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6 Tools To Influence People

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ENGAGEMENT RING
George Tsafos via Getty Images
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One year ago I went to Tiffany's in search of the perfect engagement ring for my fiancée. The diamonds weren't the only thing that was flawless.

To sell diamonds, this sales associate flawlessly uses social influence techniques with precision matching any military psychological operator or corporate communications specialist I've ever worked with. Within minutes she artfully is using 6 separate emotional appeals.

We all can learn from her good salesmanship because we all sell something in our professional lives. The 6 steps the sales associate uses in chronological order:

1. Likeability
(Hundreds of psychological studies, thousands of real world examples, and common intuition connect liking someone with an increased likelihood of buying what they're selling.)

At first glance this seems obvious or generic, because all sales associates are friendly. But this social influence-virtuoso in an Armani-suit immediately creates a personal connection by asking my name. She's attractive, which adds a halo effect. Her smiling, friendly demeanor is impossible not to like as she finds a way to compliment me. As the old quote goes, "They may forget what you said -- but they will never forget how you made them feel."

2. Commitment and Consistency
(The human bias for wanting our decisions to be consistent with our previous commitments. Amplifying this vulnerability is our disposition to think of stories in a linear, causal way.)

The sales associate asks how my fiancée and I met. Then asks how I intend to propose. The new decision (to purchase a ring from their store), is sandwiched in the middle of a linear story:
• Meeting my fiancée (past activity);
• Purchasing the ring (present activity); and,
• Proposing (future activity).

She artfully leads me to think of my new decision (to purchase the ring from their store) as an extension of my previous decisions.

3. Reciprocity
(Reciprocal obligations work because we find it uncomfortable to stay in another's debt after receiving a gift, and because we do not want to be seen as free-riders.)

The sales associate hands me a glass of sparkling water. The crystal glass weighs more than my first car and is strikingly effective at creating a sense of reciprocal obligation. A glass of water is obviously too small a gift to rationally equal the purchase of a diamond from their store. However, reciprocity as a social influence technique doesn't work on a rational level; it works on emotion and social norms.

4. Authority
(Information from a recognized authority holds a higher degree of influence over decision-making.)

I had already researched carat, cut, colour, and clarity. But her ease in explaining permutations and combinations is authoritative. Within minutes it's clear the sales associate is the expert. As a result, I'm much more likely to trust and defer to her judgment, and ultimately buy a ring from their store.

5. Scarcity
(The principle of scarcity shows that objects are more desirable when they're in limited supply - or seen to be in limited supply.)

In the context of diamonds, I think you will agree with me this point needs zero elaboration.

6. Social Proof
(Actions are seen as more appropriate when others are doing the same thing.)

The sales associate points out the "classic" shapes, the "most popular" settings, and the bands that "most people choose". This reinforces the decisions other people like me have made. The more she can bring me to relate to others who've already made the decision, the more likely I am to buy.

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