Dr. Robert Cialdini, President, Influence at Work
Gary Tubridy: I’m with Dr. Robert Cialdini, President of Influence at Work. Robert, welcome to the Chief Sales Executive Forum.
Dr. Robert Cialdini: Thank you.
GT: Appreciate you being here.
RC: I am very pleased to be here.
GT: Well, you have got some great books that have been published in recent years, Influence, a classic book in pre-suasion, which will be a classic. Let’s talk about them just a little bit. In Influence, you articulate that it is not all art. There’s some science behind that. Tell us a little bit about that.
RC: Yeah. It’s the science of saying what makes the most sense to your audience to get them to move in your direction. In other words, what can you best put into a message that moves people in your direction.
GT: And are there some rules or guidelines that you think are paramount to have in mind when you’re trying to move people in your direction?
RC: In fact, the research suggests that there are six universal principals of influence. If you incorporate one or another into your request or proposal or recommendation, you significantly increase the likelihood of yes.
GT: Your research recently is into pre-suasion, which has some overlap with influence, but also adds considerably to that. Can you talk to that a little bit?
RC: Whereas the book Influence asks what do you put into your message that most moves people toward assent, the book Pre-Suasion asks the question, and attempts to answer it, what do you put in the moment before you deliver your message so that people are open to it, they’re receptive to the strength of the message that you have crafted for them.
GT: Now this isn’t just opinion that you bring to bear here. There’s research behind all of this. Can you describe that a little bit?
RC: There is research that is done in the laboratory, and that is where I started, but very quickly recognized I needed to get away from the laboratory and my college campus. I needed to get into the settings where the influence wars are being fought every day and do my research there. What are the most powerful influences on the influence process in the settings that we encounter and are challenged by on daily basis?
GT: Now, could you speak to the application of this research into a sales environment where we’re working with sales executives? We have an audience of sales executives here at the Chief Sales Executive Forum. How can they be thinking about applying these tenets of influence and persuasion?
RC: There are a couple of things. One is instead of simply presenting our case in its most positive form at the outset where people are being essentially bombarded with the best arguments, the most compelling features, the most favorable aspects of what we have to offer, before they’re ready to believe us we can do something that is brilliant. What they do, they mention a weakness or a drawback in their case early on. It creates the perception of their credibility for everything they say next. And that’s where they put their strongest argument. Now people are ready to believe them. So here is the message: Do you want to know where to put your strongest argument? It’s in the moment after you’ve mentioned a weakness that your strongest argument then demolishes.
GT: In this world of sales, as the complexity increases and expectations of what sales and sales executives must do expands, sales leaders need to influence beyond their silo, beyond their function. They must influence marketing, engineering, service and so many other functions.
Any advice for a sales leader who needs to exert what we will call power beyond their position?
RC: I wrote a book a while ago called The Small Big. What’s the smallest thing you can do that will produce the biggest impact in your persuasive success? And one such thing applies to the question you just asked. Suppose you need to get the buy-in of people in research and development or manufacturing or marketing to come along with you on a project. You’ve got a draft of a plan or a blueprint. What we typically do is to bring that plan and ask people could you take a look at this and give me your opinion? That’s a mistake. It’s a mistake to use the word “opinion” because here’s what the research shows. When you ask someone’s opinion, that person takes a half-step back from you, a separating, distancing set, and they go inside themselves for the answer. If you change one word, the small big, and ask for that person’s advice, he or she takes a half step towards you psychologically, looks at the task as a partnership, a collaboration with you. And what the research shows is that individual is more likely to support your plan now because he or she feels part of it, complicit in it.
GT: Words matter.
RC: One word.
GT: Outstanding. Great advice for our audience. Robert Cialdini, thank you for joining us at this year’s forum. Appreciate it.
RC: I enjoyed it thoroughly.