How To Influence People … And Clients?

As mentioned in a prior blog, Fritz Wood, CPA*, CFP*, recently gave a presentation in King of Prussia, Pa. on “Surviving and thriving in this economy.”

He mentioned a book, which turned out to be a best seller: “Influence: Science and Practice” (5th Edition) by Robert Cialdini (Prentice Hall).

Cialdini, a professor of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University, must have done something right: He has sold more than 2 million copies of his book, which has been translated into more than 25 languages. He is not just a theoretician. He got his hands dirty: He took jobs with fund raisers, sales people and advertisers to study persuasion in action. Based on these years of research, Cialdini describes six “weapons of influence.”


This concept is based on the fact that people tend to return favors, or reciprocate. A favor, even small, produces a sense of obligation in the recipient. This is why grocery store employees give out free food samples … as do some vets.


This principle is used by the likes of Weight Watchers. Once you’ve committed to a goal, especially publicly or in writing, you are more likely to stick to your promise and to honor your commitment. 

Social Proof

Most people like to do things others have done before. If a book cover says “1 million copies sold,” then it must be good, right? Similarly, the back cover of a book will list endorsements to entice people to buy it.


People tend to respect the opinions of authority figures. Authority is expressed by titles, choice of clothes and “trappings” such as jewelry and cars.


People would rather purchase from someone they like. The Tupperware folks understood that concept early on. Advertisers, of course, understand it as well, which is why they hire good looking people.


Shortages (limited supply) and deadlines (limited time), real or perceived, increase demand. Think about your own reaction when you read: “time limited only,” “only X items left.” Instinctively, we tend to desire what we can’t have or what is scarce.

So there you go. These six weapons of influence are routinely used by sales people, car salesmen and many others, in stores and online.

At no point did Fritz Wood imply that we also should use these strategies to convince clients to buy unnecessary products and services, strictly to make money. Only you can decide what to do with this information.

Fritz Wood did say however that being aware of these techniques may help you, so that you can avoid being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous sales person.

* Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial Planner


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