Knowing what it takes to persuade someone is usually a matter of gut feeling. While a speaker might use certain catch phrases or tone of voice to sound more convincing, they’re usually not consciously thinking about the exact tactic they’re using. We may have learned how to persuade, but we haven’t looked at it academically.
Professor emeritus of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University Robert Cialdini has studied the art of persuasion for decades. In his book, Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion, Cialdini pinpoints six principles that increase persuasiveness and give businesses a competitive advantage. See if you’ve found yourself engaging in these behaviors during a videoconference, webinar, or virtual presentation, and whether you could hone in on them with a finer focus.
Reciprocation, the act of giving back to someone who’s given to you, is as common in the business world as it is in personal social circles. It’s constantly happening on a small scale in the most obvious of places – for example, when vendors offer free samples hoping clients will make a purchase. In an online presentation, offering something similar, like advice or a trial membership, would be a good way to encourage reciprocity (in your audience’s case, becoming a customer).
Commitment and Consistency
Psychologists have revealed through research that people strive to be consistent with their statements and behaviors as well as committed to their decisions. For example, people who sign a petition are more likely to work on behalf of the cause because their commitment to it is in writing. The reason for this behavior is that being viewed as trustworthy has certain social rewards. You can use this fundamental human behavior in your pitches in online presentations to sway your target audience and earn conversions. Some examples would be engaging your audience in a social media hashtag activity or offering them a free or discounted first product or consult.
Cialdini’s insights show that people don’t just want to follow their own past behavior, but perhaps are even more motivated to follow the lead of others’ good behaviors. In his study, hotel guests were told that the majority of fellow guests at the hotel reused their towels instead of getting news ones. This results in guests being 26 percent more likely to reuse their towels, thus achieving the hotels’ environmental goal of reducing the amount of water that’s used to wash towels. Sharing similar data related to your product or service during a videoconference – such as how other consumers took advantage of your offers and how it helped them – can encourage desired behaviors in your client base. When consumers do good – such as always using their child’s car seat or reducing their monthly utility consumption – it feels good to be recognized for it. This is a great way to interact with them.
There’s so much information in the world, it’s hard to know what to trust. There are authorities on nearly every subject, and these are the people that we look to for an expert opinion. We tend to follow advice from credible authorities, because it’s the easiest way to assess something without have to do a lot of research on it ourselves. The simplest examples would be quoted reviews from film critics in a movie trailer, or a famous celebrity in a beauty ad. Cialdini says people also like to get information from people who are like them (also viewed as trustworthy). Quoting testimonials of your product or service from such individuals will boost your credibility with your client base.
Being likeable makes your ability to exert influence easier. It’s getting to that point that’s the hard part. In order for you and/or your company to be likable, you need to demonstrate commonality with other things that are likable, as well as with your audience. Every target group is different, and really every individual is different, and it requires some background knowledge to tweak your likability factor just right. You can build your likability during a virtual conference or webinar by doing things like matching the speaking style and body language of your audience. Improve rapport with others on the videoconference by finding similarities in common, as the more similarities you have, and the more rare they are, the stronger others will identify with you. As far as your company’s reputation, linking it or its products/services to something positive will make it more likable.
When there’s not enough of something, people seem to instinctively want it more – even if it’s something they might not otherwise be interested in. Add a sense of urgency by creating the feeling that people need to act before the opportunity ends, and you’ve got a recipe for closing the deal. Giving your webinar audience a limited-time offer will make them more willing to buy. Just don’t do this too often, or that sense of scarcity and urgency will be lost.
There’s a lot of power in each of these persuasion principles, and they can easily be used irresponsibly. Cialdini stresses an ethical approach to applying the principles – not only to do the right thing, but also to maintain a good reputation for your business. Use the right principles at the right time for the right reasons, and they will work in your favor.