I just read an interesting post on Aaron Brandon’s blog about Internet business regarding the psychological difficulty of asking. It was interesting, but when I started to read it, I assumed it would teach me something about how to better do business on the internet. In that, it was disappointing, but it is an interesting article and useful for those who want to understand the power of their own, or their salespeople’s or fundraiser’s, call reluctance or fear of asking for the sale or the gift.
It did make me think of another famous, and I think more useful, psychological study performed by Ellen J. Langer of Harvard. I first heard about it in the a very important book for all marketers, business people, and fundraisers: Infuence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Ciladini. You can read a more complete article about Langer’s career and all her work in the NY Times Article that I excerpted this from:
In the 1970′s and 1980′s she carried out a series of landmark studies to make the point scientifically, the most famous of them referred to as ”The Copy Machine.”
In that study, she stationed someone at a copy machine in a busy graduate school office. When someone stepped up and began copying, Dr. Langer’s plant would come up to the person and interrupt, asking to butt in and make copies. The interruption was allowed fairly often, about 60 percent of the time. But the permission was granted almost 95 percent of the time if the person stepping up to interrupt not only asked, ”May I use the copy machine?” but added a reason, ”because I’m in a rush.”
That seems to make sense. People heard the reason and decided they were willing to step aside for a moment. What was odd, Dr. Langer found, was that if the interrupter asked, ”Can I use the machine?” and added a meaningless phrase, ”because I have to make copies,” the people at the machine also stepped aside nearly 95 percent of the time.
The idea, she said, is that the listener at the copy machine heard a two-part statement: a request and something like a reason. That was all their mental script for such a situation required. They never did reflect on the fact that the interrupter’s ”reason” was not meaningful.
If you need a clearer reason to include a reason when you ask your customers, clients’ or prospects to do something, I don’t think it exists. A scientific study that proves that providing a reason when you ask for something improves the positive response rate by 50% and it doesn’t even matter what that reason is or whether it makes sense or not, only that a reason is given.
So right now you need to fill in your name and email address in the upper right corner, under my photo, because when you do, you will get an email when I post more wisdom like this to this blog. I’ll be posting more about Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion as well as other important information for fundraisers and Internet business people. Can you afford to miss it?