This is the final part of our series on Dr. Robert Cialdini's six principles of influence. He published them in his multi-million selling book "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion."
One of the big reasons I like Dr. Cialdini is because he has studies that back up what he says. I learned a lot from "Influence" and from a webinar I attended earlier this year in which he was a speaker.
The six principles (with links to blogs about each one) are:
Reciprocity: People feel obligated to give to those who give to them.
Liking: People prefer to say yes when they know and like someone.
Consensus: People decide what to do based on what other people like themselves do.
Authority: People want to follow the advice of experts.
Consistency: People want to follow through on their written and verbal commitments.
Scarcity: People want what they perceive to be in short supply.
But which is the MOST important?
During the webinar, Dr. Cialdini said he is asked regularly which is the most important of the six principles.
All six will work in almost every country or culture, Dr. Cialdini said, but which one you should start with or will be most effective with most people depends on where you are/the culture you are in, he said.
One way to gauge this is looking at an experiment using Citibank with managers in the U.S., China, Spain and Germany. The company asked managers to suppose a fellow manager’s project is suffering, and he or she asks for help. Responding will take time and energy, maybe even resources and staffing. Under what circumstances would you feel most compelled to help?
U.S. managers said they would ask what has the other manger done for them lately. Dr. Cialdini extrapolated this to mean that reciprocation seems to be the dominant principle in British-based societies. So dentists whose target demographics are mostly descendants or directly immigrated from the U.K. or its former colonies should emphasize this principal.
In China, managers asked if the other manager was in the same unit and of a higher rank. Dr. Cialdini said the dominant principle is authority, as Chinese managers were more willing to help a superior in their small group. So those dentists whose community has a high percentage of Asian emigrants or those of Asian descent will want to emphasize.
Spanish Citibank managers were more willing to help a fellow manager who was connected to their friends. This feeling of loyalty trumped position or status. Dr. Cialdini said that is an example of liking and can likely be connected to most Mediterranean countries. Dentists targeting those of Mediterranean descent should emphasize this principle.
German managers were most likely to ask what their current rules and regulations say about whether they are supposed to assist. Dr. Cialdini said this is an example consistency and likely can be attributed to most Scandinavian countries. So dentists marketing to those of Scandinavian descent should emphasize this principal.
Let me give one final word on ethics: Dr. Cialdini emphasized repeatedly during his webinar that the principles should be used truthfully.