My favorite book on sales wasn't written as a "sales book".
Over the years, I have been asked to recommend a “good book on sales.” As I made clear in Why Most Business Books Suck, I have a low opinion of business books. However, I recently discovered a highly effective book that was not written for the purpose of educating salespeople. Robert Cialdini’s Influence – Science and Practice, was written as a textbook to be used in undergraduate communications classes. It is a nice compliment to The Art of Woo, which also addresses methods of persuasion, as further discussed in To Woo Or To War.
Due to this focus, there are aspects of Influence that some business readers will likely find somewhat superfluous, such as the “Study Questions” at the end of each chapter. Cialdini also tends to support each of his suppositions with two or three more studies than seem necessary. However, given his intended academic audience, this approach is understandable. To address these issues, Cialdini’s Publishers repackaged Influence with a slightly different title, while excising the academic aspect of the original text (Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion).
Even with these minor faults, I found Influence to be a rewarding and enlightening read. Although I encourage everyone to read the entire book, I extracted a few of the key points below, annotating them with suggestions as to how they might be applied to your startup. I only cover the first five chapters of Influence in this article, as they are the most relevant to startups. If you care to read a summarized version of Influence in Cialdini’s own words, download the Harvard Business Review article, Harnessing The Science Of Persuasion.