Persuasion is key to business and to much more besides. In many walks of life and in many situations, persuading people to do what you want them to do is the key to success. Is persuasion a science with rules that can be taught and learnt, or is it simply a matter of instinct and personal experience? Researchers have looked into different aspects of persuasion and come up with some interesting results. One advertising copywriter, for example, came up with an approach to selling a product on a TV shopping channel via phones sales that differed from the norm for such advertising. Instead of being instructed: ‚Operators are waiting, please call now‘,viewers were told ‚If operators are busy, please call again‘. This might appear to have been a risky tactic, putting potential buyers off by suggesting that they would have to waste their time calling repeatedly until they finally got through to someone to take their order. But the results were extraordinary and an unprecedented number of sales resulted. The advert suggested that instead of there being lots of operators sitting there and hoping people would call, there were so many people who wanted the product that people might have to wait until they could get it. This showed just how desirable the product was. Potential customers decided that, if so many other people wanted it, they definitely wanted it too.
What role does choice have in persuading people to buy or get something? One study looked at the choices employees made when offered different retirement programmes. This showed that the more choices people were given, the less likely they were to choose anything at all. Another study in a supermarket revealed a similar effect of choice. A particular supermarket displayed either 6 or 24 different kinds of jam. When there were 24 jams to choose from, 3% of customers went to the display and bought one of the jams. When there were 6 jams on display, 30% of customers did so. To what extent can fear play a part in persuasion? One experiment involved public health leaflets on the dangers of tetanus infection. Some of the leaflets consisted almost entirely of frightening images of infected people, with a bit of information about infection, while some contained no images at all, only information about infection. Some included information on where people should go to get tetanus injections to protect themselves, while others only gave this information and nothing else. The outcome was that the greatest number of people who went for injections were those who had been given the leaflet with both frightening images and instructions where to go for injections. People who had been given the leaflets dealing only with infection did nothing. The conclusion was that fear paralyses people if no solution is offered, but if people are frightened and offered a solution they are motivated to take action.