Three years ago, we wrote a short series of posts about Robert Cialdini's six key principles of influence (see below). I came across them today and was struck with how important Reciprocation is right now.
With there being so much turbulence, many people are in dire need of some free help and advice from the experts they rely on in their business. It is in everyone's interest that those experts share their advice not only to help out their clients, but also because "People like to return a favour".
The video above is by Robert Cialdini and Steve Martin and they discuss all six principles. However, this link jumps to where they discuss Reciprocity, the entire video is well worth watching but their main point on this first principal is how important it is that you are the first to give a gift and that it is both personalised and unexpected.
In a business context this would suggest that for experts in Professional Services, to give some free advice or insight that helps their clients is not just the “right thing to do"; it is also the best way to persuade their potential clients to work with them.
Importantly though, for full effect, the advice needs to not be generalised and found by a potential client, it needs to be contextualised and delivered in a way that makes it feel like the gift of the advice was in some way just for the benefit of the recipient.
In other words, if experts have views that might be helpful to specific clients, it’s really important that they are shared as personally as possible with the few people that they can genuinely help.
Finally though, the analogy of the restaurant “mint” in the video is pertinent. Be brief and helpful, hand out “mints”; nobody is expecting you to work for free. Indeed getting given a free meal could feel really awkward.
He would write a note saying "Dear x, I saw this and thought you might find it interesting...", and his potential clients would get something of value from him. And, interestingly, it was something that would clearly take some effort to do. It was very successful indeed, and he ended up being voted in as Chairman of a top 50 global law firm. Clearly a man who knows a little about influencing people. One of the reasons this technique worked was because of Robert Cialdini's Principle of Reciprocation or, in short words, "People like to return a favour".