I was recently listening to a podcast interview with Robert Cialdini, a professor of psychology and marketing at Arizona State and author of best selling books about marketing, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade and Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.
One of Cialdini’s principles of persuasion is reciprocity, which he says is both hardwired in people and instilled in us by societal norms. He says that when people give to us we have the urge to give back. He quoted a study on the podcast that reported if an owner of a candy shop greets guests with a piece of chocolate they buy 42% more candy than if he gave them a friendly greeting without the free candy.
In Graff-Pinkert’s used machinery business, it’s hard to give customers free samples of machine tools—though it’s not unheard of. It’s more likely to have reciprocity in our business when we work with other dealers. There is an understanding that when one dealer brings you an opportunity to partner on you should try to return the favor down the line.
A few months ago I was talking on the phone to a fellow machinery dealer who in the past I had always enjoyed talking to, but had never done a deal with before. We got on the subject of a book we had both heard about called Dead Wake, which tells the story of the Lusitania sinking. A week later, I received a package from Amazon with the book. He hadn’t told me he was going to send it, he just did. Now I feel like he and I have an interesting bond.
In the case of the book gift, I see it as more than just a gesture to get a reciprocal response. Just because someone sends you a book it’s not a reason to come to them with a machinery deal. But Cialdini has another principle of persuasion—liking. Getting the book made me feel like the guy liked me. Cialdini says that when you feel like someone likes you, you feel comfortable with them and you are more likely to want to do business with them.
I know the guy who gave me the book was not trying to manipulate me. I think he’s just a thoughtful person who probably wants to grow a relationship. What I take from this experience is that if I have even a slight urge to do something nice for someone, no matter who it is, I should stop hesitating and do it.
Question: When have free samples gotten you to buy more stuff?