Monday, October 27, 2014

Make Requests Like a Persuasion Expert

Persuasion is all about moving people to action. Aristotle defined it as “the art of getting someone to do something they would not ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.” The bottom line when it comes to persuasion is getting someone to do something. How we communicate can make all the difference between a “Yes” or “No” response.

Most of the time people are directive, telling instead of asking, when they want something. For example:

Clean your room.
Fax me the authorization form.
Get me the sales numbers.

Each request is direct and to the point. The communication may be clear but unfortunately people don’t like to be told what to do. And none of the statements above requires a response, which means the recipient of the message might hear what’s being said but think to himself or herself, “No” without ever having to say it.

Each of us makes requests of people daily, and the science of influence tells us with certainty there are better ways to structure our communication if we want to hear “Yes” more often. If you want to make a request like a persuasion expert follow this simple formula:

R = W + T + B + R + D

Request = What + Timeframe + Because + Reason + Downside

Here’s an example using the formula: Would you get me the authorization form by this afternoon because without it I can’t proceed any further on your claim, which will delay your payment by several more days?

A number of persuasive techniques are used in the example above so let’s dissect each part.

“Would you” – Adding these two words turns the statement into a question and engages the principle of consistency. A question like this demands a response and once someone says “Yes,” the likelihood they’ll do what you want has gone up significantly.

“by this afternoon” – These three words ensure you’ll get what you want within a timeframe that’s acceptable to you instead of being left to chance. If someone says they can’t get it within the allotted time you can engage reciprocity. Immediately upon hearing no, if you put out a new timeframe (i.e., How about by tomorrow afternoon?) your odds of hearing “Yes” have just gone up because most people are willing to meet us part way after we’ve first conceded a little bit.

“because” – One study showed a 50% increase in “yes” responses when a request was tagged with “because” and a reason was given. This even worked when the reason was bogus! We’re conditioned from childhood to almost mindlessly do what we’re told when “because” is used. Do you remember your parents ever saying, “Because I said so!” in response to your asking why you had to do something? We’ve all been there and maybe you’ve used that phrase yourself.
                
“I can’t proceed any further on your claim, which will delay your payment” – This invokes the principle of scarcity. People are much more motivated by the thought of losing something as opposed to gaining the same thing. In this instance the person knows they won’t be paid until they’ve done what’s being asked. This is much more effective than saying, “As soon as I get it I’ll proceed on the claim and you’ll get paid.”

Once more compare the two requests for the same thing:

Fax me the authorization form.
vs.
Would you get me the authorization form by this afternoon because without it I can’t proceed any further on your claim, which will delay your payment?

Next time you need something from someone or you need them to do something remember to structure your request by asking instead of telling. Let them know what you want and when you need it by. Tag your request with “because” and a legitimate reason. Finally, let them know what happens if they don’t do what’s asked…the downside. Follow this simple approach and you’re sure to hear “Yes” more often.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer

influencePEOPLE 
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Is Rock ‘n Roll Dead or Just More Great Artists?

A friend shared a Rolling Stones article on Facebook not long ago by the former lead singer of KISS, Gene Simmons. The article was titled, Rock is Finally Dead. It was Murdered. In one section Simmons laments, “Where's the next Bob Dylan? Where's the next Beatles? Where are the songwriters? Where are the creators?” He goes on to blame file sharing and the attitude of the current generation of young people because they feel they should not have to pay for music.

I posted the following comment to my friend who was a rock musician in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. “I'm not too into music, nothing like you were back in the day, so here's my question - Could it be that there are more talented musicians who are exposed to the world thanks to social media? More supply with stagnant demand would lead to lower prices. I ask because I've come across some really talented people who've often made me wonder why they didn't make it as big as others who don't seem to possess any more talent. Thoughts?”

His reply, “Definitely something to how fragmented the market is now that the tools to record and promote are in the hands of the masses. There isn't the same shared experience as when the industry controlled things. But that being said, where is the new AC/DC? Who is this generation's Led Zeppelin? These acts will never be replaced, but who is picking up where they left off? Where are the huge acts? It's never been about talent as much as what rock-n-roll meant, the experience, the songs. LONG LIVE ROCK!”

The contrast phenomenon alerts us to the reality that we always make comparisons to other things. Was Led Zeppelin a great band? Many would say so in comparison to other bands past and present. However, some might say the Beatles or U2 are more iconic compared to Led Zeppelin. What music and musicians we like has to do with our musical taste and comparison points.

I’m at the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation. We love rock ‘n roll because we grew up on it as did some of our parents. But when Bill Haley and The Comets introduced rock ‘n roll to the world, many folks of that era thought it was trash. They preferred the soothing sounds of Frank Sinatra, the Glen Miller Band and many other musicians from the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s.

It’s quite natural for us to make comparisons. It’s also normal for each generation to believe theirs (music, movies, books, art, athletes, etc.) was the best and that the current crop has lost their way.

As I told my friend, the more musicians and sounds I’m exposed to the more I wonder why some acts make it big and some don’t. It’s not always about talent because many would say Gene Simmons and KISS weren’t talented musicians, just great showmen.

Golfers play 72 holes in a PGA tournament and one or two strokes, after 280 to 290 shots, is typically the difference between winning and losing. Win a handful of tournaments and a player is deemed a star even though he’s barely better (as measured by stroke average) than most other golf professionals.

Unlike having to qualify for tournaments, when it comes to certain artistic talents – like music – social media has knocked down many barriers to entry. More supply means people pay less, even if some new acts are better than the old ones, because we have more to choose from and it’s easier to find what suits us best. We see the same phenomenon with self-publishing books. With more books on the market to choose from there will be fewer and fewer books that excite the masses than perhaps 50 or 100 years ago when there was less to choose from. That might lead to fewer classics in the future. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean the writers are any less talented. Some might contend they’re more talented because it takes even more to stand out now.

So what does all of this have to do with persuasion? Each of us competes in the marketplace. For some it’s finding a mate, for some it’s on the athletic field, others it’s business. Whatever we do, wherever we do it, the challenge is to rise above the rest. 
  • Why will someone want to hire you over the other bright young college grads?
  • Why should someone buy your music over the other artists?
  • What makes you stand out in your chosen field?

Until you can answer these questions you’ll be perceived just like all the others because people will be making comparisons. Your goal has to be to highlight your uniqueness. It’s a form of scarcity. What do you bring to the table, or what combination of things do you bring to the table, that will make someone realize they can’t get what you offer anywhere else. Once you convey that to the right people you’ll stand out. You may not be the next AC/DC, Rolling Stones or Beach Boys, but you’ll probably find your place and enjoy your lifestyle all the same.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer

influencePEOPLE 
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Look for the Best in Others and Change Your Experience

“You only love me because you make yourself think good thoughts about me,” Jane said one day while in a blue mood. I don’t recall everything surrounding that particular conversation but I never forgot her statement. I replied, “Is that so bad?”

We all experience love differently. We meet someone and “fall in love” but for those who’ve been in long-term relationships you know those initial feelings of love dissipate and change over time. After years you find yourself loving your partner for different reasons than those at the top of the list when you fell for them.

Unlike mere attraction or infatuation I believe love is a choice. To Jane’s statement, I do choose to dwell on her best qualities. I don’t deny there are things she does that bother me, that I’d like her to change, but then she would probably have a much longer list of things I should change! However, that’s not why I keep my mouth shut and choose to focus on the positive. I focus on the positive because I do believe it makes me love her more.

The Apostle Paul knew this to be true when he encouraged the church at Philippi, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

When it comes to influence and the principleof liking – we prefer to say “Yes” to those we know and like – a way to trigger this principle into action is by focusing on what we have in common with others and offering up genuine compliments. When we focus on these two topics we’re generally looking for what we’d consider the good in another person. Not only do they come to like us more, we come to like them more at the same time. After all, the person who cheers for your team, comes from your hometown, enjoys the same hobbies as you, can’t be all bad, right?

A quick reread of Predictably Irrational by behavioral economist and Duke professor Dan Ariely sparked my thoughts on this post as I looked over chapter 10 on expectations. What we think about something or someone before encountering the item or person can dramatically impact our experience.

Remember the old “Pepsi Challenge” taste test? In blind taste tests people seemed to prefer Pepsi over Coke, including many Coke drinkers! However, when people knew they tasted Pepsi and Coke many people, especially the Coke drinkers, preferred Coke!

How can this be if they tasted the very same drinks in each taste test? It’s because knowing you’re drinking Coke, especially when you have positive associations with the brand, impacts your experience. Brain imaging studies in conjunction with the taste tests clearly show the brand association impacts a different region of the brand than the taste sensation and results in a change to the overall experience.

As I considered Ariely’s writing, Jane’s statement, and my understanding of the psychology of persuasion, it made perfect sense that our expectations impact our experience. As noted above, there are things I’d like to see Jane change but dwelling on those versus the qualities I love about her would be a waste of time and energy. If I focused on what she needs to change it’s a sure bet I would not enjoy her company as much as I do when focusing on the qualities I love.

Pondering all of this I realized something else I’d done that was helpful; a simple idea I began using years ago. In my iTunes library, among the many playlists I have, is a playlist titled “Jane.” It contains songs that bring back good memories we’ve experienced, songs that make me thing about her in ways that make my heart beat faster. Hearing songs that make us think of our loved ones isn’t a novel idea but perhaps creating playlists to positively influence your thoughts about a loved one is novel for you.

Wouldn’t you agree that listening to music that makes you think positively about your spouse on the way home, before a date night or while getting ready to spend time together would create positive expectations that would make for a better time together? In my experience it absolutely has!

So here’s my suggestion. Science tells us our expectations will impact our experience as will the choice to offer compliments and connect on similarities. Next time you get ready to be with your spouse, partner, or someone else with whom you have a relationship, make the choice to do what Paul said 2000 years ago; focus on the good in whatever way makes sense for you. It will make things better for everyone.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer

influencePEOPLE 
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Influencers from Around the World - A Short Course in Human Relations

This month our Influencers from Around the World guest post comes from someone who is familiar to long-time readers of Influence PEOPLE - Anthony McLean. Anthony is Australia’s one and only Cialdini Method Certified Trainer (CMCT®). He heads up the Social Consulting Group where he teaches people about the principles of influence. I encourage you to reach out to Anthony on LinkedIn and Twitter to learn more from him.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer
influencePEOPLE 
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.



A Short Course in Human Relations

A past participant of the Principles of Persuasion Workshop sent me the important message below. His name is Peter, and he pointed out There’s plenty of ‘POP’ in this.” Of course he was right.


Let’s break it down one line at a time and let me show you why there is so much of Dr. Robert Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion in this short piece.

The six most important words – I admit that I was wrong.
In the Principles of Persuasion Workshop we teach the Principle of Authority which says we look to those with extra knowledge or wisdom on a topic to guide our thinking when we are not sure what we should do. As part of being an Authority you must be seen as credible and one of the most important elements to being credible is being trustworthy. If I was to try to take advantage of you, I would never admit a mistake, let you know I got something wrong or was lacking in some area of my product or service. But an Authority never hides from weaknesses. They admit when they are wrong. Why? Because they know how to make it better. So remember, it’s a mistake to hide a mistake. Admit it, and admit it quickly, then set about explaining how you intend to make it right. If you don’t, one of your competitors will highlight it and then your credibility is gone.

The Five most important words – You did a great job.
Everybody likes to be told they have done a great job. These five simple words go a long way to triggering the Principle of Liking. Praise is something that when given genuinely and selectively is a truly valuable tool in building, repairing and maintaining relationships with others. Therefore don’t throw praise around all of the time so it becomes common and of little substance. Give your praise when it is deserved, make it specific and give it genuinely. If at work delivering praise directly is inappropriate consider influencing the influencers and deliver the praise indirectly to the person’s boss, colleague or friends and allow them to deliver the message for you.

The four most important words – What do you think?
On the face of it you may ask, how does this question relate to persuasion? The answer is, all too often people make statements but they don’t ask questions. Firstly this is poor form because it is more aligned to ordering rather than engaging and, secondly, when you make statements you remove one very important element from the interaction – the ability of someone to commit to something. The Principle of Consistency says we encounter personal and interpersonal pressure to remain consistent with previous commitments or decisions we have made. If you ask me a question and allow me to answer, it provides me the opportunity to make a commitment; publicly voicing my ideas and actively committing toward a course of action. In your next meeting, think about the questions you ask. Craft well-constructed questions and give others the opportunity to answer them. Telling someone what to do or making statements does nothing to engage their intrinsic motivators to drive the situation forward.

The three most important words – Could you please…
This line is an interesting one, firstly because the Principle of Reciprocity says we are obliged to give back to those who have given to us first. A nuance to the principle is, if you are struggling to build a relationship with someone, ask him or her to do you a favor. In doing so they need to have a shift in thinking because we don’t do things for people we don’t like.  Therefore by asking them to do you a favor moves them in your direction ever so slightly and allows for a relationship to commence.

The second point I would make is to refine the statement. “Could you” and “Can you” are permission statements. They seek to gain permission or acknowledgement. The problem is if I say to my eight-year-old son, “Could you clean up your room?” and he says, “Yes,” is he actually committing to clean his room or is he just saying, “Yes I can, but no I won’t.”?

Therefore in seeking to gain a commitment to trigger the Principle of Consistency. ask people active questions that gain a commitment such as “Will you...” then wait for the answer.

The two most important words – Thank you.
Thanking someone is not only polite, it’s an important element in building and maintaining healthy relationships. Therefore when someone does something that you appreciate be sure to tell them and acknowledge their contributions. Doing so invests in the relationship and can trigger the Principle of Reciprocity.

The other thing is when someone thanks you for something you have done you must learn to accept genuine thanks differently. If someone delivers a heartfelt thank you and you say “no problem” or “I would have done it for anyone” you are devaluing the relationship. You are in effect saying, “You are not that important to me and neither is this relationship.”

Therefore, from now on listen for genuine thanks from others and recognise it as an opportunity to acknowledge the relationship you have and highlight that it is not over. Anything you say will be better than “no problem,” but you must do a better job of accepting thanks when it is genuinely given.

The most important word – We.
The fastest and easiest way to describe a relationship is through the pronoun “we.” It highlights you are working together and you have things in common. Listen to when people use “we” in a conversation and they may just tell you when they start to see you are in a functional, working relationship with them, all through the use of the word “we.”

One word of warning though; don’t use “we” too early in a relationship or with someone you have just met to describe the two of you – it can come off as not genuine and a tactic rather than a true reflection of your relationship with the person. Let the relationship build and use “we” when appropriate to do so.

The least important word – I.
The biggest mistake I see when reviewing emails, copy and websites for clients is the text is all about the persuader and not about the person or group they are seeking to persuade. A very simple test is to do a word search and see how many times you use “I” as opposed to the other person’s name or even the words you, your or yours. If you talk about yourself more than the other person or group of people you have missed the mark.

The other thing is they should always appear in your email before you do. I am not talking about their name in the greeting but in the first line. If you start off with,
Hi Brian,  
I want to write you about the new product I am bringing to the market….
This is wrong – it’s all about you. Instead put them and their needs first. Such as:
Hi Brian, 
It was great to have met you at the conference and to listen to your thoughts on the new policy change impacting our organisation. You may be interested in a new product we are launching. Based on your comments I think it will help you…..
Therefore for a bunch of short sentences I will paraphrase my friend Peter and say, “There is a lot of POP in them!”


Anthony McLean, CMCT