Sales Training 101 – Reciprocity is Childsplay


Reciprocity – Sales Training 101

From a very early age, we all learn about reciprocation. That is, when someone does something nice for us, we tend to do something nice for them. As humans, most of us don’t want to be indebted to someone else – especially someone we barely know.

In sales, we often forget the power of the lessons we learned when we were five; and we fail to use these simple techniques and other great manipulative gestures to get our way with a client.

As bad as that last sentence sounded, this really is what commissioned sales is all about. If you cannot manipulate someone to buy what you’re selling, then why do we need you to sell for us? We would be better off firing our sales team and putting everything we offer on a table and letting the customer choose what is best for them. Of course, companies whose products require salespeople would be out of business in a week if they chose this path.

If you can get past the whole “manipulative gestures” of sales, then you might just have a career as a sales manager – and you can begin teaching your sales team some basic lessons on gaining a “yes.”

Tit for Tat – How a Coke Will Make All the Difference

One way to use reciprocity to your advantage (if you’re an inside salesperson) is to offer (with no strings attached) every prospect who walks into your store a can of ice cold soda or bottle of water.

This little gesture is so manipulative that it should be outlawed. When you give someone a true freebie, they cannot help but be open to your pitch – they owe you.

Studies have shown that the simple act of unilaterally offering something for nothing can increase sales by 25-50%. Wow! We spend hours on sales training to gain a 5% incremental advantage; it’s hard to imagine that a bottle of Dasani or can of Coke can do so much more.

It can, and it does. The bottle of water accompanied by a sincere “it’s a hot day, thought you might enjoy this” or “you looked thirsty, hope this helps” will go a long way to improving your closing percentage.

If you’re an outside salesperson, it might be necessary for you to learn something about your prospect and then show up with something cheap that you’re sure they’ll value. If they have kids, bring a few pieces of company-logoed chachki that appeal to children, for example.

Think Small and be Careful to Keep the Strings Unattached

Earlier this year, one of my company’s vendors took a colleague and me to the Super Bowl in the Phoenix area. It was a great game; and it came with an all-expenses paid trip that probably cost the vendor $5,000-$7,000 per person.

I enjoyed the game, and I appreciated being asked. I did not, however, increase my company’s use of their product. In fact, less than seven months later, I was actually advocating to others that we needed to reduce our spending with this vendor.

Why did this once-in-a-lifetime trip not sway me to become this vendor’s advocate? Why do they now feel they wasted their money on me and my colleague? Is there anything they could have done to get more value from this gift?

Forget for a moment that one of their salespeople once used the line “yeah, but we took you to the Super Bowl” to gain more business from me – big mistake – primarily there were two reasons their gift failed to drive the desire results.

Allowing myself to enjoy such a huge gift was difficult. I felt guilty and was worried there would be strings attached to such a great trip. My conscience bothered me, and a trip this big caused me to reexamine the vendor relationship to be absolutely certain there was no indication of impropriety on my part.

In effect, I began to “over-police” myself. When in doubt, I selected the choice against this vendor for fear that a decision in their favor would seem tied to their gift. The exact opposite effect they sought with the Super Bowl trip.

Secondly, the trip was nice, but it wasn’t very personal. We received free airfare, a free hotel stay, and free tickets to the game and other events. A packaged deal that cost thousands, to be sure.

Personalize the Manipulation

Where this vendor went wrong with both my colleague and me was that they didn’t bother to personalize anything about the trip. Everything they provided us was part of some package they had purchased. It was money and it was things; it was devoid of thought and showed no personal sacrifice or commitment on their part (save for the money they spent).

Had they spent an additional $50 per person and given us a commemorative Super Bowl football, for example, they would probably have us more in their debt; and we would have something to remember the gesture.

Additionally, both my colleague and I have children. Providing us with something we could take home to our kids (we’re talking about less than $100 here) would have made the weekend away from our families more worthwhile. As it is, I have a great memory of a great game and little else.

What Should You Do as a Sales Manager?

If you plan to add a little “manipulation by giving” to your sales team’s routine, it’s important to remember a few simple rules.

  • Rule number one is to keep it simple. Never try to “over think” your prospect or the role your company plays.
  • Rule number two is to consider the recipient. What drives them, and what would make them think you really care?
  • Rule number three is to make sure the gestures are personal and come with no strings attached. That is, walk away after you give the prospect the bottle of water. Let them know you’re here for them if they need you, but that you intend to let them browse on their own – and mean it.

Making a Sale Today is Tough

No one can disagree that we live in scary times. Whether you sell cars, furniture or cell phones, your walk-in traffic and your sales are down. In this economy, it is imperative for sales managers to find that little “something” that can separate them from the competition.

Open your mind, and realize it may very well be a can of Pepsi.