The principle of reciprocity is basic to the foundation of sales relationships.
It is basic to all human relationships. This principle defines the human desire to want to give something back when something is received. This compelling need is strongest when something is given without the expectation of receiving something in return. The strongest and longest lasting inter-personal relationships are based on the principle of reciprocity.
The “Golden Rule”, a basic principle of Christian theology and practiced by other religions and cultures throughout the world says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This principle suggests doing something for someone else, something that you would like, regardless of what their actions may be. Leonard T. Hobhouse, a liberal politician and professor at Oxford and London Universities in the late eighteenth century said, “Reciprocity is the vital principle of society”. Richard Thurnwald, one of the most renowned social anthropologists of the modern era taught, “The principle of reciprocity is the basis on which the entire social and ethical life of civilization rests.” The French sociologist, Marcel Mauss, in his short book entitled The Gift, stated, “Reciprocity is the human rock on which societies are built.”
What are you doing to incorporate this basic and powerful principle into your sales process? Salespeople should always be looking for specific ways to incorporate this principle in their sales activities. Doing something for someone else has a universal acceptance and will become one of the most powerful actions you will ever employ in your sales career. One of my sales training and coaching clients, Jamie, shared this experience with me.
“I recently spoke with Tim, my Business Performance Group Sales Coach, in our training session about doing things for our customers that helps them out; in other words, giving something that benefits them. I’m not just talking about taking them to lunch to benefit them by making their bellies full. I mean doing something that honestly either makes their day easier or helps them with their business. I recently had the opportunity to do this with one of my customers.”
“I grew up in a farming and ranching community. Well, as it turns out, I have a customer that runs a few cattle on the side. He is the one that orders their “wear parts” and up to that point, he was cordial with me but was buying his edges elsewhere. As it turned out, I happened to call him on the day he was going to do some branding and tagging, but he needed some help. He couldn’t do it by himself and I offered to help him. I spent about half a day with him out on the ranch with some of the other guys he works with and we had a lot of fun. It was amazing what that little act of kindness turned into. He has since been extremely happy to see me whenever I come into the shop and is willing to send any business he can my direction. It hasn’t been a lot of business yet, but we have forged a friendship that I feel will last a lifetime.”
This example is the perfect embodiment of the principle of reciprocity. It doesn’t matter what you do to help someone, what matters is that you do it. And when you do, they will reciprocate in some form or fashion. At the heart of selling is the principle of helping others achieve what they need. When you succeed in helping them, they will respond by helping you achieve your objective, which is to earn an income. When you apply this principle two things will happen. First, you will experience greater personal satisfaction in your profession and second, you will be more financially successful.