Review: Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini

Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini

A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade?

How do you get people to buy your product or service? Is it enough to tell them it exists and let them decide for themselves? If you answered “yes” – it’s only because your customers have to use your product or service – and there’s no competition.


The real world

When you’re facing stiff competition you have to do something different to get potential customers to buy from you. If you’re lucky enough to have the best product or service in the market, you might think that would be easy. Just point out that you’re better and everyone will flock to buy. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen (luckily for those who don’t have the best). But why not?

For many years, Economists built complex models around the belief that we humans are rational. They thought we made decisions by gathering all the available information and then selecting the logical choice. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. We must accept that we are not rational decision makers and Robert Cialdini has helped us understand the implications.



Back in 1984, Cialdini’s book “Influence” first appeared in print. In it, he shared the scientific evidence that shows how we actually make decisions. He identified six psychological principles that have a significant impact on the choices we make. They are:

  • Reciprocation
  • Liking
  • Social proof
  • Authority
  • Scarcity
  • Consistency

At first, the book was ignored. Gradually, however, business people began to appreciate its importance. It has since become a classic in the field of persuasion and its lessons have been applied by every type of enterprise. You experience them every time you visit a shopping centre or go on-line.



It’s been a while but Cialdini’s follow-up book has just been released. It’s called “Pre-Suasion” and the subtitle says it all. It’s “A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade”.

In this book, Cialdini concentrates on what happens before you ask your customers to buy. How can you influence them so that the answer is more likely to be “yes”?

Some of the reported results are astounding. For example, would you expect one short sentence to increase compliance to a potentially dangerous request from 29% to 77%? Would you expect a change in posture to reduce the chances of someone rejecting a request?


Are You Irrational?

However, it really gets interesting when we learn some of the broader concepts. It’s only then that we really begin to appreciate how irrational many of our decisions can be.

For example, Cialdini highlights a human tendency to assign importance to an idea as soon as one’s attention is drawn to it. In an election year, if the media concentrates on a candidate’s position on (say) immigration people will tend to vote based on that position rather than on potentially more important issues – like foreign policy.

There’s a wealth of actionable information in this book. It may take some time to fully process and implement the advice but any serious business owner (and particularly every startup) should get a copy and start as soon as possible.

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