The law of reciprocity means that when someone does something nice for you, your hard-wired human nature determines that you do something nice for them in return. For example, if you're out to lunch with a friend and they pay the bill, you feel obliged to cover it next time - to repay their kindness. We don’t consciously pay much attention to this social construct, simply because we all take it for granted. The behaviour of returning a kind gesture or favour basically goes without saying.
And that’s why it’s so valuable in the realm of sales. There is a psychology to sales and selling and reciprocity matters.
You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours
By understanding this unconscious social convention, you can begin to use it to your advantage in the world of business. You’ve likely seen organisations giving away free gifts and free samples, and this is a prime example of reciprocity. A gift may only be a cheap branded pen, but never underestimate its power as a sales tool.
A lead or customer may not buy directly after receiving a free gift, but when they do become sales-ready, the likelihood is that they’ll remember their obligation to the company who gave them something, and be more open to the possibility of buying from them.
Do it for them, not for you
Although the benefits of reciprocity have been mentioned above, it is vitally important not to ‘give and expect to receive’. Reciprocity only works when a good deed is done with no expectation of return. The sincerity of the gesture is what gives it its power. The need to return a favour is strongest when the initial favour was done with no expectation of ‘repayment’.
So how does this translate into a business practice? Well, when did you last call your customers just to ‘check-in’? When did you last send them some content that would help them (that wasn’t specific to your product or service)? Have you ever sent your customers a Christmas or birthday card?
These are excellent ways to use reciprocity, but the better you know your leads and customers, the more specific you can make your good deed/nice gesture and the more sincere it will be...
Get to know the customer
We all know the intrinsic value in prospect persona documents and lead nurturing, but by using
this information to develop a deeper understanding of your lead/customer, you can begin to use
reciprocity to its full value.
Start to empathise. One of the most valuable tools in a salesperson’s arsenal is empathy. Understand what it feels like to stand in the customer’s shoes and feel what they feel. Listen to what they are saying. Make sure you listen intently to what they are saying and how they are saying it (what is their tone of voice saying?)
Now, imagine providing a solution to their pain points and business needs without asking for anything in return. Do you think they would remember such a generous act? Of course they would.
And when they come to buy again, who do you think they will be most keen to repay with their custom?