A while back, I was walking through O’Hare airport… Passed by the food court… And was instantly greeted by someone at the Chinese food counter.
…Before I knew it, I had a piece of General Tso’s Chicken on a toothpick resting between my fingers, and once I ate it, they knew they hooked me.
It wasn’t because the chicken was exceptionally tasty (though it was) – it was because they enacted one of the most powerful human laws on the planet:
The Law of Reciprocity
Made popular by Dr. Robert Cialdini in his must-read book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, the Law of Reciprocity states that when you do something nice (and unexpected) for someone, they will feel compelled to do something nice for you in return.
You must know what it feels like…
Say you’re out to dinner with a friend and they unexpectedly pick up the tab… At that very moment, while grateful, you also feel like you owe them one. That’s the Law of Reciprocity in action.
When my wife and I got married, our friends spent thousands of dollars to join us on the beach in Bermuda. So, when I was asked to take a few days off of work and fly to Colorado to join one of my friends (who attended the wedding) for his bachelor party, I was compelled to attend (even though it felt at a very inconvenient time).
Get any Christmas cards this year? Even if you’re not close to the sender, you take their mailing address and send them one in return anyway.
Ah, the power of the Law…
Savvy business owners understand this power, and have used it to add value and grow their businesses by millions.
Amway – the gargantuan, multi-level marketing business – has trained their distributors to leave a BUG (a package of product samples ranging from cleaners, deodorizers, and insect killers) with their prospects for up to 3 days with no cost or obligation.
Once the representative returns to collect the samples and ask for orders, they inevitably receive orders from people who feel compelled to “return the favor.” In fact, one representative said that when he tried this approach, the response was, “Unbelievable! We’ve never seen such excitement. Product is moving at an unbelievable rate…” (source: Direct Creative)
The Law of Reciprocity is a very powerful sales tool. Not only does it make the other person feel valued, special, and appreciated – it also triggers a mental response that subconsciously tells them “I owe you one.”
Over the years, I’ve had three separate financial planners send me valuable books out of the blue with a “thank you” note for the conversation we had.
In return, the first financial planner received a referral from me (he’s still doing business with my referral years later). The second would have received business from me if I met his minimum client net worth of $100 million (go figure!?). The third financial planner (who actually sent me two books) got 3 accounts from me.
Now here’s the deal: just because you send someone a book, it does not mean that you’re automatically going to get business from him or her… Au contraire mon frère!
First off, there are always exceptions to every rule – but secondly, in order for the law to work, you need to follow the recipe…
The guidelines of the Law of Reciprocity are:
- You must give without asking for, or expecting, anything in return. If people think the only reason you’re doing something nice for them is so you can get it back, the Law of Reciprocity won’t work (read that again).
- You must give something that is valuable to the other person in order for them to feel indebted to you.
- You must be the first person to give something (while not necessary, when you are the first person to give a gift you are, in effect, leading the Law).
- You must make the person feel like they are special, and that the gift is exclusive to them – or at least a small group of them (if they think everyone and anyone gets the gift, they won’t feel as compelled to return the favor).
- You must make it personal. If the gift feels like it’s coming from a faceless, emotionless corporation, they won’t feel indebted.
Many marketers recommend (under the false pretense) that free ebooks and digital reports trigger the Law of Reciprocity. However… While those do work to generate more leads and sales, they work for other reasons. They do not follow the rule because they are not personal, not special, are not often seen as valuable, and because consumers are smart enough to recognize that the only reason you’re giving away the program is to sell them something.
Even with that said, here’s a trick for making your free ebooks and digital reports trigger the Law of Reciprocity. You ready?
Give people more than they’ve asked for.
If they entered their name to receive a free report, give them the free report and something of even greater value for no cost (like a free video presentation, blueprint, etc.). If the prospect feels that you are genuinely interested in helping them, they, in turn, will become raving fans and want to help you.
Tony Robbins once told me: “The secret to living is giving.”
It feels good to give. This isn’t about a bunch of Jedi mind tricks designed to make everyone around feel indebted to you. You must have a mindset of delivering more than what’s expected for the sake of “WOWing!” your prospects and delivering a better-than-expected experience.
…And continue to give without any expectation of getting anything back – just because you want to show your appreciation. Use this strategy wisely, and as mama always said: “What goes around comes around.”
The more you give, the more you will receive.