"We tend to think our message is what moves people," says Robert Cialdini, the author of Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade. "But it's what we do first to create a particular state of mind in our audience that makes them receptive."
Offering someone coffee, for example: Research has shown that when people hold something warm, it makes them more generous. Or try playing on what social scientists call the rule for reciprocation. In one study, candy store shoppers were 42 % more likely to buy something if they received free chocolate.
"Many things that shape our frame of mind are so primitive and automatic that they aren't really part of the deliberative process," Cialdini says. Tilt those instincts in your favor with these highly insightful and clever tactics and you’ll convince more people to consider veganism than you ever could have imagined.
1. Find common ground
"It's not just that people want to deal with someone they like. It's that they want to deal with someone who likes them, and who is like them," says Cialdini. "People trust that those who like them won't steer them wrong." Visual cues (sports caps, college rings) can help you find on-the-fly commonalities, but for deeper prep for an upcoming meeting with a prospective vegan, hit social media hard and do some investigation. "Then, if you see that you have a shared hometown or alma mater or love of running, you'll know to steer the small talk in that direction," Cialdini says.
2. Know your opening strategy
When researchers approached people and asked for their email addresses in exchange for a bottle of a new kind of soda, 33 percent ponied up their info. But when researchers first asked, "Do you consider yourself adventurous?" nearly 76 percent of people provided their email addresses. Why? "This kind of single-chute question," says Cialdini, "significantly increases the percentage of people who brand themselves as adventurous," which momentarily makes them "highly vulnerable to aligned requests"-- such as your pitch about why they should give veganism a try. If you're one of many people competing for a person’s attention, start by asking: Why are you engaging me right now? "They will begin telling you about all of the things they find favorable and powerful about what you," explains Cialdini. "Now you know what strengths you have, and you can double down on those."
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3. Spotlight your best feature
You can influence how much importance people put on quality, speed, service, or another feature through visual cues. There was a test done where researchers created an online furniture store with either fluffy clouds or shiny pennies on the landing page, and were able to gather that consumers who saw clouds ranked comfort as more important than those who saw coins. The cloud watchers were also more likely to search for information about comfort features and bought more comfortable (expensive) furniture. Yet when asked afterward, most participants denied that the clouds or coins had any influence over their shopping behavior. As Cialdini explains it, "Drawing attention to the favored feature is effective not only in getting audiences to consider it fully but also in getting them to lend the feature exaggerated significance." In other words: if you showcase veganism as easy, simple, and fun, you’re more likely to mentally shift people to it easier.
4. Draw strength from your drawbacks
Being able to point out your shortcomings gives you strength; and the quicker you can do it, the better. "People are surprised when you mention a weakness, and that convinces them of your trustworthiness," Cialdini explains; and then "they'll believe more deeply whatever comes next." When, in 1962, Avis debuted its famous "When you're only No. 2, you try harder" ads, the rental agency reportedly swung from $3.2 million in the red to $1.2 million in the black, its first profit in 13 years. That pivot -- chasing a weakness with a strength that challenges its relevance -- is key. If you can be honest with your struggles with veganism, people will see you as more creditable, and be more inclined to listen to you.
5. Don’t talk about others in your pitch
Congrats on how many people know have converted to veganism. Now, don't mention them. "There's a substantial advantage for a brand when consumers focus on it in isolation from its competitors," says Cialdini. In fact, when it seems like you don’t ask people to consider veganism very often, their intention to try it naturally increases. But when they consider it after they know that you ask people all the time, their impulse to listen to why they should try it drops.
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