With more than one quarter of a million copies sold worldwide, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini, PhD has established itself as the most important book on persuasion ever published. In this book that I highly recommend, Professor Cialdini explains why some people are remarkably persuasive.
The book explains six psychological secrets behind our powerful impulse to comply and how to skillfully use these tactics. The book is organized around these six principles of consistency, reciprocation, authority, liking, scarcity and social proof.
The principle of social proof states that one shortcut we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct. As a rule, we will make fewer mistakes by acting in accord with social evidence than contrary to it. This is why television sit-coms have canned laughter tracks and commercials use man-in-the street testimonial interviews.
The reason social proof is so persuasive is because we are all so information overloaded. Professor Cialdini says his research evidence suggests that the ever-accelerating pace and informational crush of modern life will make automated decision making more and more prevalent.
“You and I exist in an extraordinarily complicated stimulus environment, easily the most rapidly moving and complex that has ever existed on this planet,” writes Professor Cialdini. “To deal with it, we need shortcuts. We can’t be expected to recognize and analyze all the aspects in each person, event, and situation we encounter in even one day. We haven’t the time energy or capacity for it.”
How should professionals and consultants use social proof in their books, blogs and presentations? The answer is testimonials with measurable results, and here are five ways to do it:
- Interview past clients to obtain testimonial quotes you can use. Sometimes it is best to get an outside expert like a public relations professional or freelance writer to help you with this. You want to drill down to get measurable results. These include raw numbers (increased sales by $100,000), percentages (improved retention rates to 70%, which is triple the industry average) or time (accomplished more in six months than in previous three years).
- Get permission to use the person’s whole name, title and company name. Just saying “Sally from Kalamazoo” or Bob from “Cucamonga” just doesn’t build trust.
- Ask for testimonial letters on client letterhead that you can reprint and use in proposal packages being given to clients. The more you have to choose from the better.
- Ask clients who are willing to be your advocate to record their testimonial stories. One way to do this easily is to hop on a free telephone bridge line and have a service like Audio Strategies record the call. This can than be used as an audio file on your Web site or turned into a low-cost audio CD that you can give potential clients.
- Pepper your speeches, blopg posts and book chapters with accounts of individuals who have benefited from your service. Always make the person seem likable, describe the problem in brief and give a measurable result you helped achieve. One of my clients said he helped grow businesses. This became so much stronger when he was able to say he helped grow business by as much as 500%.