Influence by Robert Cialdini

Influence by the Psychologist Robert Cialdini looks at the ‘weapons of influence’ which are used by sales people to persuade you to make a purchase or otherwise sign on the dotted line. It simultaneously reads as a guide for learning the tricks of the game and improving your sales technique, and also for spotting and dodging sales ploys. We have all been in both camps at one time or another.

The book starts with the example of a turkey which identifies it chick by the cheep, cheep noise it makes, relying on this so heavily that it will think that any object, animate of inanimate which makes the noise is its offspring. We may scoff at this, but Cialdini shows that we use heuristics which are similarly primitive when viewed under the microscope.


People generally feel obliged to return favours offered to them. Sales people abuse this by buying you a coffee some other small gift to make you feel in their debt. Another technique is to ask a potential target for something big – they will turn this down but be more likely to accept the next request.

Commitment and Consistency

People wish to appear and be consistent. People persuaded to make small commitments initially can later on be more easily upsold things which are consistent with their earlier commitment.

One technique for abusing this is to offer a customer a deal and then say that unfortunately the product is no longer available at that price (low-balling). By this point the customer will have mentally committed to buying the item and will not be put off by the price rise.

Social Proof

People look to others for information about how to make the right purchase. This is why so many adverts feature ‘real customers’ or we are interested in what influencers are buying.


People buy from people that they like. This is why we buy from sales people who make us laugh and who remember our names. Beware of the charming rep!


People will react in an almost automated fashion to figures of ‘authority’. Unfortunately history is littered with too many examples of when this has been used for evil ends, (or merely destructive ones: Brexit)


We are hard wired to think that scarcity is a sign of desirability. It is hard to refer away from a sign which screams ‘buy me now before it is too late’. FOMO is one of the most powerful forces in the universe and has made us all buy something we didn’t really need/want at one time or another.

Verdict: Influence is a very readable and highly though provoking book and will be of interest to anyone in sales or at the receiving end of a sales pitch (thats all of us).

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