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Building Better Business Book Club 

Reading, sharing insights, getting recommendations, staying informed.

“Influence” by Robert Cialdini

Influence by Dr Robert Cialdini is a seminal work. It’s been cited by business people in the 40 or so years since it was originally published. I first read this book many years ago.

I was a young middle manager in the insurance industry. I recall at the time that it provided me with insights that allowed me to progress and develop my career, whilst simultaneously creating camaraderie and community in the teams I led. That’s a pretty good recommendation. In re-reading the book, I can see why it was able to give me that advantage.

The book covers six key areas of influence. He discusses reciprocation, what we might call give and take. Still, importantly you identify that the balance of give and take is unbalanced – a small gift can lead to a large reciprocation.

He talks about commitment and consistency in demonstrating your determination and the manner of your day-to-day interactions. Cialdini is right that trust is lost without being able to set and meet expectations consistently. Building trust is vital if we are to influence others’ behaviour and their decisions.

Something that has grown in importance since the book was initially written is social proof. Social proof is now a vital part of how many people make their decisions. They look to their peers through their social media feeds, to see what they are saying and what they are doing. Social proof has become an even stronger influencer since this book was written initially, but it was true then, too. That means gathering testimonials, case studies and proof from people that your business has worked is essential. Then, others can be influenced into buying from you.

Another principle is that of liking. Liking someone is more than just an emotional attachment. Liking allows their opinions and yours to be shared in a way that influences both parties. And that’s the point – when you like somebody, and when somebody likes you, there is the opportunity to influence embedded in the relationship.

Allied to that is authority. The reality is that some people carry authority because of their expertise. Inexperienced people will take the word of authority on trust; it’s a shortcut to finding the way to achieve a particular goal, and a reasonably reliable one. For that reason, it’s essential to understand our own authority, which we can influence because we are the expert, or the master, in our field. When we recognise that, we also need to recognise that others will take action because of our authority, and therefore we must use it with care.

Finally, Cialdini discusses scarcity, the reality that the fear of missing out influences people and motivates them to take action.

All of these elements are important in the world of influencing others. There is overlap here with a previous book that we have read in the book club, Chris Voss’ “Never Split the Difference” – taken together, the information in these books is, I think, an essential part of any business owner’s relationship strategy.

All that said, I was disappointed to re-read this book. Disappointed because it has been updated, mainly by adding additional case studies and text. The points are made, over and over, and then again in case studies and client stories! It has become a monster, a book that is daunting and frankly heavy to pick up. As a result, I struggled to read it all and I haven’t read every page. Perhaps there is new information in those areas where I, frankly, gave up. Perhaps, but I suspect not.

I recommend reading the original version of this book, or even a summary, or even this review. The information is essential, that is not in doubt, but it is overplayed.