Reciprocal Selling: As a Cost of Client Acquisition


Reciprocal Selling is not benevolence, it should be part of the cost of acquiring a new client

In sales, we're constantly focused on concepts like: Qualifying, Uncovering Need, Features & Benefits, Demonstration, Closing...these are critically important steps to the traditional sales process. However, a paradigm shift has occurred where the winners are online content creators and thought leaders. Why do these companies win? Because of TRUST, the primary driver of buying behavior.


On the aggregate, people are moved more by the "fear of loss" than the "desire to gain". For example, the phrase, "Take this opportunity!" isn't as powerful as "Don't make a buying mistake!". As a result of our internal hard-wiring, we instinctively seek brands/service providers we trust.


Reciprocity helps build that trust and familiarity. Giving as part of the sales process should not be "bolted-on", but a new foundation to be built-around. When a person or group is focused on your needs and helps you before any transaction is required, those feelings of reciprocity are developed.


In my experience, the ability to demonstrate value, insight & kindness helps put your service/product in a position of strength. This is why the Freemium model has been so successful, people getting familiar with a light version of a product (that adds value to their lives) which allows them to trust it more deeply, but also want to return the favor.


Why does it work?

Reciprocity is biologically wired into our DNA. It's how we have been able to evolve as a society, it simply feels unnatural to NOT want to help someone who is helping you.


So here's 7 ideas on how you can create a reciprocial relatioship with a prospect:

1. Look at the "gift" as a part of the client acquisition cost. Each client has an acquisition cost, and factoring in the cost to create "the gift" allows you to determine its particular viability. So, if you sell cars and average $150/sale in marketing, look to supplement a fraction of that with reciprocity. Offer free services (oil changes on current vehicle, company swag, car washes) which generates brand loyalty and the likelihood you'll earn the client's business.


2. Determine what "gift" would be valuable to your qualified, target audience. Staying with the dealership theme, don't advertise "free oil changes", hand write the client a letter and tell them you want to give them a free oil change for their loyalty. We discuss the power of a handwritten letter here


3. Be sincere with your intentions. Sales people are generally afraid that the customer may uncover your true motivation. But if your motivation is, "We want to build relationships and deliver value so that when it's time to purchase a vehicle, you don't have to guess who you can trust, you'll have actual experience and you'll consider us." People can get behind that, what people don't like is feeling like there's a bait and switch situation about to occur. 


4. Don't try to sell. When you give something to someone and proceed to sell them, you've violated an act of kindness and turned it into a transaction. The goal is to demonstrate authentic concern and build a relationship that will be mutually beneficial. When you try to sell something to them directly following a gift, you've burned all of your currency of trust.

5. But it's okay to talk about your passions. At this stage, don't talk about products and services, talk about your beliefs. For example:

x "We have the best cars, best service and best pricing."

"We believe that the car-buying experience has become mechanized, and people should have fun and get an amazing deal!" 


6. Follow-up on the client, but do not congratulate yourself for giving. This is a challenge for most that get involved in reciprocal selling, they want to pat themselves on the back for giving. Please don't! Would you congratulate yourself for sending a flyer? For posting an Ad? No!!! But don't fall into the false pretense that once you give something to someone, you've bought their loyalty. That is just the start of developing the relationship. It's okay to call or email and make sure they've taken advantage of the free offer and reinforce your purpose in a way that speaks to them.


...don't fall into the false pretense that once you give something to someone, you've bought their loyalty.

"Hi John, it was great seeing you this weekend! I hope you and your family had an amazing time on the beach! Remember, when Timmy turns 16, you can give him the Colorado and treat yourself to a Greatest Dad Ever Silverado!"


7. Reinforce their feelings of loyalty. Creating powerful testimonials (e.g. video) allows these new feelings of Trust and Loyalty to solidify. Odds are, they have purchased vehicles from other dealerships in the past, and may even have a relationship with them. It's important to show how you're company cares about its clients and this "change" is perfectly acceptable. 


*BONUS* 8. Never hold the client hostage over a gift. It's natural that if someone takes a gift from you, for you to believe they inherently owe you something. It's not true in life, and it's certainly not true in business. The Gift is an investment, some investments pay out, others don't. On average, these investments are very powerful if done correctly. 


x "So, you took advantage of our oil change, but you bought from my direct competitor? What the heck man?"

"I'm really glad to hear you found a great car at a great price. We understand there's a lot of options out there today! It's our hope that on your next vehicle purchase, you'll come talk to us last, because we make sure all of our clients are treated like family and get the best possible deal available!" 


Other things to consider when using Reciprocal Selling:

• If choosing between service gifts (Car wash or oil change) choose the oil change because you'll be putting a static window sticker in front of them with your logo on it for hours on end to remind them of your generosity.

• When choosing between physical gifts, Logo-branded SWAG isn't always the best. Yes, it gets your name in front of them, but SWAG comes off as "everyone gets this" and not "I'm special". 

• Give your prospects the opportunity to spread the message. So maybe you've just pitched to someone who bought a car, but they may know 10 people who are interested! Give them a pathway to evangelize for you with a referral program. 

• Be patient. You're not selling Scarcity and Urgency, you're selling Brand Loyalty. When you have brand loyalty, you receive higher margins, more opportunities (evangelism), less churn rate, less customer complaints (service issues), etc.  

• Make sure you're tracking all lines of advertising. You want to be able to assign value to your efforts and allocate resources to the most efficient marketing channels. Give this model a little more time, but make sure you're getting accurate feedback on how the customer came to you.

• BE.CAUSE.MARKETING. Because this is a longer sales process, you'll need justifiable reasons to contact them on a regular basis. If you are talking to them about your beliefs and passions for making an impact in the world, you have an unassailable reason to keep in touch without "selling". 


Brandon Bain is a Sales Optimization Strategist masquerading as a Marketer. Brandon has been called-upon for years to build sales funnels, partner channels, create marketing systems and gain market share for a wide variety of highly competitive industries. 



As a believer in Cause Marketing, Brandon believes that the most important asset a company has is not its product or service, but its "BECAUSE". Every company has to ask themselves the question, "Why, do we do this", but only those that have the "BECAUSE...." are the ones that can truly connect with their audience.

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