Sometimes it takes someone from outside our industry to help us better understand how we can succeed. That was the case with Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., a main-stage speaker at the Million Dollar Round Table annual meeting, which took place in New Orleans at the end of June. Cialdini, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University, gave a to-the-point presentation called “Principles of Persuasion.”
If you are having trouble getting people to say yes to your planning proposals, you don’t need to change what you are proposing, says Cialdini. Instead you need to change how you present what you have to offer.
Before exploring the six steps, Cialdini wants you to think about the following four questions—the answers you give (which will be clarified in the six principles) may illuminate why you are having difficulty persuading your clients and prospects to accept the financial plan and products you have created for them.
- Is it better to tell prospects and clients what they stand to gain if they go in your direction or what they stand to lose if they don’t?
- If you have a product with both strengths and weaknesses, when should you present the weaknesses?
- After someone has praised you, your efforts or your company, what is the most influential thing you can say after thank you?
- What is the single most effective thing you can do to make yourself more effective?
Now, on to the six principles of influence that you can incorporate into any request you make with prospects or clients.
1. Principle of reciprocation. This principle is evident in every human culture, says Cialdini. The concept: “I’m obligated to give back to you what you first give to me.” People respond to this seemingly universal law that you must not take without giving in return. “You are given a moment of power after someone has thanked you, what you do with that moment is critical,” says Cialdini.
Do you see the implications for your business? How do you respond when someone thanks you for going above and beyond the call of duty? “Don’t undermine your powerful position by saying something like, ‘Oh, it was nothing; I do that all the time,’” says Cialdini. “You deserve the leverage of the influence. If you respond [like that] you’ve smacked the rule of reciprocation right out the window.” Instead, he says you should respond with, “Of course, we were glad to help. It’s what long-term partners do for one another.” Or, “Thank you. Of course, I was glad to do it; I know you would do the same for me.”
2. Principle of scarcity. The bottom line: People want more of what they can get less of. “You have to tell them that what you have to offer is unique and rare, that they can’t get it unless they move in the direction you are showing them,” says Cialdini. So, you need to talk to clients not only about what they will gain, but what they will lose as well. “People are more motivated by the idea of losing something than gaining those same things,” he adds.
3. Principle of authority. “People want to follow legitimate experts. You need to share with them your level of expertise on the topic—they can’t know that about you until you tell them,” says Cialdini. That means you can’t be embarrassed because you think you sound boastful.
According to Cialdini, it’s not enough to be knowledgeable; you need to be truthful. You can convey honesty the way the large corporations do. Before they present the strongest argument in favor of their product or service, they mention a weakness in their position. This establishes them as both powerful and honest. Immediately after admitting a weakness is when you need to deliver your strongest argument.
4. Principle of commitment and consistency. “If you want to increase the likelihood of a yes,” says Cialdini, “you need to have them write it down. People live up to what they write down.”
5. Principle of consensus. In the end, most people are followers. “We decide what we should do by looking at what others like us do in that situation,” says Cialdini. That means you need to leverage all your testimonials—provide those that are most similar to your prospects, and use clients who refer others to you as communicators for your services.
6. Principle of liking. “We like people who like us,” says Cialdini. “We say yes to people we like.” But, this is not about getting your clients to like you; instead, you need to like them more. “People want a counselor who likes them,” he adds. “That’s where they feel safe.” And when they feel safe, they say yes, again and again.