Back in my early days as a sales guy we were in a David vs. Goliath battle to the death to win a deal at Irish Life. The odds were far and away against us for winning this deal against their incumbent supplier. We didn’t have anything like Spiro to help give us the edge. Luckily enough, our sales woman was familiar with Dublin where the company was based, and a simple act of human comfort led me to one of the biggest victories of my early career.
This woman won over the reps by sweetening the deal – literally – with candies and scones from a local shop. Her small gesture might not have been what ultimately convinced them to go with us, but it was the personal touch that made us stand out.
You Scratch My Back, I’ll Scratch Yours
Ask any legendary sales guy and they’ll probably tell you that small gestures like this have gone a long way in their relationships with prospects and customers over the years. “The Golden Rule” may have been something you learned in preschool, but it still applies – especially in sales. As adults in the biz we call it the Principle of Reciprocity.
People Don’t Like Feeling Like Scumbags
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most people are generally good. Most people want to return favors, repay debts and cultivate general goodwill with their fellow man (or woman). According to smart guy Robert Cialdini (he only wrote one of the most famous social selling books of all time), the psychological principle of reciprocity is directly tied to influence because people cringe a little bit on the inside when they don’t or can’t return a favor. Sounds manipulative, doesn’t it? Quid pro quo, Clarice.
The Mint Effect
You can see this principal alive in restaurants. Waiters who give a small gift such as a mint when the check is presented get an average 3 percent increase in tip; if they give two mints it jumps to 14 percent; and if the waiter gives one mint, walks away and returns with another mint for his favored guests the tip jumped to – get this – 23 percent! It’s not the gift itself that got the tip – it’s HOW it was given.
Keep it Real
The secret to reciprocity is that it works best when the gesture is personalized and unexpected. If you’re out there searching for something in return, people will see right through you and probably think of you more as a wolf than a majestic maned unicorn of goodness.
In sales, you can apply the principle of reciprocity in many ways:
Give Your Expertise Away for Free
Be a resource to prospects and clients alike. Even if there’s nothing in it for you at the time people will remember the gesture. If you’ve given them good advice they’re much more likely to work with you in the future or send you a referral. E-books and downloadable guides are also great ways to share your knowledge with a wide audience.
Wine ‘Em and Dine ‘Em
A classic business tactic for encouraging a little quid pro quo – taking a prospect and his entourage out to lunch or dinner may be pricey, but it’s totally worth it. Maybe you can even get a reservation at Dorsia.
Provide Samples or Freebies
Giving samples away is a great way to increase interest as well as a following. Prospects who have tried your product are likely to remember and return to you once they enter the buying phase.
Reciprocity works like a karma bank in the sales world. It’s not only a great way to build rapport and encourage trust throughout the life of the sales cycle, it makes you feel good! So keep it real, feel the good vibes, and watch the universe give it back to you a thousand percent.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Sam Howzit.