How a review site can create influence and trust during uncertainty

Posted on May 14, 2010 by

Earlier this week I stumbled on one of the best explanations, “conceptually”, of how reviews work on a consumer’s psyche.

Dr. Robert Cialdini is regarded as an authority on persuasion and influence. His books have sold millions of copies and some of his most important findings certainly have a place in our daily business lives. Cialdini has broken down into 6 categories universal principles of persuasion. They are the following:

RECIPROCATION– People tend to return a favor. Give to get: small unsolicited gifts results in outsized obligation being placed on the receiver. (Perhaps a bird dog paid out results in that customer coming back to buy again and return the profit hopefully 20 fold)

SCARCITY– If I can’t have it, I want it. Perceived scarcity will generate more demand. (Can you say Cash for Clunkers?? People buying cars they had no intention of owning until they found out how few there were left. Or that hot new product in your showroom that brought all the money and closed quickly because you’re the only dealer who had it)

AUTHORITY– If an expert says it, certainly it must be true right. People tend to obey authority figures, or even just those with the air of authority. (Thank goodness for J.D. Powers this actually works or what would they be doing for a living)

CONSISTENCY– If people publicly take even a small stand on an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment. They will get behind their stated beliefs with action. (Announce that you are going to quit smoking in front of a crowd of 20 and see how you feel when you cheat and someone calls you out for it…announce publicly, via the internet in a review format, that you intend to send your friends and family to your local dealer for all their cars and then actually have a salesperson follow up with the customer to see where they are and see how many more referrals will actually come in)

CONSENSUS– People will look for “social proof” of the similarities of others’ actions under the same circumstances. (The theory of “people like me” bought here-it must be good for me too)

LIKING– People are easily persuaded by people they like and are attracted to. (It’s how the power of reviews works…sometimes you don’t even need to “like”, but it sure helps to move forward)

Don’t we see examples of these things all the time? And don’t we especially reach out to these closing techniques when we realize we need something else to move the deal forward? We recognize that these commonsense items are what we need to justify our opinion or our closing efforts.

Two important components of the closing process as it pertains to the “social proof” are very important:

  • The many others
  • Comparable others

The MANY imply that something is a winner, a hit, a trend or a leader in a category. Once the trend evolves and takes off the momentum of the leaders is very difficult to slow. Any evidence of a leader in this pack is very important-It’s who we want as advocates of our brand!!

COMPARABILITY is a sense of how similar someone else is to you-the “people like me” theory. People are primarily impacted by people who are similar and that can be identified with rather than fall into a category of stranger or casual acquaintance. So the closer you can market to a specific circumstance or relationship the more likely you are to positively impacting them into making a decision do business with you.

In a landmark study, Cialdini changed the messaging on the hotel bathroom signs, across 3 different price points ranging from inexpensive to luxury facilities. The signs were typical of the ones we have all seen asking us to be kind to the environment and hang up towels that we could reuse again, etc.

Each request was identical, except that the messaging used in the headlines provided for a more drill down approach in each case.

  • “Recycle and do it for the environment”-this was the standard control and resulted in a 38 percent compliance for the guests. This was followed by one of the following 2 headlines.
  • “Cooperate and join us”-this resulted in a lower, 36 percent compliance because it was perceived as a self serving request behalf of the hotel to save on operating expenses. You can’t claim a partnership, it must be earned.
  • “The majority of guests are reusing towels at least once during their stay”- this appeal to the MANY portion of the consensus principle resulted in a more improved result with 46 percent of guests complying.

Next was how do you create a sense of comparability in this setting, when anonymous and random people stay at a hotel? What possible kinship of comparability can there be among them to further enhance results? As it turns out even a slim, tenuous connection is enough. The last headline used was:

  • “The majority of people who stayed in this room are reusing towels at least once during their stay”-when combining the MANY and the COMPARABLE the result rocketed to 54 percent compliance.

Doesn’t this last headline sound a lot like the same as using the city aggregator page to show a customer in Omaha, NE other great reviews from people in Omaha, NE ? How about using the salesperson aggregator tool to show clients how other people who have bought from this salesperson have felt about doing it? Or even better, show off all of the reviews from the people from Omaha, NE who bought a car from the specific salesperson. How strong could this combination used correctly during the sales process be at helping you close the deal? Might it be the tie breaker that you need? Obviously the answer is yes, but not if you don’t install the review site “walk around” into your sales process.  Start thinking “forward” about all that you have read today and then role play with your team to see just how many ways there are to share the great reviews you’ve been gathering in order to write more deals.

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