Influencers from Around the World – Consensus + Scarcity = FAIL!

This month, our Influencers from
Around the World guest post comes from Anthony McLean, a long-time contributor
to Influence PEOPLE. Anthony is Australia’s one and only Cialdini Method Certified
Trainer (CMCT®). He started the Social Consulting Group where he teaches people and
organizations the principles of influence. Reach out to Anthony on LinkedIn and Twitter to learn more from him.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Consensus + Scarcity = FAIL
Recently I have noticed a very
interesting phenomenon. Consensus is failing to have the impact it is intended
to have. In our time,  the cues to guide
our behaviour are more prevalent and appreciated than ever before. For example,
when I land on an online shopping page, the reviews, ratings, and testimonials
provide me with vitally important information such as others like me have been
here before; this vendor can be trusted; the products are as they are
described; and so on.  In the traditional
sense it is these cues that help me overcome my uncertainty and help me make a
Therefore when I am not sure of
what I should do, I look to the actions of others; especially in unknown and
untested situations. And not just any others, I look to those most like me to
guide my behaviour. 
Rest assured my friends, Consensus
is truly a principle that, when used well, saves time, promotes sales, and
builds communities. It’s a cracker (Australian for really good, awesome, etc.)!
What then, I hear you say, does
the title of this post mean? Let me tell you, but first let me pose a mystery.
Why would a leading publically listed company make a wrongheaded decision and
turn away from the actions of others?
In the delivery of the Principles
of Persuasion Workshops, my keynotes and in my consulting and coaching, I
continually stress to my audience that not all testimonials are same. We know
that by distilling the testimonial data, drilling into the case studies, and
sharing what people most like you are doing now or have done in the past, will
have a great impact on your “persuadee’s” behaviour.
However, recently I have been
working in a space in which the products on offer between companies are very
similar. Many industries have been through a phase in which they have competed
on price. However to cut prices they must cut margin and then services and
ultimately their perceived value. Those industries then got to a point where
price was no longer a determining factor. While they could have continued to
compete on price, at some point there needed to be platform based on value, relationships,
and/or loyalty. The change had to come because buying customers through discounts
was bringing about the wrong type of relationship, where every dollar was held
tightly. Dishonesty between provider and customer was rife because of the
perception that every dollar mattered and after all it was just a transactional
relationship; those who got or saved the most money won!
It is at this point a nuance of
Consensus kicks in; the suppliers are all in the same industry, they offer
similar products, they compete for the same customers, staff and leaders, but
they do not see themselves as the same as each other. How do I know? 
If you present to an organization
evidence of what others in the industry are doing, rather than move toward your
ideas, they immediately repel, back away and dismiss what others in their
industry are doing. Showing them what many others in their industry are doing,
creates a drive in initiative to be different and cut a new path, one less
travelled, in an effort to attract disgruntled and disenfranchised customers
looking to leave their current provider in search of something better. The
competition is so great in this industry that the drive to be unique, to be
something truly valuable, outweighs the power of Consensus.
Now I am not saying Consensus will
not work in this industry – quite the contrary. However, , Consensus can fail to
influence behaviour because of Scarcity – if the competition is doing it we
must do something different and  be seen
as unique. We must have a clear USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and can’t be
the same because then the consumer will not be able to tell us apart. 
In this instance Scarcity was
trumping Consensus.
So what are you to do? Firstly
don’t get caught up in labels and demographics. Just because Company A and
Company B are in the same industry they may not see themselves as the same. Therefore
ask the decision makers you are seeking to influence about their values, their
vision and whom they think across the business world is most like them.  Then start to research, dig into those
companies that your persuadee sees themselves like and show them what those
companies are doing in similar situations. 
Therefore why did a publically
listed company turn away from the crowd and make a decision that seemed at odds
with their industry? Because they did not see themselves as the same as others
in their industry. They were different. They were unique. They were
competitors. Therefore they would do things differently, cut new directions and
be innovative – they wanted to be Apple. So we showed them what Apple did and
low and behold they sat up and took notice. 
By the way they were not in the
same league as Apple but it didn’t matter – in their eyes – they were, so
that’s what we showed them to change their thinking.

Anthony McLean, CMCT®
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