A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade

A few weeks ago I interviewed a founder and I couldn’t figure out why his company was so successful. His software was the same as his competition. The founder told me his company was using influence techniques in the way they create their content.

I said, “Wow, that reminds me of this book by Robert Cialdini called Influence.” Turns out, that’s the book he’s been using to teach the people on his team. So that’s why he was doing so well. It wasn’t just his software—it was his persuasion skills.

Well, Robert Cialdini has noticed something interesting. He noticed that what happens before people persuade you impacts how receptive you are to their persuasion. I invited him here to talk about that.

Robert Cialdini

Robert Cialdini

Pre-Suasion

Robert Cialdini is the author of Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey, before we get started, I’ve got to tell you that I was so excited to talk to one of my heroes, that I forgot to talk about my sponsors, so right now I’ll record into the interview that this conversation is sponsored by the two great companies. The first will help you actually close sales. It’s called Pipedrive. The second will host your website right. It’s called HostGator. But I’ll tell you more about them later. Here’s the interview.

Hey, everyone. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, where I’ve done over 1,300 interviews with entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. A few weeks ago, I interviewed this guy who I just couldn’t figure out how he did so well. He was the founder of a company called Bounce Exchange, which created this modal popups that only come up when you leave a site. And he somehow became a top 10 Inc. company, meaning he had one of the fastest rising revenues of any privately held company.

I said, “Why? His software is the same as his competition. What is it that’s different about it?” I couldn’t figure it out and I just kept exploring. Even in the interview, I said, “What makes you so different? People have the same software somewhere else.” He said, “Yeah, they’re actually copying our modal popup.” I said, “What is it?” And he said, “Well, we’re using these influence techniques in the way we write our popups and the way we create our content.”

I said, “Oh yeah, that reminds me of this book by Robert Cialdini, a book called ‘Influence.'” And he goes, “Yeah, that’s the one. I teach it to all my people. I use it myself.” I thought, “Of course he did. No wonder he’s doing so well. It’s not just software. It’s his persuasion skills.” He is one of so many entrepreneurs, dozens and dozens who have come here to Mixergy and said that they have learned from Robert Cialdini from his book, “Influence.”

Well, Robert Cialdini has noticed something interesting, that what happens before people persuade you often has impact on how receptive you are to their persuasion. He actually wrote a book about it that I read cover to cover called “Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade.” It’s full of stories and case studies and examples. So I invited him here to talk about it. I’m excited for you and me to learn from Dr. Robert Cialdini. Good to have you on here.

Robert: It’s good to be with you, Andrew and your followers.

Andrew: Yeah. You know what? I think you can help me understand this mystery. I years ago went out to Warren Buffett’s annual meeting. I bought a share of his company just so I could go watch him. One of the things that he did on stage is talk negatively about his company, which was unexpected with all his shareholders sitting there. You understand why. Why did he do that?

Robert: His company is based on trustworthiness. That is, they don’t make a product. They don’t manufacture anything. They’re a holding company. They invest in other companies, and they ask us to invest in Berkshire Hathaway. All they have is trust.

And one way it’s possible to engender trust is to honestly admit to weaknesses. It establishes you pre-suasively as an honest and reliable trustworthy source of information. Once you’ve established that, now when you present the strengths of your case, people listen more deeply. They process the information more fully, and they believe it to a greater extent.

Andrew: I see.

Robert: He’s a master of it.

Andrew: Would that work for the rest of us? In other words, would it help me to say something a little bit negative about one of my sponsors before talking up the effects of it? Would that be helpful, or would it be distracting?

Robert: It would be helpful because you will have established yourself as a trustworthy source of information about the next thing you say.

Andrew: I see.

Robert: And now if the next thing you say is a strength, well, you’ve made that negative, which if you’re going to be honest, you’re going to have to present anyway, but usually at the end, if we present it early on, we establish ourselves as someone to be believed. Then we mention the strength that, if you’ve done it correctly, wipes out the weakness.

Andrew: I see.

Robert: Now you’ve turned those lemons into lemonade.

Andrew: That makes sense. That also explains why one of my interviewees, Joe Sugarman, wrote an ad that was incredibly effective, that started out with, “This product has a bad name and it looks ugly on your wall,” and then he took it from there.

Robert: Yeah.

Andrew: I mentioned distraction. You talk about how distraction affects persuasion. You give them example of students in a classroom with a lot of things going on, on the wall. What impact does the environment we’re in have on our ability to learn, have on our ability to influence people?

Robert: It has unrecognized influence because there are cues in the environment that take our attention away and distribute them across various sorts of sources.

Andrew: Okay.

Robert: If those sources are central to the goal that we have in the moment, that’s exactly what we want. We want those cues to be channeling us to the strength of our message, channeling observers to the strength of our message. But if they distribute that attention across all kinds of other sources or information, that’s going to dilute our ability to focus fully on the critical aspect of our communication.

Andrew: I see. The students with all the stuff on their walls–I’ve gone to classrooms like that. It drives me nuts, even as a kid it did. It reduced their test scores, kids with clear walls that didn’t distract from what they were learning, didn’t distract from their tests had higher scores.

And of course, the same has been true about sales pages. We actually have on our site on the back end, when we create a page that we want someone to take action on, there’s a checkbox that we check that says low distraction mode. It gets rid of everything, even the links back to the homepage, people don’t need it. We focus them specifically on what we’re looking for.

Speaking of, the first book that you wrote, you said you wrote it in two different places at a university and at home, seeing and experiencing in the background two different things. Can you talk about how that impacted what you wrote?

Robert: Well, I initially began to write it in two places. I was on leave of absence from my home university at another place and I was writing half of–I was writing the book half of the time from my university office there, where I was surrounded by academic journals and books and filing cabinets and so on, all stocked with academic information.

The other half of the time, I was writing it from an apartment that I had rented and I would look out the window at people walking by actually on their way to the beach because it was in San Diego, La Jolla.

One day, I had decided to look at what I accomplished in the two places. And what I was writing at home was miles better than what I was writing at my office because the book was to be written for the popular audience, not my colleagues, not my academic colleagues.

The cues in my university office were sending me to a particular vocabulary, a particular way of presenting information, a particular diction that was all wrong for my audience. When I was at my apartment looking out at the people walking by, those cues were sending me directly to the preferences of the audience that I was writing for and that’s why I was getting it right.

Andrew: So, if I were going to be designing a website or building an app for a specific group of people, the lessons we’ve learned from entrepreneurs on Mixergy is show it to them before you fully produce it to see if it makes sense, if they understand it. It seems like what I’m getting from you is don’t just show it to them, design it maybe in a coffee shop surrounded by them or in a place where you can look at the window and see them or in a room with photos of them so that you keep them in mind. Am I thinking right? Am I taking that lesson?

Robert: You’re exactly right. I had a comment from a woman who does this sort of thing. She designs incentive programs for businesses. What her team does is to put photographs around the room wherever they’re meeting of the people who will be affected by their programs. And she says the results are remarkable.

They do a much better job of focusing the program on the kind of people who will receive it if they do that generation task in a room surrounded by cues of those people. Those cues steer them correctly to be concerned in a constant way with the needs and challenges and situations of the people they’re writing the program for.

Andrew: I see. That makes sense. What about aspirational stuff? You talk about a call center that has motivating posters that I feel at this point people dismiss, but you’ve found are actually powerful or they’re given instructions on a piece of paper that some people are given in a test. Do you know what I’m talking about, the photo of the runner? Can you describe that?

Robert: Yes. And you said that most people dismiss these kinds of posters that you’ll find at various offices that say, “Succeed,” or, “Persevere,” or this sort of thing, “Achieve.” I always thought they were laughable in the likelihood that they would be effective. And then I saw a study done in Canada at a call center. A call center is one of the places where you see these posters around.

Andrew: Yes.

Robert: The researchers went into one such call center on a particular day where all the employees were reaching out to alumni of a particular local university asking them to contribute to the university’s general fund. Half of them were given a set of tips that they should be sure to include in their call about why the university was an important place to support and what needs they had, what challenges they had and so on.

For half of them, that set of tips was on a plain sheet of paper, just like it’s always been the case. For the other half, there was a picture of a runner winning a race in the background of that tip sheet. Those people collected 60% more funds.

Andrew: Wow.

Robert: Because they were being steered to the mindset of achievement by the cue of success. Now, if you had predicted that result for me, I would have given it a likelihood of success of near zero. Not only did it show that effect, the researchers replicated the study and found that the effect lasted four days. Every day that they had this difference, they produced the same increase in contributions. So, as long as people were being cued to the idea of achievement by signals in the environment that were constructed for them, they were channeled to behavior that was consistent with those cues.

Andrew: I feel like those posters now are associated with TV shows like “The Office” and all those cheesy office spaces. But one of my fans, Antonio Garcia Martinez, worked at Facebook pre-IPO back when Mark Zuckerberg was on hand in every part of the business and he said that the operation that they had there to print out posters was like a whole business onto its own, where they were printing out posters with the messages that they wanted in the brains of the people who were working there because, now I’m learning from you, it was that effective.

And you’re calling it pre-suasion because why? Why is that pre-suasion as opposed to just persuasion or influence?

Robert: Because the influence occurs before the task, before the message.

Andrew: Okay.

Robert: Before the attempt to succeed, you are put in a state of mind that makes you especially aligned with the goal of the task or the strength of the message that you are about to receive. That’s the key. What frame of mind you are in before you begin establishes a channel that directs you into the task in a way that is specific to the goal of that task.

That’s why in a follow-up study, these same researchers showed that if your task is not some sort of energy-fueled drive to achieve, but it is to be contemplative and thoughtful and deliberative, you need a different image, you need a different cue in your environment. They had university business students deal with a set of very complex problems that they had to think about, analyze carefully before they could solve them correctly.

When those people saw a picture of a runner winning a race on their screen while they did the problems, it had no impact. But if they saw a picture of Rodin’s “The Thinker,” they performed 48% better on the task. Now when thinking and deliberation and analysis was the goal, that was the cue that channeled people appropriately.

So, that example you derived from Facebook tells me that they weren’t just developing posters that they wanted in people’s minds in some sort of overarching way. As the goals of the company shifted, I’ll bet the posters shifted. That’s the key.

Andrew: I’m going to pause this interview to tell you about one of my sponsors and use one of the techniques from the book “Pre-Suasion” to actually tell you about them. The sponsor is Pipedrive and if you were a family member of mine, someone who I loved and you came to me and said, “Andrew, help me get more sales. You’ve done all these interviews for years. What have you learned that will help me close more sales?”

Well, if you were to say that to me, I would sit you down and force you to write out every step of your sales process, everything from step number one, which is finding your prospects, step number two, finding their contact information, all the way to step number whatever where you close your sale.

And then I’d tell you the same thing I’ve said to people for years. Go sign up for Pipedrive because Pipedrive is going to tell you to take every one of your steps and lay it out in a column. Once you do that, you can create a card for each potential customer and put them in column number one, and I, as someone who loved you, would force you to come up with a number of people that you’d be into column number one every week. What is going to be, 10 potential customers, 20 potential customers? Come up with your number and commit to it because Pipedrive will hold you accountable by telling you whether you’ve actually lived up to your number or not.

And as someone who loved you, I would tell you to take each day someone from column number one and move them to column number two. By doing that action that you’re committing to, maybe it’s finding their contact information, maybe it’s sending out an email, and the next day, moving them to column number three by taking the next step and the next step. Pipedrive will keep all your data in order, encourage you to keep moving them until you get to the close line, to the finish line.

Finally, if you grew, if you did this often enough and you grew your sales, you could then hire more people and collaborate on sales with them because Pipedrive is spectacular on collaboration. We’ve used it here for Mixergy forever. I recommended it long before they were ever a sponsor. Now that they are, there’s something I could give you that I never could give you before–a lot of free time because Pipedrive is using a special URL just for Mixergy listeners.

They do it because they want to keep track of how many of my listeners become my customers. I give it out because it’s going to give you a bunch of free-time. So, here’s the special URL. Go to Pipedrive.com/Mixergy. You’re going to get to see why I’ve raved about this forever and how it will increase your sales, for sure–Pipedrive.com/Mixergy.

So, now I’m wondering what’s in the background of your desk? What do you with that knowledge, how do you shape your environment?

Robert: Exactly. And I can tell you a story about how I decided to create that environment for my book, “Pre-Suasion.” Now, the book, “Pre-Suasion” just came out a few months ago, but I wanted to have legs, as they say in the book. I wanted it to last in the same way that the book “Influence” has lasted over time.

And here’s how I arranged for myself to do it. I had the following plan. I would give–when the book was finished, I would give a copy to the parents of my three grandchildren–they’re five, seven and eleven–with the following instructions. When they are old enough to read this book, I want you to give one to each of those children as they get old enough to read it.

Andrew: I see.

Robert: And I want you to say to them, “Look at the dedication in this book,” because I’ve dedicated it to my grandchildren. “Your grandfather wrote this book for you.” Well, Andrew, it had better be a good book.

Andrew: Yeah.

Robert: And here’s how I arranged so that I would stay in my seat, no shortcuts allowed for this book. Here are my grandchildren.

Andrew: Photos of them.

Robert: Photos of them next to my screen.

Andrew: I see.

Robert: So that every time I began writing on this book, they were in my consciousness. They were the reasons I was writing for a long-term contribution.

Andrew: I see. And that’s why there aren’t references to how to use Instagram in a persuasive way or things that are going to change in the next two years. It’s long-lasting ideas. That’s what the book is full of.

Robert: In the same way as occurred with “Influence”–it turns out that you described a number of people that you’ve interviewed or you’ve talked to who have said that the book “Influence” has helped them. The book “Influence” developed six universal principles of influence before there was e-marketing. Well, that book is now the darling of e-marketers because it was about lasting principles of human behavior, not the sort of thing that’s going to go in and out of fashion.

These are fundamental features of the human condition. That’s what I’m trying to do with “Pre-Suasion” as well and the idea that in 15 years, this book still better be a good book because I’ve got a granddaughter who’s going to read it then. That’s what drove me.

Andrew: That’s what I want these interviews to be about. I want them to be about ideas that endure. I imagine that in 20 years, people will listen to these interviews and still be changed by them. One of my friends is a guy who’s investing in a company that will put a chip in your brain. This guy’s an already successful entrepreneur. He’s going to do it. My vision is these interviews better be so good that this has space in whatever storage device that chip needs access to. That’s what I’m going for. And I see how that helps shape the way that you think.

You know what? There’s something that you did a long time ago that I want to kind of touch on. I actually don’t have a smooth transition for it, which is why I’m pausing for a moment. So, I’ll be open about that. But I love how you said that you were a palm reader. You’d go to parties and you would do some palm reading and people believe that you had this power. Did you actually have this power.

Robert: I had the power to get them to believe that I could see their past, their prospects and their future, but it didn’t have to do with paranormal features of the palm. It had to do with the strategy that palmists use and a human operating condition, cognitive operating condition, that assures that I would be right the great majority of the time.

Andrew: And what’s that?

Robert: Let’s say I was reading your palm and I bent back your thumb and I said, “Andrew, I can tell from the shape and rigor with which it takes to move your thumb, that you are a stubborn individual, that if somebody tries to push you in a particular direction, you’re not going to go there. You’re going to stay committed to the position that you originally. . .”

Andrew: Yeah.

Robert: What I will have done with that is to send you down a biased memory track for instances in which you’ve been stubborn, not instances in which you’ve been flexible. No. I will have asked you to identify times in your past when you were stubborn and you will hit some. We all will. If instead, I took the same thumb and said, “Andrew, I can tell you’re a flexible man, that if you get new information, you’re likely to shift your position based on that new content that you’ve just incorporated into your thinking.”

Andrew: I see.

Robert: I will have sent you down a different memory track to find instances of your flexibility and you will.

Andrew: Just because you gave me that reputation I will live up to it in my head?

Robert: You will go and search for instances in which that was the case.

Andrew: Will there be any people who disagree just because that’s who they are, that if they say they’re stubborn, they say, “No I’m not, I’m very flexible,” if you say they’re flexible, they just are disagreeable?

Robert: There may be, but I couldn’t find them when I did my–they said, “How could you possibly know that?”

Andrew: So I want to bring this back to business for a moment to see how I can use this technique. If I have someone who works for me and comes into my office and I want them to be a little more flexible in their thinking, so they come up with new ideas beyond the way we’ve been doing business so far, is it enough for me to just say, “Steve, I can tell you’re someone who’s very flexible, who’s always coming up with new ideas. I want to tell you one of my goals with this company is to be more flexible with the way we market.”

Is that the way to do it? Or do I need to find something about them to attach that knowledge to, like a thumb going back or an experience of theirs that I’m familiar with where they were flexible. What do I need to do?

Robert: The latter is not only more effective. It’s the ethical choice. You identify some instance in which people have had success along the dimension you are raising to consciousness.

Andrew: I see. Could it be something like, “I know you’re flexible because one of the things I remember about you is when the microwave broke down on this floor, you went down to the last floor and you got a microwave?”

Robert: Right.

Andrew: “I’m telling you this because I need flexible thinking like yours.” That’s what you’re saying.

Robert: Bullseye.

Andrew: Speaking of ethical, before you and I started, I did something that I consider pre-suasion. I suggested to you that you adjust your camera in a way that puts you at the center of the camera, not the way that’s most comfortable for you, where you’re lower right of the screen. I do that because it’s good for my audience, but I also do it because I know with my guest, it establishes my authority.

I’m someone who’s done this long enough to even show you how to look better and be more confident on camera and as a result of you seeing the impact immediately, you trust me for the rest of the interview. I always feel that’s a good thing to do, but I also wonder is it ethical? Am I okay to do that knowing that there’s not a manipulation, but a shifting of your attitude because of what I’ve said?

Robert: I think it’s ethical because you were my ally in the process. You employed an influence technique that led to my greater outcomes in the situation.

Andrew: I see.

Robert: And in fact, all of the parties to this interview’s greater outcomes, they’re more comfortable with me. Your followers are more comfortable. And it fits with something that supermarkets will be paid a lot to do by brands that are stocked on the shelves. It turns out that if you saw an array of products on the shelf, let’s say three, A, B, C, the one in the middle gets the most attention.

Andrew: Okay.

Robert: The one in the center. We want to orient ourselves in the center of things. And as a result, the research shows when you pay attention to something, once again, the cues of that thing channel your behavior and the research shows that the center brand on the shelf gets purchased more. They can flip them around in the study, what’s ever in the center gets purchased more because it’s the one that gets the most attention.

Andrew: I’ve found that if my guest is in the lower right corner, there was one time specifically people didn’t trust my guest. I trusted him. I knew the person. I looked at everything he said afterwards and he wasn’t lying. Everything was consistent with the research I’d done before. It wasn’t until I looked at the video that I realized, “He looks a little shaky. He looks like he doesn’t care. He looks like he’s not looking people in the eye.”

I realize we have to make these superficial changes, which sometimes I think we shouldn’t have to do superficial. You give this example of easy to pronounce three-letter stock tickers compared to hard to pronounce stock tickers, like the stock ticker KAR, which I might in my head pronounce “car,” versus RDO, which I would just say the letters RDO. The impact on their stock price is what?

Robert: Dramatic so that in the first six weeks or in the first four weeks, the impact on their stock price is significant. Their valuation is greater. People are more–it’s easier to be pronounce if they seem more facile, more familiar, more right if they have an easy to pronounce ticker or if the company’s name on the stock listing is easy to pronounce because ease is associated with correctness. If something is easy, it must be right to do. If I can do this easily, it means that there’s validity here.

So that association leads to a temporary increase in valuation for a stock that goes away by about six-months. It’s gone when market forces take over. But initially when all you have are these cues, then it’s the cues that win the day.

Andrew: So my name was originally Shuki. I changed it to Andrew because when I called people, I could tell that they’re tuning out when they hear the name Shuki. I feel like I should just adjust to the world as it instead of putting my fist in the air and saying, “You should all be less judgmental,” or, “You should all pay attention to stock tickers regardless of whether you can pronounce them or not.”

My sense is that’s the way to live, live in the world as it is today instead of trying to change every little thing about it. I sometimes feel guilty for that. Should I be telling the stock market, “Hey, you guys are making a mistake?” Should I be telling people, “Hey, my name is Shuki and you should accept it and you have to take it?” What are your thoughts about that?

Robert: It depends what your goal is, Andrew. If it is to live long and prosper–no, adapt, accommodate to the environment so that you use those cues to energize and enhance your success. If you want to battle them, that’s fine. If that’s your goal, if you have the goal to right what you perceive to be a wrong, I’m going to support that too, but if you want to prosper, then you channel these cues in ways that they are aligned with your best goals for the situation.”

Andrew: I like, by the way, how you used the world goal as opposed to target. I won’t get into it here because it’s too much, but anyone who reads the book should just understand why goal is a better word here than target. Based on what you said, could you talk about the example of the waitress and the chocolate? I’ve got a follow up question based on what you just said that I don’t understand. Do you know the one I’m talking about or do you want me to set it up?

Robert: No. I think I do.

Andrew: Okay.

Robert: Again, it’s based on a study. One of the things that you’ll find about me and reading the book you’ll see–what I talk about isn’t my speculations or hunches or experiences. It’s based on scientific research. So, the study in a restaurant was done by researchers who collaborated with the manager and arranged for a server, a waitress to go to certain tables and hand them the bill at the end of the meal and in the control condition, just say, “Thank you very much for your kind patronage. That was the standard.

In another condition, she offered each individual a single chocolate from a basket that she brought to the table. That increased her tip by 3.3% by virtue of the rule of reciprocation that says people want to give back to those who have given to them. So, a little chocolate produced a 3.3% increase in tip, which means a lot to servers because a lot of their income is based on tips.

If she did something unexpected and gave them two chocolates from the basket, their tip went up 14.1% because one of the rules of reciprocity is if you give something that people don’t expect, it’s not just part of what they normally get. Suddenly they feel even more grateful for your help.

But the most interesting feature was when she came to the table, gave each person one chocolate from the basket, turned to walk away, stopped herself and returned and said, “For you nice people, please take an extra chocolate,” and her tip went up 21% because it was a personalized gift, something that was devoted to them in particular. When you give something like that that is personalized, it optimizes what people give back to you in return.

Andrew: So that makes intuitive sense. The science is there. The research is there to show it. We’ve seen similar experiments done. Still, I go restaurants all the time, many times a week. I’ve never seen a waiter or waitress do anything like that, not a candy, not a chocolate. I’ve heard even that if they touch your shoulder, there’s an increase in the tip or positive feelings. Why do you think this information is out there in the world and it’s so rarely used?

Robert: Let me even amplify that question, the mystery of it, which is if this is so true, why is it in the great majority of restaurants not only don’t we see a chocolate on the tip tray, if there are chocolates offered, it’s at the door when people leave.

Andrew: After the tip.

Robert: After the tip. And not only is there still the loss associated with whatever the cost of the chocolate is to the manager, people take handfuls under those circumstances.

Andrew: So there’s more of a loss than they would if they gave it generously and at the right time? I see. Yes.

Robert: It’s because people think they know how the behavioral influence process works at a very general level but they don’t know the nuances of it, really. They don’t know that you have to do this first. They don’t know that you have to do it in a personalized, unexpected way to optimize your success.

That’s the reason I wrote these two books, to try to give everybody access to that information that they deserve to know because the truth is they funded that research with their tax money. They’re entitled to know it. They’re entitled to know what we behavioral scientists found out about them with their money.

Andrew: I didn’t even know that was taxpayer money.

Robert: Yes.

Andrew: Instead, you know who uses it, the people like the pyramid scheme people who you mention who knew how to set the scene just right, how to keep people from thinking for themselves, etc. I’ll let people read that in the book too.

At this point I’ll pause the interview again to record another message and tell you that you know what? I would love it if someone took Robert Cialdini’s ideas and laid them out in a blog post one a day, not all of them but some of them and some other persuasion techniques, one a day in a blog post so that I can just consume it and experience it for the day and learn from it and actually apply it in my business. I imagine there are many other people who would want to learn these kinds of persuasion techniques on a regular basis and of course link out to Robert Cialdini or whatever resource you found the ideas from.

But if you have that idea to create a website like that or any other website idea, I urge you to go check out HostGator. HostGator has been doing this for years. They are the leader in hosting because they have customer service people standing by to help you out, because they make it easy to get started and because they’re inexpensive.

They’ve proven themselves over the years. They’ve got their business down right. If you want to create any website, go check out HostGator.com/Mixergy. They’ll of course give you a big discount because they’re a sponsor of mine–HostGator, think of that alligator, HostGator.com/Mixergy. And once you do, you’re going to experience hosting done right.

Frankly, if you hate your hosting company and you already have a great idea, move over to HostGator. If you’re on WordPress, they’ll even move for you. You can just sit back and relax while they do it. If you’re not on WordPress, they make it easy for you to move yourself go to HostGator.com/Mixergy and I’m grateful to them for sponsoring. Let’s get back into it.

Let me ask you a personal question. You can be open completely and say, “Andrew, this did not work. I didn’t like it. I didn’t even know you did this.” We asked you to do an interview and you said no. I was so heartbroken because I knew you and I wasn’t heartbroken because you turned us down, I was heartbroken because my system here did not ask you for an interview before the book.

So then I sat down and I said, “How do we persuade him?” I thought how there was some story and I couldn’t even exactly remember the story about chocolate. I said, “Let’s send him chocolate and say I heard you can be persuaded by chocolate.” I thought it would be like an inside connection to something that I heard you say before. Was that at all impactful?

Robert: It was and I’ll tell you why–because it told me something about the level of insight that you were able to glean from the book. It wasn’t just that you read this stuff and said, “That’s interesting.” You did something that I want to be part of every reader’s understanding of the book, “Oh, this is implementable. This is something that can be mastered.”

It’s not just some kind of art, the art of persuasion that you have to be born with. You have to be born with the artistic inspiration to know what to say at precisely the right time. No. This is something that’s learnable and if it’s learnable, it means you can take steps to engage the learning.

Andrew: So, then when we’re dealing here with tech companies especially, how do we do this on a mass scale? How do we mass personalize? We’re not reaching waiters and waitresses here at Mixergy. We’re reaching people with websites often or mobile apps or whatever the technology is of the moment. And they want to find a way to do this on a massive scale.

Is it possible they personalize the way that I did with you, the way that the waitresses gave people the impression they were doing with them. Is it possible to do this on a mass level or do we have to constantly think of one person individually?

Robert: No. You can do it with demographic categories. We do have information about segments of our audience. For example, are these people older? Are they younger people? Are they men? Are they women? For example, there’s a great site, I can’t recall its name right now, but it provides apparel, clothing equipment and so on for new mothers. They have segments for new mothers of twins or new mothers for the first time. They’re not just within the last six weeks. No. They’re first time mothers or they’re single mothers. So, they’re able to differentiate with categories within their offerings that personalize the offerings to the different segments of their market.

Andrew: I see. I can see that even translating into the special gift they might give after the first purchase. I can see based on the book “Pre-Suasion” how the background might be different to emphasize the things that were more important to each segment. I see that. Have you see any use of your research that you’re especially proud of?

Robert: Well, again, the Berkshire Hathaway example, the Warren Buffett example, Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett, each of them has said that they have read “Influence” and consider it one of the top three books that have shaped the way that they communicate. So, I think that might be the one I would point to.

Andrew: I remember actually reading a book on Charlie Munger. He’s Warren Buffett’s business partner for years. When the two of them are sitting at their annual meeting, it’s the two of them sitting on stage for hours drinking diet soda. I don’t know how they don’t even have to get up and pee, how they don’t have to do any of that. And they answer questions from the audience that would calm down a protester and then get the protester to be persuaded of their point of view that gets shareholders to feel comfortable, etc.

I remember reading a book on Charlie Munger that happened to say that he gave money to you or supported you in some financial way. You mentioned it in “Pre-Suasion.” I remember at that moment I said, “Everything that I read from Robert Cialdini helped me.” I could see the impact on my life, but for some reason having Charlie Munger bless it by saying, “This is important,” I believed it even more and I felt good about taking in that information. It’s something about who you hear it from–social proof.

Robert: In that case, I would say authority.

Andrew: Authority, right.

Robert: Who could challenge Charlie Munger’s thinking about this? This is one of the most brilliant minds I’ve ever encountered. So, for him to say just legitimizes the information as a consequence. But yeah, Charlie Munger was the one who he sent me a share of Berkshire Hathaway stock based on what he said the contribution of the book was to him. That was when a single share of Berkshire’s stock was worth $45,000.

Andrew: And today?

Robert: $237,000 a share.

Andrew: Wow. Yeah. Unbelievable.

Robert: Unbelievable. There’s never been anything like it in our markets.

Andrew: So I’m wondering about your students. When they come in, do you feel at this point that they’re coming to take your class because they want to be–online marketers, do you feel like they have a purpose in mind now or are they doing this for curiosity because they want to learn psychology?

Robert: Well, it turns out that I no longer have university students.

Andrew: You don’t?

Robert: In order to write “Pre-Suasion,” I had to retire.

Andrew: I didn’t know that.

Robert: It turned out I couldn’t write the book. I didn’t have the unitary focus required for writing this book while I had all the pulls and draws of a university faculty member’s responsibilities. But when I was teaching, I would teach psychology students, but I also had a joint appointment in the business school where I taught marketing MBA students. There were different goals.

So the psychology students were interested mostly in the processes involved, the cognitive features of human dynamics and behavior. The MBA students were much more bottom line-oriented. I was so glad that I was teaching both of those types of students because each one kept me aware of the two different camps that were important. One is the conceptual one to truly understand the processes involved. The other was the practical one to truly understand the applicability of these processes.

Andrew: I once bought from Amazon, from Audible, one of your speeches. In that speech, you said–it was so well-done–open loops, mysteries, facts from history, facts from psychology, so well organized, funny. At one point you said, “I am writing a book examining these things that happened before influence. This was years ago. I kept waiting, kept checking Amazon and now I understand why. It’s because you needed to focus on this. You needed to spend time just doing the book.

Robert: You know, Andrew, I would come in during those years with writing on the book as the top item on my agenda. I would leave at the end of the day with not one word written because I couldn’t get to it with all of these other responsibilities I had that would pull me and dilute my focus. So I realized, “If this is truly the item at the top, then you have to clear away the impediments to focusing on it in a unitary sense.”

Andrew: Is that because of who you are or do you feel that’s true for others? The reason I ask is earlier today, I talked to an entrepreneur who had to decide, “Does he create a consulting company that then eventually creates a product or does he have to just suffer for a little bit with no revenue, create the product after he figures out what it is?” I told him that a lot of entrepreneurs who get into consulting end up so distracted that they never get to focus on their own product. Is that a universal thing or is it just a personality thing?

Robert: I think it’s a personality thing because I had as my mentor in graduate school a guy who would segment his day in terms of a number–so, for two hours, he would work on preparing his lectures. Then he’d switch to writing this article, this scientific article. Then the next two hours, he was writing a statistics book. He would write on his–I couldn’t do that. It just wasn’t possible. I couldn’t build those kinds of barriers between the kinds of thinking that was required. Each one would dilute my focus on the other. So, I have to be more unified in my focus.

Andrew: So, now what’s the business? Is it Influence at Work?

Robert: I have a business Influence at Work that provides training and consulting and speaking on the science of social influence. We have a workshop that we do based on the six principles of influence that were in the book influence. Now we’re developing a workshop based on the material from the book, “Pre-Suasion.” So that’s where I’m focused now.

Andrew: That’s InfluenceAtWork.com if I want to see that, right?

Robert: Yes.

Andrew: If I go through the site, am I going to see some of your persuasion techniques in here and get to see them in action being used by you?

Robert: Yes.

Andrew: I will?

Robert: Yes. As long as they’re honestly part of the situation. So, for example, if I say honestly on the cover of the book “Influence,” two-million copies sold, that’s true. And I’d be a fool of the influence process if I didn’t pre-suasively, before people ever cracked a page, mention that social proof was part of the situation here. I’d be remiss if I failed to do that.

Andrew: I often have a hard time with that and I need to do that better. I need to just talk about the successes of my members. I need to do that. I always feel like that’s a little braggy. I shouldn’t do it. But that’s a mistake. You have to emphasize that. If it’s earned, people need to know it.

All right. So people can go to that site. They can also see from that site you’re active on social media, on Twitter I’ve seen you, Facebook, etc. There’s one thing that I didn’t know how to bring up in this interview that I love in the book and I think anyone who reads it should go to. You are such a good presenter because you get me wondering.

You’ve actually said you honed your craft by speaking to students who know that there’s an end to the class and often get ready to leave the class a few minutes before, who sometimes have love interests in the classroom who care more about them than they care about the professor at the front of the class and you had to figure out a way to get them to pay attention.

It was your use of mysteries and your use of getting people wrapped up in your story that got them engaged and that always gets me engaged when I listen to you talk or read your book. I like that you didn’t just say, “Here’s what I do.” It’s one of the most methodical sections of the book. You laid it out with such detail. I’ve never highlighted in a Kindle book so many lines. I actually had to keep highlighting and then create a new highlight. I don’t know even know how on Kindle Highlights’ website it’s going to show up, but I wanted that whole process for when I deliver talks.

I don’t know if you noticed it, but in the intro, I tried to use that format for practice because I just had it fresh in mind and I don’t know if you noticed it, but in the intro, I tried to use that format for practice because I just had it fresh in my mind and I said, “I’m not just going to learn it. I’m going to use it.” That’s what I love about your techniques and that’s one of the best parts of the book “Pre-Suasion.”

Robert: I didn’t notice it, Andrew, and that’s part of the power of this. It often flies beneath the radar. It’s also a reason why we want to do this in ethical ways because we have dynamite and we can use dynamite for good or ill. If we’ve got those kinds of powers, knowing this information, we should be sure that we use those powers only in ethically acceptable ways.

Andrew: I agree. I do feel like in the wrong hands, someone could convince the wrong people to buy way too much stuff and take too much credit just by using like two ideas from the book influence. Thankfully, I’ve seen good people use it and spread the word.

I’m glad that I discovered it years ago and that now my audience gets to discover the book. The latest one is called “Pre-Suasion.” You guys can get it anywhere. Really, I urge you if you’re not even into reading books but you are into listening to really good presenters, go read that section about how he presents, how he gets people interested. It’s not just a how to section. It’s four pages, maybe three pages. There’s a story about the tobacco industry in there to show you how he uses his technique to tell a story that makes you want to keep digging into it.

Anyway, it’s so good to have you on here to be a part of the Mixergy community here.

Robert: I have to say I enjoyed it, Andrew.

Andrew: Thanks. That means a lot to me. I appreciate it. Thank you all for being a part of it. Bye, everyone.


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