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The Sales Buzz Issue 246 - Rules for Using Reciprocity in Sales
November 04, 2014

Rules for Using Reciprocity in Sales

Using reciprocity, giving something to receive something back, can be a really effective selling technique but only if you stick to the following rules.

Many sales people and marketers have tried to use this technique but without guidance it can have little effect. Follow these rules and click the link at the end and you could have a new selling technique to close more sales.

The dictionary defines reciprocity as: Something done mutually or in return.

In sales training this is when you make a gift to a prospect or customer with the aim of influencing them to do something in return. The value of the action you want them to take will be greater than the cost of the gift, so the technique is profitable.

It works because people feel obliged to return a gift, a favour, or a kindness that they have been given by others.

To make the selling technique work there are certain rules you have to follow to get the best results from this technique.

Maybe you have received a free gift through the post from a charity or in a marketing letter. Usually it’s something small such as a writing pen.

The idea is that you will receive the gift and then make a donation, or contact the company, because you feel obliged to take a reciprocal action in return for receiving the gift.

In my experience this doesn’t work, and there are many reasons why that is.

But there are ways you can make this selling technique work, to start I suggest following the rules below and adapting the technique for your sales role.

Sales Training Rules for Reciprocity


The receiving of the gift should be as close as possible in time to when you ask for the action in return. There’s no point doing something good for a customer and expecting them to remember it in a year’s time when their contract comes up for renewal.

Be Present

When you receive the gift in an envelope from a charity asking for a donation you may feel a little guilty at using the pen and not making a donation in return, but because there is no one present to see your actions the guilt soon passes.

What if the pen was handed to you personally by a collector for the charity, would you still take it and not make a donation?

When you make a gift, and seek something in return, be present with your sales prospect. The next best thing to being present is a phone call or an email.

Make it Personal

Remember when sales representatives used to go out with a car full of free corporate gifts for customers and prospects.

Wall planners, calendars, pens, pen holders, desk top ornaments, and stress balls were some of the gifts used to try to get reciprocal actions from buyers. The effect was very poor as people saw them as an expected freebie.

The gift must be seen as coming from you not the company stationery cupboard.

Appear to Put Effort into Giving

The gift or action needs to look as if you have taken some time, or gone out of your way, to make the gift available.

An example is the car sales person who appears to argue with their boss for a lower price for the customer. After they have gone to all that trouble on the customer’s behalf the feelings of reciprocity kick in.

If it’s sent by email send it late at night to show you have worked extra hours on behalf of the client.

If it’s a physical gift deliver it personally.

Make the customer feel special, they don’t have to know you have done the same for a hundred other prospects.

Using reciprocity as a selling technique works, but it’s not straightforward and you have to put some thought into how you can adapt it for your role.

You’re probably wondering what the image on the right is.

What it has to do with sales training and reciprocal selling techniques.

The small pendants are the evil eye of the mythical creature Medusa.

They were the very cost effective gifts used in one of the best examples of making money using reciprocity that I have ever seen.

Click the evil eye image and see if you agree or go to a wonderful story of Reciprocity in Action...

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I'm Stephen Craine from the website

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