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Exercising Your Influence



As sales professionals, we often see trends on what is deemed “popular” or “unpopular.”  Sometimes we know the reasons; other times we’re not so sure.  Could it be the trend itself or how we perceive it?  What about how others perceive it?  

The answers may lie in Jonah Berger’s Invisible Influence, which offers valuable insight on human behavior and marketing.  Like many other industries, the energy efficiency industry is affected by trends.  However, success ultimately boils down to human interest.  Berger’s aim is to investigate how that interest is piqued and sustained. 

This starts with ourselves.  Most of us believe that we’re autonomous individuals without realizing our lives are affected by everyone else.  Berger cites opposing examples concerning product development, media promotion and several case studies, and finally arrives at some pretty interesting conclusions: 

  • We’re social animals and our identities are influenced by others’ preferences.
  • Our opinions are swayed by other peoples’ opinions, whether we like them or not.
  • The more attention is paid to something, the more likely we’ll want to see it (or buy it) ourselves.
  • The more familiar something is, the more we like it.
  • Making others pay attention to a product or offering is striking a balance between the familiar and the unknown. 

So why should sales professionals find this book interesting?  You’ll get to know yourself better, and you’ll begin noticing what it takes to influence others.  At the end of the day, in Berger’s own words: “Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd.” 

Here is the summary from Amazon:

“Jonah Berger, the bestselling author of Contagious, explores the subtle, secret influences that affect the decisions we make—from what we buy, to the careers we choose, to what we eat—in his latest New York Times bestseller that is a ‘rare business book that’s both informative and enough fun to take to the beach’ (

“If you’re like most people, you think your individual tastes and opinions drive your choices and behaviors. You wear a certain jacket because you liked how it looked. You picked a particular career because you found it interesting. The notion that our choices are driven by our own personal thoughts and opinions is patently obvious. Right? Wrong.

“Without our realizing it, other people’s behavior has a huge influence on everything we do at every moment of our lives, from the mundane to the momentous. Even strangers have an impact on our judgments and decisions: our attitudes toward a welfare policy shift if we’re told it is supported by Democrats versus Republicans (even though the policy is the same). But social influence doesn’t just lead us to do the same things as others. In some cases, we imitate others around us. But in other cases, we avoid particular choices or behaviors because other people are doing them. We stop listening to a band because they go mainstream. We skip buying the minivan because we don’t want to look like a soccer mom.

“By understanding how social influence works, we can decide when to resist and when to embrace it—and learn how we can use this knowledge to exercise more control over our own behavior. In Invisible Influence, Jonah Berger is consistently entertaining, applying science to real life in surprising ways and explaining research through narrative. His book fascinates because it opens up the moving parts of a mysterious machine, allowing readers to watch them in action (Publishers Weekly).”

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Posted by Mark Jewell