This is part of a series of information/stories delivered from the INCREDIBLE book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini. If you work or live a life where you have to get people to do thing, Influence studies and explains the 6 most powerful forces to persuade people. No other book has been recommended to me more, by people smarter than both of us.
In short, they are:
2) Social proof
3) Commitment & Consistency
4) Liking: People prefer to say ” yes” to those they know
And they will be a game changer for you and your business.
Today we elaborate on Scarcity.
Here’s our predicament, then: Knowing the causes and workings of scarcity pressures may not be sufficient to protect us from them because knowing is a cognitive thing, and cognitive processes are suppressed by our emotional reaction to scarcity. In fact, this may be the reason for the great effectiveness of scarcity tactics. When they are employed properly, our first line of defense against foolish behavior—a thoughtful analysis of the situation—becomes less likely.
If, because of brain-clouding arousal, we can’t rely on our knowledge about the scarcity principle to stimulate properly cautious behavior, what can we use? By learning to flag the experience of heightening arousal in a compliance situation, we can alert ourselves to the possibility of scarcity tactics there and to the need for caution.
Even though the scarce cookies were rated as significantly more desirable, they were not rated as any better-tasting than the abundant cookies. So despite the increased yearning that scarcity caused (the raters said they wanted to have more of the scarce cookies in the future and would pay a greater price for them), it did not make the cookies taste one whit better. Therein lies an important insight. The joy is not in experiencing a scarce commodity but in possessing it. It is important that we not confuse the two.
We want it, instead, for its utility value; we want to eat it or drink it or touch it or hear it or drive it or otherwise use it. In such cases it is vital to remember that scarce things do not taste or feel or sound or ride or work any better because of their limited availability.
Richard sold cars, but not in a showroom nor on a car lot. He would buy a couple of used cars sold privately through the newspaper on one weekend and, adding nothing but soap and water, would sell them at a decided profit through the newspaper on the following weekend. Each prospect who was interested enough to want to see the car was given an appointment time—the same appointment time. So if six people were scheduled, they were all scheduled for, say, two o’clock that afternoon. Typically, the first prospect to arrive would begin a studied examination of the car and would engage in standard car-buying behavior, such as pointing out any blemishes or deficiencies or asking if the price was negotiable. The psychology of the situation changed radically, however, when the second buyer drove up. The availability of the car to either prospect suddenly became limited by the presence of the other. Often the earlier arrival, inadvertently stoking the sense of rivalry, would assert his right to primary consideration. “Just a minute, now.
I was here first.” If he didn’t assert that right, Richard would do it for him. Addressing the second buyer, Richard would say, “Excuse me, but this other gentleman was here before you. So can I ask you to wait on the other side of the driveway for a few minutes until he’s finished looking at the car? Then, if he decides he doesn’t want it or if he can’t make up his mind, I’ll show it to you.”
Richard claims it was possible to watch the agitation grow on the first buyer’s face. His leisurely assessment of the car’s pros and cons had suddenly become a now-or-never, limited-time-only rush to decision over a contested resource. If he didn’t decide for the car—at Richard’s asking price—in the next few minutes, he might lose it for good to that…that…lurking newcomer over there. For his part, the second buyer would be equally agitated by the combination of rivalry and restricted availability.
If these conditions alone were not enough to secure a favorable purchase decision immediately, the trap snapped surely shut as soon as the third two-o’clock appointment arrived on the scene. According to Richard, stacked-up competition was usually too much for the first prospect to bear. He would end the pressure quickly by either agreeing to Richard’s price or by leaving abruptly. In the latter instance, the second arrival would strike at the chance to buy out of a sense of relief coupled with a new feeling of rivalry with that…that…lurking newcomer over there. Should we find ourselves beset by scarcity pressures in a compliance situation, then, our best response would occur in a two-stage sequence. As soon as we feel the tide of emotional arousal that flows from scarcity influences, we should use that rise in arousal as a signal to stop short.