Cashing in on the Power of
Goodwill on Your Next Sales Call
Tradeshows like this month’s Consumer
Electronics Show are a little bit like
Halloween. You stroll along carpeted
avenues, and at almost every address,
there’s a bowl of candy from which
you’re encouraged to help yourself. It’s
If you’ve ever succumbed to temptation
and grabbed a morsel or two, you
understand the genius behind why they
put it out there. The candy may be free
of charge, but it still comes with a price.
Grabbing a mint or a few Tootsie Rolls
subtly implies that you’re taking something
from them, and in doing so, you are now
inclined to provide something in return,
which is just what the booth “residents”
want. You end up paying with your time
as you submit to a bit of conversation so as
not to look (or feel) like a moocher.
The candy at tradeshow booths may be free of charge, but it still comes with a price.
The Power of Reciprocity
From childhood it’s ingrained in us not to take without giving in return;
therefore, one of the most powerful forces that drives our behavior is the
desire not to be indebted or obligated to anyone, even for something minor.
For example, think about what happens when someone opens a door for you
as you enter a building. If there is another door right after, what do you do?
Guaranteed, you hold the door for them, just to even the score.
Suppose you received a holiday card (or worse, a gift) from someone
to whom you hadn’t sent anything? What’s your reaction? A professor at
Brigham Young University once mailed 100 Christmas cards to complete
strangers whose names he’d picked out of a phone book, as an experiment.
The result? More than eighty percent of the recipients sent cards in return.
The fact is, nobody wants to be “on the hook,” even to someone they
When someone gives us something, or does us a favor–regardless of how
small the gesture–it creates an imbalance, and we typically feel compelled
to respond in kind, so as to correct that imbalance. Smart businesspeople
understand this and seek ways to use this to their benefit, and so should
you (so long as you do it ethically).
Here are three tips to help you leverage this powerful principle to
improve your business this year:
> Keep It Relevant. The more personal or useful your gesture, the more
likely the recipient will feel compelled to respond. Suppose I meet with
two qualified integrators about installing a system in my home. Afterward,
one sends me a pen with his business name on it, while the other sends
me a sleeve of Titelist golf balls because he learned that I was a golf
fanatic. Assuming both are of equal skill and reputation, whom am I more
compelled to give my business to?
> Develop a ‘Giving’ Reputation. Make a point to always be the one
to offer something, without expecting to receive. For instance, this might
mean offering leads to other businesspeople within your network whenever
possible. Maybe you know someone who needs some remodeling work
done or is looking for a good landscaper. Be quick to provide the lead to
the appropriate contractor; furthermore, make this type of generosity a
habit. The more you earn the reputation as a giver, the more likely you
are to receive, although it might not be at that same moment, or even from
the same person.
> The Power of Concession. Believe it or not, hearing “no” from
a customer often presents an ideal opportunity. Evidence shows that
immediately after someone rejects a request, they are more inclined
to respond favorably to a concession. Consider a child who asks for a
sandwich a half hour before dinner. The parent says no, so the kid then
asks, “OK…can I just have a few crackers then, to hold me
over?” The parent will likely give in. Now, suppose that all the
kid wanted were the crackers in the first place? Pretty smart.
This works in business just as well. If you aim high and ask for
a big-ticket sale, you may hear “no,” but if you then abruptly
lower your request to something more reasonable, the customer
is far more likely to respond positively.
Chances are you’ve already broken your New Year’s
resolution. Why not make a new resolution to do more favors
for people this year? You might be amazed at the results.
The best news is that there are a countless number of simple ways to create an
imbalance in your favor. It’s often as easy as providing exemplary service for a
customer. When they see the effort you’re willing to make on their behalf, they’ll
feel compelled to reward those efforts. –Dave Chace