How can Cialdini’s ‘Weapons of Influence’ be useful in key account management?
Have you ever wondered why some people have the ability to get someone to say Yes and take Action, and also get people to do things for them, not out of obligation but from a genuine desire to act?
This may sound like a scene from Star Wars with The Force being used to manipulate the minds of unsuspecting people.
The people who are able to do this don’t have superpowers. They are not men and women born with the skill to bend minds.
They are using skills we can observe, learn, practice, and by osmosis take on as we mimic the behaviours and characteristics of those we admire.
The ability for us to be able to influence and persuade others is critical to success. Every day we are in situations where influence is needed. When communicating with colleagues, getting a senior leader to change their mind and when positioning change with a customer.
If we’re not working on this skill we’re limiting your ability to get greater results with and for customers.
What is Influence?
Influence is the ability to positively or negatively change or impact the feelings, actions and behaviours of others.
Whether we like it or not, we are always influencing whether consciously or subconsciously and conversely we’re always being influenced by friends, advertisements, our habits and groups.
How can we tap into the power of influence for good when it comes to our customer conversations?
Among all the books on influence and persuasion, Robert Cialdini’s book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is probably the most famous, yet there are other very good books on influence too.
Personally I’d recommend reading Geoff Burch’s Irresistible Persuasion, Fascinate by Sally Hogshead and Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith. All offer unique and expansive views on the skill of understanding and improving your influence.
Let’s tackle Cialdini’s principles, as they are well researched and ingrained in our culture. His content on persuasion and influence is visible in our everyday observations. It holds timeless principles to be applied in all your key customer conversations. Here are Cialdini’s Six ‘Weapons of Influence’ with examples and ideas for you to take action today in your customer conversations.
CIALDINI’S SIX ‘WEAPONS OF INFLUENCE’ FOR KEY CUSTOMER SUCCESS
WEAPON ONE: RECIPROCATION
It’s better to give than to receive, is it not? Well, my mother definitely told me that. As an 11-year-old boy, I remember thinking she was crazy while I held a pack of hard-earned candy and a glass bottle of Dr Pepper in my hand on a Spring day.
“Share it then!” my Mum would say. Reluctantly I shared my candy at the park with a smile and I obviously made some new friends. Weeks later I saw the same kids, and now they were inviting me to parties and asking if I wanted anything from the shop. Reciprocation in action!
Reciprocation can be argued as a trait embedded in the psychology of human interaction. For most, we can’t help but want to do something for someone else, particularly if the act is unwarranted and generous.
Personally I proactively look for ways to give, not because I think it will come back, but because I know it will be paid forward.
What I mean is this. The unseen power of reciprocation in your customer conversations is all about you making an investment into your future relationships. Reciprocation will show up with your customer acting on your behalf without you even knowing. Decisions will be made faster and negotiations will become more collaborative.
Seek out opportunities to give back freely, with no agenda. It doesn’t have to be big, but it must be of meaning to the other person.
Here’s an example: Seek to understand what the weekly work looks like for your main customer contact. What is really frustrating for them? Perhaps it’s a crappy pen? Well, why not gift your contact a pen or recommend a really great one.
WEAPON TWO: COMMITMENT AND CONSISTENCY
No one wants to be the person who goes back on their word. It’s the reason contractual agreements can be such a personal and hard-fought process. The fear of over committing or not being able to fulfil your agreements is a strong motivator for self-preservation. It can also be an activator for positive action.
It has been proven that when you can get someone to commit verbally to an action, the chances of them completing it go up drastically.
It’s important to understand that the power of commitment and consistency doesn’t come just because someone says so. It is driven out of their emotions and values.
A quick story:
In 2018 I had a scheduled customer meeting with a very large multinational company. A week before the meeting I called them. I asked if they perceived any potential challenges that might prevent us from making decisions on our agreed agenda.
I confirmed the outcomes and results they wanted from the meeting, and whether these should be included in our agenda. We then agreed on the agenda.
Following the conversation, I sent all those involved in the project a revised agenda, to let them know where we were. Now we were all in it together. The commitment of going back was a risk but the results of the project going forward were now much stronger. Just 90 minutes into the meeting we wrapped up a $250K deal and cut the sales cycle by 70%.
The key to effectively using commitment and consistency outside of the obvious contractual agreements is to look for the emotion of loss, and most importantly the vision of gain. Seek out incremental activities that build on long-term positive actions.
WEAPON THREE: SOCIAL PROOF
You see it everywhere and in most conversations. Right or wrong we look for validation and confirmation that what we’re doing is correct, accepted and okay. It happens to us all. Cialdini’s idea of social proof is that it confirms an innate need in us to be part of a tribe and to be like others. There is a lot of validity in wanting to do so, and in many cases, it can encourage greater collaboration and understanding.
Social proof can also be a block to your customer conversations, particularly when a situation is uncertain or your customer is under pressure and not sure what to do.
It’s in those moments that your customer needs safety, not solutions.
Safety comes from doing what others have done before or what has worked in the past.
Demonstrate to your customers that those like them, believed, felt and went through the very thing they are struggling with, both practically and emotionally to achieve a successful conclusion. In doing so, you give them safety and your customer will be more likely to take the same action.
It’s why customer reviews can be so powerful.
In fact, according to recent research from G2 and Heinz Marketing, they found that 92% of surveyed B2B buyers were more likely to purchase after reading a trusted review.
We know this in sales. We share testimonials, mention names and industries of those who are like our customers to reduce risks and increase certainty. For this to be really effective it’s key to give an example to match or alleviate your customer’s expectations and concerns, based on their own specific needs and goals.
For your next customer conversation, really take the time to understand exactly what social proof they need. Know their concerns and goals, then pick the right examples to match or exceed their issues.
WEAPON FOUR: LIKING
People want to do business with those they know, like and trust. So, why do so many of us experience so much rejection, even from our own customers?
Being liked gets you up one level but doesn’t finish the whole job. If you’re someone who is likeable, you are more likely to get a Yes. Others will agree to meet with you and share their positive experiences of you with others; this is the best compliment you can get!
Two of the most powerful likability traits are being interested and interesting. In other words, be attentive and being someone worth paying attention too.
Being interested is all about the quality of questions and the quality of listening. Most people’s favourite topic is themselves. Not out of vanity but because it raises our sense of status and purpose. So allow people the space to speak about themselves. Then offer genuine compliments about topics and values you can agree on. They will remember your compliments and associate the positive comments directly to you.
Being interesting is all about the quality of engagement. As much as conventional wisdom tells you to listen more and speak less, you still need to talk to speak and engage. How do you keep someone engaged? Instead of soundbites and long-winded descriptions of things you do, share stories. Stories will invite the listener in. Check out this video from a channel I watch on the principles of storytelling.
Stop making it about you. Make it about your customer. Set into practice the number one strategy of the most likeable people, that of listening. You’ll gain more of the attention you want and your customer will be more receptive to listen to you.
WEAPON FIVE: AUTHORITY
How many of us grew up hearing the phrase respect your elders? Or you’ve unconsciously observed the unwritten behavioural rules of addressing those in higher positions or with greater experience with courtesy and respect?
Those are just some of the hallmarks of authority. As noted in Cialdini’s book, people will often assume a positive bias of a person based on their title, reputation and the behaviour of others around them. Policemen, doctors, politicians and celebrities all carry different levels of the influence of authority.
Cialdini’s book shows some people are more strongly influenced by authority and compliance than others. This can vary depending on the situation and the culture. But it’s important to know that we all respond to and make assumptions based on authority including your customers. This is why having a relationship with the most respected and senior person in a room can automatically give you indirect authority.
Authority matters and you can build it. Your physical presence and how you dress makes a difference. Where appropriate look to bring people of equal titles and stature to customer meetings, especially where you know their titles and credibility match.
You want to completely eliminate any possible feeling of risk about you as a person. Outside of that, be proactive about building your authority and reputation. Be intentional. Look for ways to connect with those who have a great reputation in your customer’s businesses. Build your personal reputation through the value, insight and results you deliver for your customers. This grows influence.
WEAPON SIX: SCARCITY
Everyone is vulnerable to some form of the principle of scarcity. Opportunities seem more valuable when there is less available. Hard-to-get things are perceived as better than easy-to-get things.
We use this often in sales. We see it in marketing ads all the time with signage of “only 5 left”, cause it works! However, what matters most is applying scarcity authentically and with integrity. You should never say there are only 5 left, yet sell 10 tomorrow.
Scarcity is a very powerful tool. To activate this principle it’s best to refer to limited resources or time limits. These increase the perceived value and benefit to the customer to take action. In most cases the possibility of losing something is a more powerful motivator than gaining something. This is the towards and away principle.
Scarcity for your key customer relationships will be different from others. For you, it could be the availability of a particular person or project delivery by a particular time. Proactively look for scarcity opportunities that are genuine and in principle offer a greater benefit to your customer for taking the action. Why? Because If they take that offer and win, they’ll be more likely to take a bigger offer next time.
Cialdini’s Six ‘Weapons of Influence’ are incredibly powerful and can be combined in many ways. Pick one of Cialdini’s weapons today and discuss its effective usage with your colleagues, business partners or friends. Choose a customer, a goal and take action. Then, let me know how you get on.
All the best on your journey to become the adviser your customer never wants to leave.
P.S. Want to know how to embed influence into your key customer strategies? Get connected to my mailing list and look out for my quarterly customer mastery webinars.
Your Customer Growth Guide