Instant Influence: Summary & Review

instant influence book cover

Instant Influence describes 6 major influence triggers to persuade and influence people.

Exec Summary

  • There are 3 kinds of people in relation to influencing knowledge: ignorant (and miss opportunities); abusers (unethical);  appropriate users (men of integrity and long-term success)
  • The major triggers of influence are: Reciprocity; Scarcity; Authority; Consensus; Commitment and Consistency; Friendship and Liking


Pantalon differentiates among three different kinds of people:

  • Bunglers of influence: those oblivious to the power of influence. Can’t influence even when it’s in everyone’s interest
  • Smuggler of influence: those who know and abuse influence triggers. They are often in bad faith
  • Sleuth of influence: use influence triggers appropriately and for win-win outcomes. They’re often more successful in the long run

You want to be a sleuth: knowing how to wield influence and using it for good causes.
I agree with that.

Influence Trigger: Reciprocity

Reciprocity is the tendency by which we human beings feel obliged to give back to people who gave to us first.

Extra nudge for the egoists

Some people will not give back, in which case you give them an extra nudge.

Pantalon uses the example of an employee who never wants to cover for his manager, in spite of the manager always giving him a free hour whenever needed.
Instead of stopping doing him a favor which would not help anyone, the next time the employee asks for an hour the manager says:

Manager: “Sure, glad to let you have 1h for something unexpected because I know ho important it is for me to count on you to give me an extra hour when something unxpected comes up”

Basically, you clearly show him the proper fairway while still being generous.

My Note:
My own example is when collecting a neighbor’s heavy package from the postman. When the neighbor rang my door instead of thanking me looked at me expectantly -as if I now needed to place it in the elevator as well-. I stood there for a couple of seconds and then added “yes, I took it because I was glad to make a favor for a neighbor”. After the little nudge, she profusely thanked me. 

Avoid reciprocity pitfall

Pantalon gives the example of an employee who has driven his manager after and to work for a whole week. Now it’s promotion time but another employee in another department is better suited. How does the manager avoid falling into the trap of feeling obliged to give back?

Pantalon says that you give back before the evaluation time comes.
Personal favor should be exchanged for a personal favor.

Claim your reciprocity rights

Some people after a favor they have done would say things like:

  • “oh it’s no big deal, just part of the job” or
  • “don’t worry about it, that’s what I’m here for right” or
  • “oh don’t think about it, I’d do it for anyone”

That’s terrible because you earned your points fair and square. Don’t give it away. And instead, say:

You: Oh don’t worry about it, I know you would have done the same for me”

Smugglers of influence

Some people will use the law of reciprocity to trick you. Pantalon discusses the now-famous example of Hare Krishna devotees at the airports. They give you a flower as a gift, not accept it back and then ask for a donation.
Most people would feel obliged to give back.

But then, Pantalon adds, in the long run, people learned the trick and the revenues tumbled.

Sleuth of influence

Polite, great service, is a win-win employment of the law of reciprocity. The customer appreciates your extra attention, feels good, and also feels compelled to come back.
Basically, Pantalon says, the best way to get what you want is to give it first.

The best way to get what you want is to give it first

Influence Trigger II: Scarcity

Pantalon cites the example of the “original” Coca-Cola becoming extremely popular once it started being phased out of the market.
People wanted to grab it now because it was soon not going to be available anymore (also read Blink and Brandwashed for more information on this).

Influence Amplifier: Competition

Scarcity is turbo-charged if there’s competition for a product.

He cites the famous “cookies experiment” on supply and demand, whereby cookies becoming scarce because of high demand were valued the highest.

The same worked for information scarcity. Telling buyers that the beef was going to be scarce substantially increased sales. Telling people the information was not publicly available (ie.: even the information is scarce) brought a 6 fold increase.

Pantalon also tells the story of his brother profiting from the use of scarcity and competition.
What he did was simple and effective: he scheduled all the viewers for his cars at the same time. Once the second person got there Pantalon would tell him to wait as the first in line had priority. Then a third person would arrive. And suddenly there’s a huge demand for the car.

The first person in line feels that if he doesn’t get the car right away… Someone else will. And nobody negotiated on the price.

Influence Trigger III: Authority

We are more likely to listen to someone whom we perceive as an authority in the field.
For example, you are more likely to follow recommendations provided by a doctor rather than a physical therapist.

Authority has been shown to have some dark effects as well. The famous Milgram experiment, or airplane pilots’ mistakes going unchecked because of people’s fear of standing up to authority.

Authority Dark Side

Pantalon says it’s most authoritarian leaders who go unchallenged, and you don’t want to be an authoritarian leader and have your mistakes go uncorrected.

However, you shouldn’t swing in the opposite direction either and always make a note: you have been given authority because, supposedly, you know better.

Here’s what you do then: you tell them to always give you their opinion and you’ll take them into account.

Influence Amplifier: Credible Authority

Usually, credibility grows over time, but if you don’t have time, here’s what Instant Influence by Pantalon recommends: mention a drawback about your product first.
When you mention a negative first, then you become instantly more credible.

Pantalon highlights the example of a restaurant waiter. He would discourage what the client ordered saying it wasn’t as fresh as usual and then suggesting instead something slightly less cheaper. Instant credibility for the waiter.

Influence Trigger IV: Consensus

To decide what we like we usually look at what others like.

Thus the tendency to visit a restaurant with lots of people rather than the empty one nearby.

Another hideous example of the principle of Consensus is canned laughter in TV shows. Actors hate it, directors hate it… But it works: people do laugh more when hearing recorded laughs (by the way, it works even better when we believe it’s people in our group to laugh).

Influence Amplifier: Familiarity and Similarity

The Consensus is much more powerful in swaying our decisions when:

  • Unfamiliar with a situation: when we don’t know what to do we tend to feel lost and look at what others are doing.
  • Consensus is from people like us: For example, seeing our neighbors or colleagues are more influential than completely random people.

Influence Trigger V: Commitment

The force behind Commitment is our will for consistency. We want to feel and show ourselves like people who are consistent with their values and beliefs.

A great influencer indeed will look at what people already committed to and then align their offer accordingly.

Indeed people who took a small lapel pin to support cancer research were significantly more likely to donate money to the research compared to people who had not been wearing the pin.
What happened, is that people wearing the pin started seeing themselves as people who supported cancer research, so saying “no” to a donation request felt in-congruent with how they saw themselves.

Influence Amplifier: Active, Public, and Voluntary

Commitment is much more powerful when it’s public, voluntary (no coercion), and active (people take action).

Influence Trigger VI: Friendship and Liking

Our friends and the people we like are much more likely to influence us than strangers or people we are neutral to.

Influence Amplifier: similarity, praise, cooperation

We like people who are like ourselves. This goes into all kinds of realms, including age, place of birth, race, religion, politics, and even cigarette smoking habits.

Pantalon also explains how cooperation will make people like each other, as it’s obvious to anyone who’s played in a team.

Smugglers of influence

Michael Pantalon talks about an insurance company instructing sales reps to like anything prominent in the prospect’s house. The author says there are two major downsides:

  • People will dislike their job
  • You don’t influence yourself: Influence works both ways! If you compliment some things you don’t like you will miss the opportunity to connect with your prospect, and it will shine through

The solution is simple: look for something you genuinely like when giving praise.

Bonus: what the most skilled do

Instant Influence tells its readers that the most skilled influencers don’t spend the most time on structuring the request itself, but on what comes before the request (the contrast principle).

instant influence book cover


Instant Influence borrows heavily from Influence by Cialdini. So much so that on my first review years ago, I thought Cialdini was the author (and later corrected this review).

However, it also adds enough information and ideas to make it a more than worthwhile read.

Commonalities more important than differences
Michael Pantalon says that most of the training he attended started by saying how their industry is different and peculiar.
There might be differences indeed, but he believes that the similarities are probably more and more important.
I couldn’t agree more.

Honesty is for yourself first
I loved how Pantalon mentions one of the main reasons, to be honest, is the effect it has on your own self-esteem. Not just for others, not just for long-term success, but simply for yourself.
Going through life knowing you’re doing the right thing is indeed the basis for a strong, unassailable frame of self-confidence. It’s because it takes immense internal strength -and external props often- to resist any environmental force pushing you into the shortcut.

Smugglers, Bumglers, Sleuth
I loved the notion of how people can use influence triggers in an ethical or unethical manner. Or completely miss on any benefit simply by ignoring influencing tools altogether. Incidentally, this is exactly the point of The Power Moves: moving and awakening people from bunglers to smugglers -when strictly needed- and sleuths.

You will only find a cassette for this, so I recommend you snag Influence on Amazon.

2 thoughts on “Instant Influence: Summary & Review”

  1. Since English isn’t your native language, I will tell you the word is “sleuth” – i.e., a detective or investigator.

    1. Lucio Buffalmano

      Thank you so much Carl!!
      I listened to that a long time ago and remember always wondering “is Pantalon coining his own word for this”?
      Years later, thanks to you, I finally understand 🙂

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