Reciprocity is a universal principle of influence. As a social construct, people feel obliged to give back to others the form of behaviour, gift, or service that they have received first. Friends invite you over to their house for dinner and you feel obligated to return the favour. Someone drops off a small gift to your office at Christmas and you feel the need to run out and get them something. This is an important principle to remember when selling because people tend to feel obligated to do something for you (i.e. listen to you; buy from you) when you do something nice for them first.
When talking about selling however, we find that some people are reluctant to acknowledge this principle because they feel like they are taking advantage of the person they are selling to. I guess the same could be said when you invite someone over for dinner. Do some people invite friends over for dinner simply because they want a return invitation to their house? I suppose so, but most people don’t. Most people invite friends over simply because they want to get together with their friends. Their motivation is pure despite knowing that the invitation will likely result in reciprocation. So carry same philosophy over to selling. Don’t do something nice because you know the person will likely respond in kind, but don’t ignore the principle that’s going to be in play regardless of what you do.
Here are a few ways to incorporate the principle of reciprocity into your sales process:
- Let the other person talk first. Ask good questions and get them talking about their situation before you tell them how you can help. People are more inclined to listen to what you have to say after they feel you have fully heard them.
- Stay in contact. Be the first to reach out and call a client that you haven’t talked to for some time.
- Offer to do something for free.
- Send clients interesting articles you have read relative to their business or interests.
- Deliver more than you said you would.
- When someone does their mortgage with you get them a house-warming present.
- Sincerely thank someone for the opportunity to meet with them acknowledging that you know how busy they are.
Reciprocity is a force that is going to be at work whether you acknowledge it or not. You may as well leverage this principle of influence but be sure to do so with the right motivation.
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