77 cents more per Dollar $

Research by Donald Ngwe of Harvard Business School recently showed that on average most people are willing to spend $0.77 more on an item for every $1 increase in the list price.

The researchers found lots of evidence of fake discounts using this technique, as well as the reassuring data that customers who knew the products well were less likely to be fooled.

You probably won’t be surprised that this approach works. ‘Contrast’ is referred to by influencing expert Professor Robert Cialdini as one of the ‘Universal Rules’ of human behaviour.

Putting fake discounts to one side, how can contrast be used as an ethical approach to influence?


Have you ever hit a brick wall trying to persuade?

The chances are that you have – right now – several very important decisions to influence.

The chances are that there is compelling logic you want to communicate.

And the chances are that you’ve hit such resistance that you might think you’re out of options.


This is exactly when Cialdini’s Universal Rules can help

Interestingly, Cialdini originally published his six Universal Rules to help people to think for themselves.

Dr. Robert Cialdini – Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

But the business world quickly adopted them – and he adapted them – to be a list that are perfect to brainstorm against to help us to better articulate the compelling arguments that otherwise often stay locked in our head. In red10 we increased them to eight based on the extra two that are gems yet Cialdini explained them away as ‘too obvious’ in his introductory material.

Whether it is the give and take of reciprocation, or our need to be consistent with our previous decisions, or any of the other six Rules, the prompts help you to point out the facts that are there anyway.


Bringing us back to the Universal Rule of Contrast

My experience is that whatever the situation, the other party always has a contrasting figure in their heads.

Whether it is a consultancy talking day rates, or a project talking timelines, the people we are talking to will have had some experiences that have led them to set a figure in their mind.

Can you ask them which consultancies they’ve used for tasks like this before? If you know some of them, then you’ll immediately know the price range that they will contrast yours with.

Could you share with them, honestly, the timelines that your peers – or possibly even their competitors – have set against similar projects and therefore correctly position their contrast before you make your proposal?


This gives us options – there’s no need to be stuck

Which brings us all the way back to:

  • The Universal Rules have great research behind them based on human behaviour
  • There are positive, ethical ways to use these rules that help us articulate the compelling arguments that need to be said

Taking this further

If you’re interested, you can read up on Universal Rules yourself – and Cialdini’s more recent excellent work on Pre-suasion.

Or you might want to know that red10 has an increasingly popular Influencing Skills Masterclass that makes this great research more accessible with interactive games, powerful simulations and group exercises that help create new helpful habits.

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