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Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini

The full title of this book by Robert Cialdini and follow-up to “Influence” is

Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade“.

In my review at Amazon.co.uk, I gave the book a Four Stars rating. This means I consider it to be good.

Here is my book review.

A follow-up to a classic

At the beginning of this book, Robert Cialdini tells the story of his first book called “Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion” which is widely regarded as a master-work. It seems that when the book was first published, it sold poorly, even worse than expected at a time when no one was telling the persuasion story. It took four or five years to suddenly take-off and become a regular best seller that has clocked up 3 million of sales.

That one book did much to publicise the learnings of social scientists in the subject of persuasion and directly and indirectly,many of the books on persuasion and course on sales and/or marketing has been built on the foundations laid by that book. Terms may change but the messages about the importance of authority, consistency, liking, reciprocity, scarcity and social proof remain constant.

Since that book was written (in 1984), more people have jumped on the persuasion bandwagon and two other fields of study have developed, behavioural economics (which looks at how people respond to various cues) and neuroscience (which looks at what’s happening in the brain at the time decisions are made through MRI scanning).

I’ve waited for a long time for the follow up to Influence and I became interested in what I called pre-selling and what the author calls pre-suasion as I watched the success of various Internet marketing launches following the ideas of Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula and Frank Kern’s Mass Control techniques. You could see how these “new” techniques built on Cialdini’s six principles of influence but they seemed to go further. In fact Walker called his technique, the “sideways sales letter” because it delivered a compelling sales message in chunks delivered in fairly rapid succession. The Internet made possible what was previously impossible.

You might be wondering why I’m talking so much about other things but I think that’s the problem with the book. Cialdini’s first book was groundbreaking because the psychology of persuasion was only of interest to a small group of academics before Influence became well known. This book is coming into a crowded field and whilst it dresses up ideas I’ve read about (or seen) before in new ways and with new insights, it doesn’t live up to “a revolutionary way” claimed in the sub-title of the book. Instead it summarises the research done on the impact of things said and done before the act of persuasion.

Most people with a deep interest in persuasion will feel the need to read this book like I did. Cialdini is an engaging, entertaining writer but don’t go into it expecting to repeat the dramatic lessons from his first book. I was left feeling disappointed because I had such high expectations.

He has identified another factor of influence – unity (the we connection) which explains how people who see themselves as part of a family or team will take actions that benefit people who are connected to them, even at their own expense. There is also reference to the original six factors and I feel that it’s a false break between the first book and this one. Reciprocation is used before asking, getting some one to act consistently with what they’ve said or done previously is clearly a pre-suasion tactic. Aspects of the others naturally also involve elements of pre-suasion so this isn’t revealing a “revolutionary way”.

My biggest criticism is that he doesn’t pull everything together in a system for pre-suasion. From the contents, it’s clear that he’s writing for a wide audience that includes businesses persuading customers to buy, parents persuading children to act sensibly, health providers persuading the public to act in their own best interests etc. This means that the book includes ideas that apply to one situation but not to others and for me, that made it confusing as it moves from one application to another and back again. I’d have liked to have seen a chapter on how to apply the ideas and brainstorm around the topics.

The book ends and the notes and references start and there are a lot of them. The review by Robert Morris tells us there are “91 pages are devoted to Cialdini’s references and another 67 pages are devoted to his notes.” That’s fine if you’re an academic and you want to dig into the topic but the book comes up short for persuasion practitioners.

When I read his first book “Influence” I came away with the six principles embedded in my mind but this hasn’t given me clear takeaways. I can’t see it as a five star book and would probably rate it around the 3.5 stars level and I’ve been kind and rounded up to 4 stars. I was hoping for something much better.

It is available to buy from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

There are many thousand of business books, you can see the full list of my reviews at Business Books Reviews by Paul Simister (Please click). I've also narrowed these down to a list of the 12 Best Business Books For Business Owners & Entrepreneurs (Please click).

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