Yes! 40 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion

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Written by Martin Kornacki on 1 December 2009 in Review
Review

Martin Kornacki reviews

Noah J Goldstein PhD, Steve J Martin and Robert B Cialdini PhD

Profile Books

ISBN: 978-1-84668-016-8

Paperback £8.99

What do telling people your sales line will be busy and they should call back, informing potential customers about the faults and disadvantages of your product, and encouraging clients to give you all the reasons why they should choose your competitor over you have in common?

The intuitive answer would be 'commercial suicide'. The answer according to the PhD authors of this book, however, is that you will have more people saying 'yes'. More accurately, these are all proven techniques for persuading people to handover more of their money to you rather than to your rivals.

Presented as a set of 50 case studies in the art of persuasion, each based on one or more pieces of scientific, psychological or social research, Yes! sets out to help you become more persuasive in ways that may at first seem highly counter-intuitive.

Weighing in at more than 50 chapters long, each one only a couple of pages long, Yes! is an easy read and an accessible reference tool covering a wide range of difficult situations in which you may need to exert an influence over people.

Business scenarios may be the overriding theme but they are complemented by more utilitarian pursuits such as saving the planet by persuading people to reuse towels in hotels or stopping visitors pillaging heritage sites.

Nevertheless, anyone working in a business environment would do well to thumb through a copy of this book as most people would acknowledge that persuasion is a universally applicable skill - boil it down and ultimately we all like to get what we want, especially in business with its goal - and target driven ethos.

The research underpinning the ideas in Yes! is, thankfully, presented in a non-academic way. The writing remains dry, as you would expect from two PhD lecturers and a government consultant, but not boring.

While some of the ideas and the rigid format of the book may begin to drag in later chapters, the pay-off is not in the delivery but in the content. The variety of ideas presented in Yes! is excellent and instantly applicable, from the difference that changing a few simple words in an advertising campaign can make to understanding and harnessing cross-cultural communication techniques.

In fact, and the cynic in me suspects this may be a persuasion technique in itself used to validate the authors' assertions, one of the last chapters deals with the ethics of using such powerful techniques - the assumption being that they do in fact work!

At times, backed by the seemingly immutable research offered, the simplicity of some of the ideas may seem too good to be true - a bit like a gambling 'system' that promises to beat the roulette wheel at a casino. Having said that, Yes! has given me another layer of insight into the skill of persuasion, made me a savvier consumer and ultimately a more astute business person.

Last time I looked, Yes!, first published two years ago, ranked 3,989th on the Amazon.com book sales list. To put this in perspective, Amazon stocks well over one million titles so that means an awful lot of people have already read the 'secrets' in here.

Indeed, in possibly the ultimate testimonial, you will invariably spot many of the techniques described in this book being used in the real world.

Does this make it any less relevant? I would say not - I found many of the ideas remained innovative enough to merit revisiting. Highly recommended.

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