It was sometime in 2003, Nancy Edwards, a coworker handed a videotape to my boss, John Petrucci, and me. Nancy had seen it during an MBA class she was taking at The Ohio State University. She said she thought we’d really like it. The video was Robert Cialdini presenting The Power of Persuasion at Stanford’s executive briefing. The video changed my career and life.
The Psychology of Sales
As I watched Cialdini talking about ethical influence I remember thinking what he taught explained all the sales training we do. The psychology he spoke about gave insight into why some sales techniques worked and some didn’t.
It resonated with me that everything Cialdini shared was based on scientific research from experiments in social psychology. Good advice is a dime a dozen but research, I could confidently get behind that.
I also appreciated Cialdini’s stance on ethics, non-manipulative ways to move people to action. It was this aspect of the talk that would be the catalyst for the career and life change noted earlier.
I began to use the video in some training around my company. We’d watch it then discuss how we might apply the concepts at work.
Ethical Influence vs. Manipulation
I learned Stanford had other excellent resources so I signed up for their mailing list. One day a Stanford marketing flier made its way to my desk. As I flipped the pages Robert Cialdini’s picture caught my eye. Above his picture, in big bold letters, I saw: BEST SELLER
That wasn’t a surprise because it was great presentation. However, what I saw next in the marketing copy shocked me! Call it influence, persuasion or even manipulation.
What?!? Someone in Stanford’s marketing department obviously didn’t watch the video because Cialdini could not have been clearer about ethical influence. Even the person who introduced him referenced “non-manipulative” ways to move people to action.
The ethical part of me felt this needed to be addressed so I emailed Stanford and basically wrote:
“I don’t know anyone who wants to be manipulated nor do I know anyone who wants to be known as a good manipulator. That word cannot be helping your sales but it really could be hurting sales.”
The Phone Call
I never heard from Stanford but one day my phone rang at work and when I answered, to my surprise, it was a representative from INFLUENCE AT WORK, Cialdini’s organization. Chris Cibbarelli was calling to thank me on behalf of Cialdini and the entire organization. Apparently, Stanford notified Cialdini they were changing the marketing of his video because of the email I wrote. How cool was that!
Before we hung up Chris said, “If your company ever needs a guest speaker Dr. Cialdini travels the world to speak about this.” I told her I sat next to the woman who planned our events and booked our speakers so I transferred her. As a result, Cialdini was in Columbus, Ohio several times in the summer of 2004 to speak to insurance agents who represented the company.
Later that summer, my boss and I went to Arizona to attend Cialdini’s 2-day Principles of Persuasion Workshop. Four years later I returned to Arizona to go through the certification process which allows me to teach Cialdini’s material and methodology. Once I was certified, I knew this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my career because I saw the potential to help people professionally and personally.
And the rest is history.
To Do This Week
I share this because last week I stumbled across the Stanford presentation that changed my life and want to share it with you. I hope you’ll invest 55 minutes this week to watch it because it might have a profound impact on you as well.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, international trainer, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet on the science of ethical influence.
Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was a top 10 selling Amazon book in several insurance categories and top 50 in sales & selling. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 100,000 people around the world!