When someone gives you something of perceived value, you immediately respond with the desire to give something back. That’s called reciprocity.
It’s December 24 and the mail has just arrived. You open a Christmas card from someone who you had taken off of your Christmas list! This is a crisis!
“Honey, are there any more Christmas cards left?”
“Yeah, in the drawer.”
“Thank god.” You go to the drawer and sure enough there is a card there but there are no envelopes to fit the card into! You search and search, finally deciding to use an envelope that isn’t quite large enough but you have to use something!
You sign the card and yes, you personalize it! (You write something special just for the sender!) You stuff the card into the envelope that is still too small you slide a picture of the family in and you even find a left over “family newsletter” that tells everyone what your family has been up to all year. “I’ll be back in awhile, I have to go to the post office and mail this letter.”
Why do you have to go to the post office?
You have to go because the letter must be mailed with a postmark before Christmas! December 24 will show that you cared. December 26 will show that these people were an after thought in your mind, not worthy of sending before Christmas. You race off to the post office and you have just discovered the power of reciprocity.
You were taught to share your toys and your snacks and your space and your time with you all those around you. You were scolded when you were selfish and you were rewarded with kind smiles and pats on the head when you shared. The law of reciprocity was installed at a very early age.
The world’s greatest people and marketing mavens give something to their clients and I don’t mean a business card.
- Have you ever received a bar of soap in the mail?
- Have you ever received a box of cereal in the mail?
- Have you ever received return address labels from a charity, in the mail?
- Have you ever received a handful of greeting cards from a charity, in the mail?
- Have you ever received a sample size shampoo bottle in the mail?
These are all examples of what we call “inducing reciprocity.” The practice is very simple, yet absolutely brilliant. If your product is top quality and it is something that everyone can use, send everyone a small sample of it and they will be more likely to buy it the next time they go to the store for two reasons.
1) We will recognize it as something we have used. The brain picks up on what is familiar. (Have you ever noticed how many cars there are like yours on the road? What happened to all the rest?!)
2) Reciprocity has been induced when someone gives you something and you give them something back. Reciprocity has also been induced when someone gives you something and you feel compelled to give something back. Kellogg’s was nice enough to send us their free box of cereal and because it tasted good we should at least buy their cereal this one time. We return the favor.
Reciprocity, based on scientific research, appears to be the single most powerful law of selling persuasion there is, but is there a problem?
- If you sell life insurance, you can’t give away $10,000 of free coverage.
- If you sell real estate, you can’t give away bathrooms.
- If you sell speaking services you can’t give away free speeches.
- If you are a stockbroker you can’t give away 100 shares of Microsoft.
What do you do if you don’t have sample size products and services? How do you take advantage of this powerful law of share and share alike?
Give away something of perceived value to someone and others will feel compelled to do likewise.
You do not have to give away free samples to utilize reciprocity. You MUST give away something that has perceived value. My favorite method of inducing reciprocity is taking someone to lunch or sharing a valuable tip related to building their business or income in some way. (I like these approaches because they are measurable and the person knows that you really helped them when they follow through on your suggestion.) Taking someone to lunch is usually an inexpensive way to induce reciprocity and you have the added benefit of meeting one of your clients 16 basic desires. (The desire to eat.) Sharing helpful secrets that are truly specialized knowledge is also an elegant way to induce reciprocity. One simple idea can often help someone earn hundreds or thousands of dollars per year more in income.
Can I share a secret with you? Turn the page…