“If you want to influence people, win friends.” – Robert B. Cialdini.
Takeaway: People are more willing to buy from someone who they like and who is like them.
Home products company Tupperware pioneered a direct marketing approach that has been copied by manufacturers of many other product lines such as clothing, jewelry, cosmetics or nutritional supplements. Research has confirmed that the guests at these product demonstration parties tend to buy more products because they like and want to please the host who is often someone they know well.
In his book “Influence: Science and Practice”, which is one of the books on influence and persuasion (highly recommended), psychology professor Robert B. Cialdini uses this and other examples to discuss factors that successful managers and salespeople use to be more liked.
So what are some of these factors?
1. Physical Attractiveness
If people perceive someone as physically attractive, they tend to extend that impression of external factors to favorable impressions of their character traits such as kindness, intelligence or talent. This is also known as the Halo Effect and has an application beyond sales – think about job interviews, negotiations, criminal trials or political campaigns.
People like people who are similar to them. Thus, they are more likely to acknowledge someone’s request or a buy a product from someone if they perceive them as similar. This is also known as the similar-to-me bias. Skilled salespeople try to find similarities early on, e.g. in the family situation, heritage, interests etc. to appear similar and that way build more trust early on.
Have you ever tried on a piece of clothing and the sales associate told you how nicely that looks on you? Whether they were actually making a genuine compliment or not is less important than how that made you feel. People like people who praise and compliment them and therefore are more likely to follow their suggestions and purchase from them.
Repeated interactions with the same person lead to a more favorable impression of them as long as it happens under positive circumstances. Building relationships helps to increase sales – that is why so many companies dedicate one specific sales rep to a customer, so they can become familiar with each other over time. We can also see this in many stores or restaurants, where the waiter or sales associate introduces him- or herself with their name, so we know who they are and feel more connected to them.
A person or company which supports a certain charity, sports team, artist etc. that is regarded as positive is also seen as generally more favorable, even if they are not affiliated with each other. Therefore many organizations, brands, and politicians try to associate themselves with positive causes. The opposite, however, is also true. A brand that sponsors an athlete or an artist that all of a sudden behaves unfavorably in public will suffer from that association.
Knowing these factors can not only make you better at persuading or selling a product to someone, it can also help you to make better decisions when you are on the receiving end. So the next time you are about to buy something or agree to a favor try to step back from the interaction and separate the person from the request.