This is the fifth in a six-part series on influence and persuasion, loosely based on Dr Robert Cialdini’s work.
This rule is one of the most important, and applies to every culture.
It’s a quirk of human nature that if someone does you a favour, you feel obliged to return that favour — even if you don’t like them. The Favour Bank has strict policies and procedures.
In fact, you can often get a ‘yes’ to requests that, except for them feeling they ‘owe’ you, would almost certainly have been refused. And you can harness these conditioned feelings of fairness when writing to people.
Make it win-win
But check your attitude — this shouldn’t be about manipulation, but a demonstration of your desire to help your clients. As famous motivational speaker and sales trainer, Zig Ziglar, said, ‘You can get everything in life you want, if you just help enough other people get what they want.’
You can invoke reciprocity through gifts and/or concessions:
1. GIFTS: Give, and it shall be given unto you
So what can you give your readers to increase your ‘favour-bank’ balance? Here are some ideas:
- Free samples of your product/service (but be generous – it must seem more a gift, not a cheap commercial sample)
- Articles, facts or websites you think will interest them (you could set up some Google Alerts for relevant topics)
- Quality promotional items with your branding. (Sometimes these assume a life of their own, e.g. the Pirelli Tyres limited-edition celebrity calendars)
- Greeting cards or handwritten notes, e.g. congratulating them on a win, End-of-Financial-Year, birthdays, Christmas, etc. Here’s a great way to send funky personalised notes.
- Tickets to movies or sporting events
2. CONCESSIONS: To get ahead, step back
Perhaps surprisingly, making a concession to someone is perceived as a favour.
In one experiment, people were asked if they’d take juvenile-detention centre inmates to the zoo for a day. Only 17 per cent said yes.
But when people were FIRST asked if they’d volunteer to be a counsellor at a juvenile-detention centre for two hours a week for two years – to which ALL said ‘no’ – and THEN were asked the ‘zoo-for-a-day’ question, those who said ‘yes’ to the zoo trip rocketed to 50 per cent, three times better than before.
To apply this, when you’re asking for something big, have a ‘fallback’ question ready. For example, if your ‘big’ request for a face-to-face meeting is rejected, immediately ask for something small, like a phone call.
Don’t thank me
Cialdini also talks about ‘moments of power’: situations in which you momentarily have elevated influence. One of those is when someone thanks you. If you help someone, it’s tempting to dismiss their thanks with, ‘No problem.’
But Cialdini says you can build your favour bank by replying with something like, ‘You’re welcome; I’m sure if the tables were turned, you’d do the same for me’ — thereby gently reminding them of their ‘debt’ to you. Naturally, be authentic and sincere (see ‘Make it win-win’ above!).
What do you think? Does this work for you, or does it sound too manipulative? Air your thoughts below!