Today I will be looking at a powerful persuasion technique involving social proof.

In Yes: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, Robert Cialdini and his co-writers talk about how changing three words boosted sales. Even though the three words suggested that the customer might be inconvenienced.

This change was made by Colleen Szot, an extremely successful and well-respected writer of infomercial scripts.

The line in question was the familiar call-to-action…

“Operators are waiting, please call now.”

Colleen changed three words so it read…

“If operators are busy, please call again.”

The change resulted in a huge increase in the number of people who purchased the product.

Why did it have such a positive impact?

“Operators are waiting” created a mental image of a roomful of bored phone representatives “filing their nails” and “twiddling their thumbs,” indicative of low demand and poor sales.

Whereas “If operators are busy, please call again” suggests that the operators are going from phone call to phone call without a break. Which would mean that people are so excited about the opportunity to acquire the benefits of the product or service, they are calling in droves.

Another benefit, if by chance you did get a busy signal, you would think it’s to be expected and you would try again.

So what’s the action item here?

When scanning sales copy for typos and edits, also perform a scan of your copy looking for ways to add more social proof.   As you can see, changing just a few words can have a substantial impact on your (or your client’s)  bottom line.