Is It Free?

By Noah Graff

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?

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4 thoughts on “Is It Free?

  1. Russ Ethridge

    Your interaction illustrates how important relationships are in personal life and business. The yearning for human connection, made acute during this pandemic, is proof of how much we need relationships, even if they are based merely on a sliver of common interest. Without the trust that comes from a simple connection like a shared interest , less gets done, and we are lonely and detached in the meantime. If only Washington would get the message.

  2. R in NYC

    This is a a somewhat new dilemma.

    Years ago most business dealings were based on relationships, networks, history, trust and most importantly – A firm handshake. (with another man – not sexist, just the times and norms back then)

    What did Bob Dylan sing?
    “For the times they are a-changin’ ”

    We are in a different time.
    HIGHER TAXES, more costs, regulations, more competition, much narrower margins, etc…
    Not looking to get better, but much worse when KOMIE HARRIS is president.

    You cannot just buy from the nice guy that stops in every month or so with a scratch pad and pen with his number on it, and a Russell Stover Chocolate Sampler at Christmas time.

    Most organizations now forbid any gifts over a few dollars, understandable but another loss of personal relationships.

    Now you need to bid most everything of any significance to stay competitive!
    So sad, but true.

    A few pens, a box of chocolate and a pair of tickets to whatever, is not going to cover a 37 cent difference per pound of material, when you order a few thousand pounds!

    Good, bad, or indifferent – “best price wins!”

    And with the internet, there are plenty of purchasing options for 1/2″ diameter 303 stainless steel or similar raw materials.
    The certs are the certs!

    Widgets now are not much different, the part print, tolerances, finishes and specs are what they are!
    Years ago you had good shops and not so good shops.
    Many had their niche.
    You knew where to go for what.
    Technology of course has also advanced and opened so many more opportunities.
    Again the web opens up so many more resources and options.
    And I am still speaking domestic suppliers.
    Years ago, all you had was the Thomas Register.

    Ah, but the good old days, we wish we could go back there sometimes.
    Christmas time ALL the purchasing agents, and many others, would get a FINE bottle of whiskey, I’m talking about the good stuff!
    but that’s gone 🙁
    Trade shows, you would get a beautiful freshly machined ash tray,
    but you cannot smoke anywhere anymore 🙁 I keep my change in it now.
    Tickets to shows and ball games is now a rarity.
    Forget about that occasional night out at a FINE upscale “Gentlemen’s Club”, oooh la la ;-P
    Those are some memories, when you are sitting in the rocking chair at shady acres, waiting to die, and you just smile…
    And it is not because you just passed gas 😉

    Ah, but the good ol’ days…

    OH YEA – “Is It Free?”

    Half the country just voted for free SH!T
    We the producers/manufacturers are going to have to pay for it all!
    China taking over manufacturing and paying Hunter Biden again
    The Green new deal
    Energy surcharges
    Carbon tax
    Free higher education
    Loan forgiveness
    Free healthcare
    Free right to housing
    Free right to food
    Free, Free, Free!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Keep your businesses going! someones got to pay …
    Stormy seas are ahead, and for many years to come!
    and Stay Safe!


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