regret of not taking the opportunity to live overseas when I
had the chance, over decisions that I have made that later proved to be a loss,
such as when I sold a property for twice what I paid for it only to find out it
would double in value again within a few short years with absolutely no
improvements made.
When we add time into the equation we find
that people who were asked what their biggest regret of the past week was, they
were more likely to report things they had done. Those asked about the biggest
regrets over their life would report regrettable inaction, i.e., the things
they did not do.
An explanation for this is when focusing on
the present we are perhaps still in damage control, looking for ways to rectify
a regrettable action. Therefore in the short-term regrettable actions can be
remedied to some degree.  Whereas with
missed opportunities or regrettable inaction the opportunity is often fleeting
and difficult to recapture and therefore there may never be an opportunity for
a second chance. 
If you are considering an action but fear
the consequences, as part of your decision consider how difficult it will be to
reclaim ground through apologies, subsequent action, etc., if it goes wrong.
Then consider the consequences if you fail
to act altogether and ask yourself, “What are the chances of this opportunity
ever coming around again?”
If you get your decision wrong, you will
have an emotional event such as anger, embarrassment, etc., but this will fade
with time. If you fail to act and you later regret this inaction you are far
more likely to experience despair and other associated emotions that are more
likely to persist (Gilovich, Medvec and Kahneman).
Therefore in the words of Ekhart Tolle,Any action is often better than
no action
, because we can often recover from an action gone bad;
inaction can haunt us for life.
The caveat on this of course is you are all
rational-thinking people so actions and inactions in your life will be guided
by your own personal circumstances. A decision not to act is still an action,
so regret the action taken and learn from the decision’s failure rather than
ponder what may have been.
If you have not seen it I would encourage
you to watch the video 50 People: 1
Question Gallway Ireland 2011.
In this video participants are asked about
their biggest life regret and it is interesting to look at the regrettable
actions, inactions and those who say they have no regrets. If you’d like to watch
the video click
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Anthony McLean, CMCT

Influencers from Around the World – Could Shakespeare give Women Career Advice?

This month’s guest blogger in the Influencers from Around the World series is Cathrine Moestue. Cathrine hails from Norway and is one of only 27 Cialdini Method Certified Trainers (CMCT) in the world! In addition to her intelligence and business savvy Cathrine is a lot of fun to engage with. If you’d like to connect with her she’s on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. I know you’ll enjoy “Could Shakespeare give Women Career Advice?”

Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
Could Shakespeare give Women Career Advice?

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; and one woman in her time plays many parts.” William Shakespeare, As You Like It.

This quotation has several meanings. First, and most simply, it means we all have roles to play. We like to think we are independent, and that we choose how we act, but in reality we have many unconscious habits that can jeopardize our true authority in the workplace. It is not just about doing a good job it is also about both looking and sounding the part.

As a corporate trainer and business coach, my success depends upon my clients reaching their goals after having worked together. In this blog post I want to share some insights and tips from the science of influence along with my experience coaching women in their careers.

Recently I have encountered a problem with competent business women  dressing in a way that makes me perceive them more like “girls,” rather than looking the part their professional roles would dictate.

They all shared with me that they were passed over for career opportunities they wanted and were qualified for. Not all of them to the same degree or even in the same way, but this was a shared experience. Could this be because of the way they looked? I think so.

I have always been fascinated with the phrase “perception is reality” because it challenges us to take a mental step back and do a reality check on our automatic reactions in any given situation. It is true – there is no reality, only people’s perception.

If you want to be more empowered and increase your influence skills, it is wise to do a “reality check” on your beliefs and spend time learning what behaviors increase your effectiveness. The best place to look is the science of influence.

Robert Cialdini, PhD, writes in Influence: Science and Practice, that our authority is communicated through cues, which include all your nonverbal cues, the way you look and the sound of your voice are more important than you might think. These are the small things that make the big differences.

One study found people were 350% more likely to follow a 31-year old jaywalker into traffic when he was wearing a suit compared to when he wore trousers and a work shirt. Our clothing provides an efficient, effective shortcut, useful for both simple and complicated decisions. Clothing is one thing, but your tone of voice is just as important, and together they can be more important than what you actually say.

What “cues” do you wear that might increase or decrease the perception of you as an authority in your work environment? If you don’t want to miss the next chance for a promotion or you just want to be taken more seriously, make sure you don’t make any of the following mistakes.

Career bungling #1 Believing the best and the smartest are always rewarded accordingly.

Wrong. Those who are competent and look and sound professional are those who smoothly maneuver themselves up the corporate ladder. Competence is not enough although you most certainly need it. It will only serve you to get your foot in the door but will not move you forward. If you accept this and take responsibility to play your role professionally you have already increased your chances of reaching your goals sooner. Luckily, how you look is one of the easiest things you can address on your way to become a more effective agent of influence.

Career bungling #2 Dressing inappropriately.

Informal fashion has made it more difficult to find the right job outfit but you can follow this rule: dress for the job you want and not for the one you have. Short skirts, seductive styles, and high heels that are too high will not get you were you want to go – at least not in the business world. Like it or not, people notice both the quality and the style of your dress and make mental notes about you. There are exceptions to this rule and you can find successful women who break them, but their attire is overlooked because they’re probably geniuses in their fields. Remember, they are the exception, not the rule.

Career bungling #3 Grooming in public.

When was the last time you saw a man check his hair after lunch? Or file his nails in management meeting? Just the thought of it is ridiculous. Even if you are discreet, this behavior will get noticed and it will not enhance your credibility. Long hair is back in fashion but be prepared to lose the “Alice in Wonderland” look if you want to be taken more seriously.

Don’t make the mistake of judging the apparent simplicity of these errors, because small things really do make big differences when it comes to others’ perception of us.

Imaginary but new coaching advice from Shakespeare

Make yourself aware of your business role, accept it and learn the difference between the private you and the corporate you.

  • Dress like your clients or colleagues +1.
  • Do your grooming in the bathroom, not in the board room.
  • Look at successful women and notice what they’re wearing. Also pay attention to women in positions you aspire to because that’s how you should dress.


The most effective authority is the credible authority – a woman with both expertise and trustworthiness. Meryl Streep wins Oscars because she both looks and sounds the part. I know you aren’t an actor but it’s not about the acting profession. What I’m talking about is understanding the psychological principle behind being perceived as an authority – being competent and looking the part. Don’t forget, hearing “yes” to a job promotion for many of us is like winning an Oscar in our everyday lives.If you’re viewing this by email and want to leave a comment click here.

Cathrine Moestue
Empowering Women to hear YES

Influencers from Around the World – The Communicative Feature of Your Favorite Teacher

This month’s Influencers from Around the World post comes from Yago de Marta. Yago has been a guest blogger at Influence PEOPLE for several years now. He hails from Spain where he works with clients helping them speak more fluently and persuasively. To learn more about Yago visit or connect with him on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. 

Brian, CMCT 
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

The Communicative Feature of Your Favorite Teacher

We all remember a teacher who made us love a subject in grade school, high school, or perhaps college. We all remember the teacher who helped us love literature, history, mathematics, or some other subject for which we had no passion to start.
That teacher seemed to get better performance from all of their students. He didn’t come to our home to study with us but nonetheless, he inspired us, and helped us find interest for a particular subject. In short, that teacher influenced us.
Even in the case of many poor students, most also had a
great teacher somewhere along the way. These students had no interest in school or anything related to school; they didn’t enjoy studying, but they found “something” in that one teacher that motivated them to sit down, take notes and study.
As it is a “universal” example of influence, 13 years ago I began to ask this question in my training clinics: What feature did your teachers have that made you love a subject in high school or college?
Pause to think about that for just a minute. Remember back
to your favorite teacher. See him talking to you, notice how he moved and what he did. Remember how that made you feel, how you began your relationship with that subject. Well, you’ve done it! I bet one of the features that came to mind is listed below:

A. He was explanatory

B. He made you participate

C. He knew his subject

D. He cared for you (the class)

E. He loved what he shared (the subject)

For the record, I bet most who read this article chose
option E and perhaps one of the other answers.
The point is we all know that one teacher influenced us in an ethical and positive way. We also know that the five characteristics noted above were decisive in our experience. But how are they related to the Principles of Influence?

He was explanatory – On the one hand, to be explanatory
implies a difference from the traditional teacher who was merely descriptive. So “to explain” implies effort, which implies an interest in the person – the student – to make sure he or she understands what is being shared during class. When the student understands that gives meaning to the class and that’s a comforting feeling. Thus, we find Liking. Striving to explain something involves approaching the figure of the student, and that is translated into a form of mutual identification.
Likewise, when the student feels he understands
something, some of the barriers he had about not study are demolished. In short, he is now open to learn more. This is an example of Commitment and Consistency which the teacher can draw on to further the learning.
Finally, when the teacher strives to explain the subject,
strives to approach the students, this creates an obligation to respond which taps into Reciprocity. So the more explanatory is the teacher, the better results are obtained.
He made you participate in the class – The student feels
important when he feels he is part of what’s going on. This feeling is comforting only if the teacher knows to balance the fears or nerves the student may have. However, in general terms the student will always feel positive when involved with peers. The student perceives the other’s participation and Consensus – going along with the crowd – makes him want to participate as well. This process increases the degree of student involvement with the subject so he feels more “compelled” to study after class. While making the class more horizontal, the teacher is placed on the same level as the student, a form of identification, and liking is increased.
He knows a lot – This is obviously Authority. We see that
element is very important because the above items, with the great presence of Liking, need to be balanced. In this sense, the students value the use of anecdotes and examples unknown. On the other side “to know much” is a point of reference for students. It becomes a reference image that can be pursued to improve, and it becomes an element of inspiration.
He loved what he talked about – As I noted earlier, this is the most important point of all. This is what makes all the other points possible. To love your subject means you have passion and that passion is contagious, motivating people to listen. It also makes learning more fun. It is the perfect combination of liking and authority. As others get involved because of that passion which makes it easier for those on the fringes – consensus – to join in and feel a part of what’s taking place.
We all know the influence a teacher can have because we have all felt that force. The key is that we should make people feel those same things as we meet them in our everyday life. And that can influence them to change and improve.


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Influencers from Around the World – How to Present Price Effectively

Marco Germani is our guest writer to start the New Year. Marco has been sharing posts with readers for a couple of years now and has written a book on persuasion in Italian, I Meccanismi della Persuasione. Marco always brings his unique perspective to his posts so I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading his views on How to Present Price Effectively. You can connect with Marco on Facebook,
LinkedIn and Twitter.

Brian, CMCT 
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
How to Present Price Effectively
As we all know, in a negotiation price is almost never the only factor that determines the good or bad outcome. There is always at least one other factor along with the price which decisively influences the final outcome; in other words, if the only obstacle to the successful conclusion of the negotiation is price, in most cases the two sides can find agreement. Let’s look at three ways to best present the price of our product or service and maximize our ability to successfully conclude the sale.
1) Never talk about price until you have explained value.
Jeffery Gitomer is renowned for saying that people hate to be sold but they love to buy. Therefore there is a great proliferation of shopping malls in our cities in Italy; places we feel we can freely choose what to buy without the pressure of a seller perhaps using some subtle technique to manipulate us. In addition, each article has a price tag on it so we can immediately attach an economic value to what we see and evaluate immediately whether we prefer to keep that amount of money in our pocket (or bank) or exchange it for the pleasure or utility that the product can produce in our lives.
In the case of a direct sale, which requires the knowledge and skill of a professional vendor, the price has completely different role. The potential customer, as we begin to introduce our product, often has in mind one question, “How much is it?” To unveil the price too early in the presentation is a very common mistake of inexperienced salesmen. The priority, in fact, must always be to communicate and explain the value of the product before communicating its cost. For example, if a customer asks me too soon the price of a product I am presenting, my response is, “Dear customer, the price is the best part of this product and I will cover this subject shortly, but first I want to explain why this product could solve that problem of yours you mentioned earlier, improve your life, etc..”
2) Break-down the price as much as possible
The same price can be communicated in different ways and have a completely different impact on the buyer. If I am presenting a nutrition program based on food supplements, which cost 100 USD per month, it will be my duty, when I go to communicate this price to the prospect, to affirm that the program costs “only 3 USD a day.” In this way the potential customer’s mind is focused on the daily price, comparing it with how much they already spend each day for food, rather than focusing on total spending of 100 USD. I’m not lying or trying to manipulate the prospect, I am just presenting the same information from a different angle, which, after all, is exactly the object of the study of persuasion.
3) Explain the price in relative terms
If I have to sell a training course worth 1,000 USD, I will address the issue of price as follows, “The COST of this course, which is what is necessary to the company that organizes it to cover the costs of educational materials, rent the hall, pay the people who work the event and the speaker, is 1,000 USD, but its VALUE is at least 100 times higher. If we were to charge for the value of this course, we would have a price so high that very few people could afford it.
And, in the case of a book, “The price written on the cover is just what the publisher needs to cover the printing costs, the supply chain to bring it to the library and ensure a minimum profit to the people involved, but its value is also much higher. If the prospects objects, stating 1,000 USD for a training course is too much, I can put the price in relative terms with the following reasoning, “Let’s say you make with your job 1,000 USD per month. You probably earn more than this, but let us make this conservative assumption. If a person you completely trust in these matters, suggested you to invest in a stock, which can give you a sure income, would you be willing to invest each month 10% of what you are earning now? Now, if you are not aware of this, I inform you that investing in yourself can give you, in time, a return infinitely superior to the best stock today on the market. How many training courses and seminar do you attend each year? (If the person did me the objection of the price, the answer is almost always zero). If you decide to invest only 10% of your monthly income on yourself, in less than a year, you put aside the amount you need for this course.”
By adapting these three factors to your product or service, you can greatly increase your chances of closing a sale, provided always that you are proposing a valuable product at a fair and competitive price and assuming your primary goal is always to help people, rather than simply to earn a commission!

Influencers from Around the World – You’re the Manager – What Would You Do?

Hoh Kim has been contributing to Influence PEOPLE for more than two years. One of only two Cialdini Method Certified Trainers (CMCT) in Asia, Hoh also has a masters in PR/intercultural communication from Marquette University. His website is The Lab h and he also writes a blog called Cool Communications. You can make contact with Hoh on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter

Brian, CMCT 
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

the Manager – What Would You Do?

Imagine you are the HR manager of a pharmaceutical company. Last week, your company held a two-day off-site workshop, inviting all 221 employees. You had several busy months leading up to the workshop due to being charged with organizing the event; i.e., selecting the venue, accommodations and food, inviting guest speakers and setting the agenda. Now, it’s over and the HR director, your boss, asked you to email a survey to the employees asking for their feedback. This is important because the survey results will be considered for your upcoming performance review. Your boss said something very important, “As this is internal survey, the response rate should be over 60%. With your encouragement, people will respond.”
So you developed a survey with a dozen questions and sent it Tuesday to all 221 employees. The deadline to wrap up the results is next Tuesday at 10 a.m. Friday morning you checked the online survey system to find out how many employees responded. On the first day, Tuesday morning, as soon as the survey was sent 25 employees responded. Not a bad start. By Tuesday afternoon an additional 14 employees responded.
Wednesday morning only five employees responded and from Wednesday through Friday morning, no one else responded! Only 20% have responded and you have to have an additional 40% to meet your boss’s expectation. You have many things to handle and you know you can have only one follow up email to encourage more participation. How could you write the email?
I have observed similar cases at companies and schools where
employee participation is encouraged via email and then followed up the same way. It is easy to find people who sent emails that read like this, “Last week I emailed employees asking you to participate in a survey and only 20% responded. Would you participate so that we can improve our workshop next year?”
What would Dr. Cialdini do in this case? One of the principles of influence at work is social proof (a.k.a. consensus); people follow the majority. But, Dr. Cialdini warns to be careful with negative social proof. Normally, it’s better not to use social proof in negative situations. Think about it for a moment. People follow the majority and your complaint stating “only 20% have responded” lets people who didn’t respond to the survey know that they are in the majority, not the minority. Employees will not be persuaded to respond when most other coworkers are not responding.
So what should you do? Pick some positive responses – fast, concrete, and constructive ones – and use them in your follow-up email. To test this I did a small experiment a few years back when I facilitated in a customized Principles of Persuasion workshop for a small group of top performing employees in a Korean company. Before the workshop I sent an email survey to learn their interests and concerns about the workshop. As soon as the survey was sent, 23% of the participants responded. Not bad. On the second day there was no response. Third day? None. On the fourth day I realized I had to do something so I wrote another email. The new email said, “As soon as the survey went out, there were people who responded to the survey by providing a very detailed and constructive feedback. I appreciate that. If you have not had a chance to participate yet, please do so by clicking on the link. It is a very short survey!” Of course, I didn’t say, “only 23% responded…” What happened? For the next two days, the response rate tripled, going from 23% to 69%. Not bad at all!

So what’s the point? When using social proof to persuade be careful how you use it because you might unknowingly hurt yourself when you think you’re doing the right thing.


Influencers from Around the World – My Favourite Principles of Influence Used by Online Marketers

This month our Influencers from Around the World guest post comes all the way from Ireland courtesy of Sean Patrick. Sean owns his own sales training company, Sean Patrick Training, and writes a blog, Professional Persuader. We met through Facebook several years ago because of Dr. Cialdini and we’ve maintained regular contact ever since. I know you’ll enjoy what Sean has to say this week.

My Favourite Principles of Influence Used by Online Marketers
The following is a list of my all time favourite principles of influence used by online marketers and how I see them used; the good, the bad and the ugly.
1.     Authority
Marketers use this principle to create a sense or feeling of how the potential customer is in safe hands because they make the prospect feel as though they’ve found someone who has or can demonstrate ability, credibility and proof of concept by knowing the exact pain, dissatisfaction and problem that the prospect is currently feeling. It’s a demonstration of experience by telling a story of how the knowledge to overcome the problem or dissatisfaction came about, the journey of anguish and frustration followed by one “Eureka” moment that just blew the problem apart and facilitated a solution.
Solutions imply success and this is where testimonials come in handy. The marketer will supply oodles of proud and happy customer testimonials which make the prospect’s imagination itch with anticipation. Unfortunately all too often the testimonials are nothing more than cronies and affiliates who have an interest in the product’s success by earning commissions on each sale.
The real heavyweight to this principle is when the marketer offers a cast-iron guarantee or assurance as to the efficacy of the product that the prospect will only ever experience success. This deflects any come back to the marketer by implying that it’s the customer’s problem if they don’t experience the same results as all the other customers.
The last piece of the authority principle that the marketer needs to employ is by bringing in the heavy-weight celebrities, famous affiliates or mentioning some major event they sponsor.  The principle of authority when used credibly creates and confirms expertise, but when done in an egotistical manner it implies “Guru Status.” There is a world of difference between the two and self-appointed gurus are best avoided.
2.   Scarcity (Fake Urgency)
When done properly and all other conditions are met this is the one principle to send a would-be buyer over the edge. It makes them buy, especially when potential customers are spoon-fed the notion that what they are pondering is about to be taken away from them due to two things:
a. Limited stock or supply, or
b. Time limited price offer
Scarcity is often perceived as the one to watch out for because it’s been used over and again, but if all the other principles are used effectively then scarcity becomes the trigger that’s easily pulled. The easiest way this is done on the web is by stating right from the start that what is about to be sold is scarce either because of limited supply or because the guy in the stock room messed up and priced all the labels incorrectly, stupidly at a much lower price so therefore the marketer can’t afford to sell the product at the launch price for an extended period.
The reality is that scarcity is quite often fake and the sense of urgency is false; just a ploy. The majority of products sold on the web are information products so how can something produced digitally be of limited supply? The same rule applies with price simply because no one sells anything at a loss; unless it’s a liquidation sale where all stock is liquidated at low prices in order to pay the exorbitant fees of the liquidator. This why a time limited price offer can be extended and often is when the guy in the stockroom screws up again and finds a ton of stock that was hidden under a polythene cover.
In my opinion scarcity is really powerful when people travel and they see something that is scarce back home but is abundant in the region they are travelling through. But the conundrum is either to buy there and then or to go on the web and buy via direct mail when they get back home. Generally, the window of opportunity is narrow for both seller and buyer and most of the time the tourist will succumb and purchase on the spot.
3.   Reciprocity (Concession)
The principle of reciprocity has been killed to death by marketers on the web. The usual tricks follow the pattern of exchanging an email address in return for some pointless or semi-useful report, whitepaper or mp3 that contains only self promoting messages rather than ready-to-use-instantly-valuable information.
A new wave of reciprocity is to receive an invitation from a marketer to a live web-conference where you can learn X and Y and achieve Z for free. It’s like a 3 for 2 offer. This tactic achieves both receiving the identities and email addresses of prospects that sit at the beginning of the sales cycle and during the lead nurturing process the marketer can choose to offer more freebies of varying scales to the prospect with the aim of qualifying the prospect further. The principle of reciprocity states that I’m more compelled to do something for you because you gave me something first that was both personal and timely.
Prospects will begin to find the marketer as a source of authority through a repetitive experience of this principle.
4.   Contrast
Perceptual contrast is one of the sneakiest tricks that a marketer can play out in the online world. The same tricks that a mentalist employs are played out online all the time.
This principle plays stage to how a menu of prices can confuse and distract and leave the customer financially worse off. Just the like the 3 for 2’s you see in the shops a similar price structure ensures that the marketer is maximizing every dollar from every customer. But the pricing structure can be a lot more complicated if bonus materials and legacy products are offered at supposedly discounted prices.
Just like price, how problems are solved can be distorted very easily by using this principle. Questions a lot of people don’t ask themselves before buying include:
a. What will this product really do?
b. How much time do I need to invest in order to get a return?
c. How does the product really work?
More often than not the obvious gets blurred by the use of other principles melding together that creates dissonance in the prospects mind. This in turn creates a contrasting perception of where they are and where they’ll be in the future but at the same time seeing their potential future self in the present because they’ve convinced themselves to buy the marketers product and now feel a part of a tribe of successful like-minded people. They trust wholeheartedly the marketer to be their sole authority over their problem.
5.    Liking
I like you because you appear to be similar to me because of experience, status, color, race, sexuality, football team, or our stamp collection.  ; )
Liking is powerful because it brings about a sense of trust that is long lasting. We all want to be a part of the same crew, tribe, team and corporation or we like people who value our sense of freedom and independence and therefore feel camaraderie. This tactic is very popular with online marketers who launch membership sites that take in monthly fees or marketers who create pre-launch events that bring together the entire pool of prospects who suffer the same dissatisfactions and allow them to network, mingle and produce fellowships by way of interacting in web-chat facilities, forums and social media sites.  It also goes hand in hand with the social proof principle that facilitates the need to purchase even more because people who we came into friending are buying, and those who bought before had huge successes and you know what they were pretty cool people too and I like them!
Hopefully your eyes are open a little wider now and you can spot legitimate use of certain principles of influence vs. illegitimate use.

To read about Influential Negotiations on Sean’s site click here.

Influencers from Around the World: Secrets of an Aussie Debt Collector

This month’s Influencers from Around the World article comes to us from down under courtesy of Anthony McLean, CMCT. Like me, Anthony is a Cialdini Method Certified Trainer, the only one in Australia. Reach out to him on Facebook or LinkedIn, or feel free to leave a comment below.

Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Secrets of an Aussie Debt Collector

I was recently at a social function where I met a guy who, from the outset, sparked my curiosity. When asked what he did he simply replied, “debt collection.” After a bit more discussion he said something that really intrigued me, “I only work with two types of clients; those who can’t pay and those who won’t pay.

This comment resonated with me because I immediately thought of the complex influence problems we encounter. I thought the most difficult situations often involve a target of influence who believes they can’t say YES or simply won’t say YES.
I probed further into the world of our debt collector and found that he not only ran a very successful business but the more he spoke, the more it became obvious he was intuitively employing all of Dr. Robert Cialdini’s principles of influence in some way.
Of note: Dr. Cialdini originally discovered these principles by watching those masters of influence in a covert manner and then reverse engineered their strategies and validated them through research. Just as Cialdini had done, I quickly realized I was in the presence of an artisan; someone who was effectively employing Abraham Maslow’s fourth stage of learning, unconscious competence. Influence was a part of this guy; he just did it and was successful because of it. We arranged to meet to discuss this further and below are the secrets of a very successful debt collector.
Those who can’t pay
We started off agreeing that those who were happy to pay never made it onto his books so we would commence with those who believe they can’t pay.
Our debt collector (DC) started by saying the introduction to the phone call is critical. He had to be “firm but fair.” DC commences by introducing himself by title and appropriately demonstrating his knowledge in the field. He knows that if he is to influence those who believe they can’t pay he has to get their side of the story in order to understand what happened and, if possible, why. Going too hard will shut them down and that’s not to anyone’s advantage. With the introduction over he commences by getting their side of the debt story and uses this context to start to work through strategies to see how they can start to pay. DC highlights to the debtor that even small amounts are okay and reassures them that others don’t have to know about this situation. This second element is critical because for many “saving face” is integral to the process.
DC says that truthfully telling the debtor that “others have told him that they begin to feel better once they start” often opens the door to further discussions. He stated he highlights that this simple step will also stave off any legal proceedings and will give the debtor time to work through the problem in many respects under their own terms.
DC said that while working through options he avoids putting debtors in a position in which they feel they have to say No”. Once a pathway is identified he gets the debtor to voluntarily commit to a repayment start date and to outline how they will go about making that first payment and the subsequent payments after that.
What DC has found is those who can’t pay are far more receptive after providing their side of the story. This also allows a time and space for him to outline the various consequences and to highlight the options they have open to them. Of course DC said he always finishes by commenting on what the debtor honestly stands to lose by not going down this path, including the widespread attention that is often drawn to public hearings like this.  He’d added his approach is unlike many in his industry and his staff is recruited because of their ability to engage with and talk to people, not just make demands and threats upfront.
During our conversation I was able to quickly note where DC was intuitively using the principles. They were:
Introduce himself with the title of debt collector.
Engage in a very different way to what people expect thus allowing for the contrast to be drawn to other debt collectors and even the debt recovery efforts of the initial service provider.
Providing debtors the opportunity to tell their side of the story and allowing them to do so.
Allowing debtors to make their own choices with one alternatively ensuring confidentiality.
Providing flexibility in repayment options and terms.
Cooperating with the debtor to find solutions allowing for payment rather than making demands.
Genuinely looking at the situation from the debtor’s perspective and letting them know that it was not DC’s job to make this any harder but to in fact help them resolve it without causing further hardship.
By highlighting that others like them have felt better once they commence the payment plan.
Introducing himself by title and organization and quickly explaining the role.
Demonstrating knowledge of options and legislation in the introduction
Carefully ensuring the debtor doesn’t commit to “No” in the early stages thereby taking a stand not to pay.
Getting the debtor to voluntarily commit to a payment plan with a start date and method of payment of their choosing.
Highlight what they stand to lose by this becoming public or by going to court.
Those who won’t pay
DC informed me that as far as those who won’t pay, it’s more a situation in which they often have the capacity to pay, but felt wronged in some way. This could mean they didn’t receive the service or goods they initially paid for or they weren’t told the whole truth about the product and/or service initially. With this history of the service provider under-delivering or failing to deliver, often the debtor has not and will not take proactive steps to repay the debt. In many instances the debtor is happy for the matter to come to a head, such as to go to court, so they have a viable platform to vent their disapproval and highlight the injustice they feel has been perpetrated against them.
At the other end of
this continuum however are those that have learned that if they don’t pay the debt there is a strong chance in the settlement phase the service provider or debt collector will discount the debt in some way to get the debt cleared. Alternatively, if they go to court there is a chance they will have the debt admonished. Either way, by holding out, they “win.”
DC told me that once he identifies someone in the “won’t pay” group he doesn’t waste any further effort and simply serves a summons on them and commences legal action. DC said he does this because history tells him that if they won’t pay they either want their day in court, in which case he gives it to them, or they want to stall on the smallest detail and/or amount to ensure they “win.” Neither of these is worth DC’s time to engage in this lengthy and often non-productive interaction.
DC then stated that in his business only 3-5% of his cases progress by way of summons to court proceedings and almost 100% of this group were from the “won’t pay” sector. Knowing this allows DC to recognize that for 95-97% of his cases, if he or his staff invest time in the debtor and create an environment in which they can work together they will usually get a positive result. The contrast here to others in the industry is evident in that the stereotype suggests that the debt collector will stand-over, threaten or coerce the debtor, making them feel they “have to” repay the debt today and building resentment or resistance.
DC further backed this up with some more statistics saying that when he expanded his business from Australia to New Zealand, by using this approach he was able to immediately achieve a 50% payment of debt level whereas the previous provider could only achieve a 22% repayment rate.
In any influence situation we deal with three types of people:
1.      Those who are willing to entertain our messages/requests/proposals, or at least willing to engage with us and provide an opportunity to influence them.
2.    Those who reject our messages/requests/proposals because while they may be able to be influenced, they feel they are not in a position to be influenced, i.e., because of organizational structure, financial constraints, perceived conflict of interest and so on.
3.    Those who reject our messages/requests/proposals because they choose not be influenced. Whether it is because the outcome may challenge their status or expertise, they may feel wronged in some way and are reacting against us, or they have surrounded themselves with barriers or obstacles so you can’t actually get to them to influence them.
It is important in any influence situation to do your homework and know as much as you can about the target of influence. In DC’s case this is done partly before picking up the phone and partly while on the phone. What DC shows us though is even for those who think they can’t do something, by working with them, doing the small things well, you allow the opportunity for things to at least be considered and influence to come to play. Occasionally the person we are influencing may ultimately not be able to say YES but they will know the person who can.
For those who won’t be influenced because of choice, culture or organization design, you as the agent of influence need to reflect on the time and effort that will be required to break through the barriers and to ask yourself can you spend your influence efforts better elsewhere. If you engage with someone else, whether it is a competitor, a colleague of theirs or even one of their own influencers and they don’t have a seat at the table, scarcity is a great motivator.
Anthony McLean, CMCT
Changing the way people think