In this episode I review “Influence People: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade That Are Lasting and Ethical,” written by Brian Ahearn.

In addition to influencing people in general, information is provided for those who need to improve their sales cycle. His approach is very practical, laying out key principles and associated acronyms that can be used to practice sharpening you ability to influence people. His overall tone is about helping the read as an entire person, not just one aspect.

The work is based on solid research. He boils the information down to 7 key shortcuts which basically are sound principles. They include:

  1. Reciprocity – behave in a way that encourages others to relate to you
  2. Liking – people want to do business with their friends or people they like
  3. Authority – experienced or knowledgable – use it
  4. Consensus – when no authority use how groups are moving in a given direction
  5. Consistency – channel a person’s consistent behavior in a desirable direction. Be consistent yourself to develop trust.
  6. Scarcity – people respond more to what they might lose than they do to what they might gain
  7. Unity – people like to relate with people with whom they have a sense of belonging and with whom they may have common experiences

Additional tools are presented:

  • Compare and contrast – set the stage to make it easy for the other person to go in the direction you want, e.g., “This normally is $799 but since you are here I can give it to you at $599.” Another example is given with wine lists. When the wines are listed in decreasing price people buy more because they feel they are being practical by buying a good bottle but one not so expensive. When listed from lowest price to highest people buy substantially lower priced products because they are only seeing an increase in price rather than an opportunity to “save”
  • Consistency vs authority. Consistency is driven by client history in terms of thoughts, feelings, and actions traditionally going in a specific direction. Authority is used when your expertise legitimately points the person being persuaded in the desired direction. This especially helps when the client is uncertain.
  • Conformational bias. Present information that is ethical and honest but plays in the direction the other person wants to go.
  • “Because I said so.” The word “because” allows people to be gracious and help. This works especially well when put in the form of a question,  e.g., “Would you please get your report to me by Monday because I have to roll it into a larger report?” If they say “no” you can have a backup position of Wednesday.  “How about Wednesday?” Usually people don’t want to say “no” twice in a row so with this approach you increase the odds of getting their report when you actually need it. They have a sense of reciprocity.

Decision making and rationality are the next topics he presents. Most decision-making is essentially irrational, with some researchers believing >90% of our decision-making is driving by the unconscious.

What you are exposed to and the order in which you are exposed sets the stage for how the decisions will flow. This gets back to the reality people respond more to concern about what they might lose compared to what they might gain. Several examples are given.

Brian goes on to give about 15 tips for improving your bottom line.

Case studies are then provided, some of which are fascinating and make it worth purchasing the book. This includes:

– How Kodak went from having almost 100% of the image market to almost nothing

– JCPenny losing 40% of it’s stock value by making changes that failed to take the customer’s wishes into consideration

– How Bernie Madoff used the principles in this book unethically to swindle $65 billion

– Why Starbucks is so pervasive even though they don’t advertise. What’s their secret?

The etiquette for using social media is discussed. Use it to network and connect…don’t start selling right away!

The book closes out with examples of how people behave in ways that show they are worth working with. The examples are quite good.

Brian is is on LinkedIn and can also be contacted at

Need help dealing with complex situations? You can download CMC’s free e-book MINDSET – 5 SIMPLE WAYS TO LOOK AT COMPLEX PROBLEMS and learn how to find a simple vantage point from which you can resolve challenges.

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