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The Six Weapons of Influence

Have you heard of Robert Cialdini? He’s a US psychologist who wrote one of the definitive books on persuasion, called “Influence”.

Cialdini is cited all over the place, but particularly in sales circles, for his work on what he called the “six weapons of influence”.

These are the tools used by what Cialdini calls “compliance professionals”. (And I call sales people). Here’s an outline. (I’m going to return to this subject in more depth in my monthly newsletter Maslen on Marketing.)

First weapon: reciprocation

I do something for you; you do something for me. It’s a simple social bonding process as old as humanity.

I send you some address labels in my charity direct mailshot, you feel obliged to order some Christmas cards.

Second weapon: commitment and consistency

People like to be consistent. It reinforces their idea of themselves as rational. So if you can get your reader to make a small initial commitment, they are more likely to follow through with a larger commitment (being consistent, in other words).

If you take a free trial of a magazine (initial, small commitment), you are more likely to subscribe later on.

Third weapon: social proof

People look to others they perceive to be like them for evidence of how they should behave.

So you could have a line about the number of engineers who already use Acme propelling pencils to persuade an engineer to buy one.

Fourth weapon: liking

People tend to be more willing to go along with suggestions from people they like. So what makes us like someone?

We might find them attractive. We might see them as being like us. They might pay us a compliment. Or they might make us laugh (sorry Claude).

Perhaps the simplest way to make our reader like us is to flatter them.

Fifth weapon:  authority

Experts, authority figures, people in positions of power: they have what psychologists call “prestige suggestion”. They say it, you believe it. Or do it.

If you’re writing an email or sales letter, consider having it come from the company president, or another respected figure from the industry. NOT the marketing manager.

Sixth weapon: scarcity

This is the basic supply and demand law. Things that are scarce acquire value and desirability precisely because they are scarce.

Act now: only 97 copies of this free guide available. Free golf umbrella for the first 50 people to sign up. You get the idea.

And I’m telling you this because

So there you have it. Cialdini’s six weapons of influence. Try to include all of them in your copy. I have a client who insists on it.

Remember though, that these tools work best when they are used sincerely. In other words, you should believe in what you’re selling, and saying.

Categories: Maslen on Marketing and Structural tools.

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