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Pre-suasion – A Revolutionary way to influence and persuade – By Robert B. Cialdini, Phd

Presuasion Book Cover

This book builds on concepts in “Influence” and other ideas recognizable from behavioral economics studies.

The essence of Pre-suasion is that in many ways, the effectiveness of your communication is determined before you even open your mouth or make the pitch. The presentation and the recipients state of mind and focus when receiving a message can be large factors in determining if it will be accepted.

Pre-suasion “best practices” reflect the main principles from Cialdini’s “Influence”: Reciprocity, Liking, Authority, Social Proof, Scarcity& Consistency.

He also adds “Unity” defined as “Acting Together” is a new principle he felt needed to be added as a principle with a powerful influence on persuasion.  Shared identities and giving advice build a connection. Social Proof works, especially with those we are connected to in some way.

Key to Pre-suasion is state of mind.  What are people focused on? or what is top of mind when they encounter your information?  Things that are top of mind seem more important and more causal.  Pictures on your website can focus people on either price or quality.   Single Chute Evaluation keeps people focused on only one product or issue.   Focus can determine the factors people weight most in deciding, and block other considerations.  This is why framing the “ballot question” is so important.     However, sometimes the more attention people pay to something, the more polarizing the topic can be.

Acknowledging weakness/drawbacks in your case early on in a conversation will make a communicator seem more honest.  Especially if the audience may be aware of them.  Words like “yet” and “but” can take people from perceived weakness to counteracting strength.  Especially if you challenge the relevance of the weakness.

People want to be consistent. Put the honesty pledge/verification at the beginning of a form, not the end. One test – people were more than twice as likely to give an email address to try a new product when asked if they were “adventurous”.

Other arguments Pre-suasion makes:

People don’t want to know how much you know until they know how much you care. Tie pitches and persuasion to the target’s language and values.

  • Mentally, people focus on hits, rather than misses-what is there, or what they are prompted on, rather than what is not there or not asked about. You can focus on satisfaction, or dissatisfactions.  You can also prime people.
  • Digital display ads can persuade even though people do not recall seeing them. Lack of notice can actually make them more effective.
  • You can write better for your target audience when surrounded by pictures of your target audience.
  • The more relevant something is to someone, the more attention they will pay. Replace “people” and “they” with “you” when appropriate. Personalization is effective. Adding the names to Coke cans boosted sales for the first time in a decade.
  • Mystery and Lack of closure holds attention.
  • Counterarguments beat out arguments, especially if the source of the argument is shown to be untrustworthy.
  • People perform better and achieve more when working in the presence of “winning” photos.
  • Trust is a big factor – positive trust gains compliance. Untrustworthiness is the most damaging thing for any company or communicator.
  • Rhyme can enhance persuasion. Things seem truer, and are more likely to be remembered.

Cialdini’s argument, backed by many findings from behavioral economics and psychological tests, it that “by guiding preliminary attention strategically, it is possible for a communicator to move recipients into agreement with a message before they experience it.  The key is to focus them initially on concepts that are aligned associatively with the yet to be encountered information. “