Dr Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion has been a guide and inspiration for many of the best marketers and salespeople since 1984 when it was first published. One of the principles described is the concept of “reciprocity” which demonstrates that when a person does or gives something of value to another person, the receiver will want to reciprocate. According to Cialdini, one study determined that on average, when a mint is given together with a bill, the tip increases by 3.3%. When two mints are given, this jumps to roughly 20%!
Give to Get
In business, there are many ways of taking advantage of the concept of reciprocity to generate leads and sales. It’s no surprise for example that assets like free eBooks are still so effective in generating leads because they literally exploit a human psychological trait (with the caveat that they provide actual value). By providing a free and valuable resource, prospects are far more likely to want to reciprocate, either in the form of their contact details or perhaps their patronage.
Foot in the Door
In 1966 two researchers conducted an experiment where a group of people were asked to put a small card in the front window of their home supporting safe driving. Two weeks later, those who agreed to the request were asked if they could place a large sign on each of their lawns with a similar message. At the same time, a new group of people were asked if they could place a large sign on each of their lawns, rather than preceding with the smaller request. What the experiment found was that 76% of the first group agreed to the large sign request versus only 20% of the second group. The outcome showed that people are more likely to comply with a larger request when it has been preceded – and agreed to – by a smaller request.
Following on from the example of the free eBook, once a person has agreed to give over their contact details, or perhaps their time in the case of a follow up activity like a webinar, event or meeting, they are more likely to agree to something larger such as a sales presentation, a proposal or even a sale.
Influence the Narrative
“Priming is a technique whereby exposure to one stimulus influences a response to a subsequent stimulus, without conscious guidance or intention. For example, the word nurse is recognised more quickly following the word doctor than following the word bread.”
Once you’ve got a foot in the door with a prospect, a good salesperson (with the help of a good marketer) can influence the direction of the conversation by using this priming technique. For example, if the key value proposition and competitive advantage of your business is value for money, then by using subtle images of money on your website and sales collateral you will effectively influence the prospect to focus on the financial incentives rather than things like quality or customer service.
Make it Fortuitous
Have you ever had something come to your attention, like a word, a name or something you’ve seen and then soon after started seeing or hearing it everywhere you go? Like a creepy amount that starts to seem almost fortuitous, or like some kind of sign? Well, you’re not alone. In this scenario, there are two unconscious biases at play – the first, known as the frequency illusion, or the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, and the second is known as confirmation bias.
When you start to see or hear something with an improbably high frequency, it’s not normally because that thing is present more frequently but rather because your unconscious mind is taking more notice of it or seeking it out. And while this frequency is an illusion, it has a powerfully influential effect on our decision-making.
A study from Stanford University in 2000 showed that repeated exposure is a form of classical conditioning and on average, words that are shown repeatedly are perceived more positively. So, the more you notice something – whether by illusion or otherwise – you’ll tend to have a more positive association with it.
This is relevant to marketers and other professionals seeking to grow a business because if they apply these concepts effectively, then they will have an infinitely greater advantage over their competitors who don’t. To achieve this advantage, focus on these three things:
1) Ensure you have consistent messaging and visual cues that people recognise.
2) Don’t limit your advertising to one or two platforms – use as many as your prospects do.
If your prospects repeatedly recognise your brand, they will have a more positive association with it, will seek it out, and will be more comfortable transacting with a company they feel they know and trust. They might even believe that their transaction is fortuitous or meant to be!
A sale is an exchange of value, and a deal done right is one where the prospect doesn’t feel they’ve been sold to. By adding value and strategically controlling the customer journey, both parties ultimately win in the end.