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Give before you get: How Reciprocity can make you a better Agent.

For more than 30 years salespeople and marketers have been drawing lessons from The 6 Principles of Influence by Robert Cialdini. This 1984 book explores the factors that influence people’s decisions, the simple but powerful motivators that make people say “Yes”.

In this article we’re going to look at how you can use Cialdini’s first principle, Reciprocity, to convert a greater number of your leads into sales and build a reputation that will attract referrals and repeat business in future.

The Takeaway

The point of reciprocity is not to shower your prospects with all the gifts you can afford, waiting for the opportunity to capitalise on them. You should think of reciprocity as a handful of daily practices – being generous with your time, offering real value when it’s needed - that will help build your reputation and likability over time, something that will persuade people to work with you in future.

Check out some tips on likability and how to build sincere, genuine relationships with your clients.

Give and ye shall receive

“We all like to return favours. Most people got it all backwards thinking it means if you will do this for us, then we will do something for you…that’s wrong.” – Robert Cialdini

If you’ve ever received a mint from a waiter, you’ve already seen the principle of reciprocity at work. While you may not think that a 20c mint would make much of an impact after spending a couple hundred Rand on dinner, a much-sited study showed how a waiter could increase their tips by 3% by giving diners a free mint. This increased to 14% with two mints, and 23% if the waiter left one mint and quickly returned to offer a second one.

This doesn’t mean you can boost your commission by 23% by running after your prospects with Endearmints. But it does mean that people respond to feeling appreciated or looked-out for. Cialdini suggests that people have an in-built desire to repay their debts, something that makes them very sensitive to things like gifts, special treatment and being given something of value.

So how can we apply this to the work of a South African real estate agent?

Be generous with your time.

Fortunately, the best way to develop reciprocity is also the cheapest. More than gifts, advice or the lounge music playing at a viewing, giving your time freely and unconditionally is the clearest investment you can make to your clients.

Make sure you have enough time during any call or meeting to have a casual conversation where you can answer questions, give advice or otherwise offer yourself to your client or prospect. The same goes for viewings. Arriving early, bringing water or snacks, learning about your clients or preparing your presentation all contribute to how your prospects and clients will think about you.

Being generous with your time, through preparation and your attitude to calls and meetings, is a gift that people will respond to because it is a powerful indicator of the effort you are putting in to them. It also can’t be faked or rushed, broadcasting to your clients and prospects that you are thinking about them even when they aren’t thinking of you.

Invest in high-quality, low-value resources.

The waiter-mint study shows that you don’t need a high-value gift in order to make use of reciprocity. Far more important is the simple act of making your client feel appreciated. Focus on the act rather than the gift. Building reciprocity is all about client relationship management. if you’re using your gifts or resources to build your relationships with clients and prospects, your efforts will be strengthened by the power of reciprocity.

Low-value gifts or resources with a high impact might include:

  • ‘Thank you’ cards.
  • • Weekly mailers with important information about your area.
  • Trinkets - Mints, pens, notepads etc.
  • Flyers of events happening in your area.
  • Water or snacks at viewings.
  • Paying the bill when you have meetings in coffee shops.

Offer a high-value resource

To really make an impression, consider offering one or two high-value resources. These don’t have to cost much and may not have to cost anything. You could even turn a low-value resource into a high-value one by offering it regularly.

These high-value offerings – say, a weekly emailer or a monthly newsletter of important property news - are your opportunity to set yourself apart by truly offering value to your clients. If you offer a great weekly property resource to your clients, it’s also likely that other property sellers will hear about it.

In addition to a weekly mailer or monthly newsletter, other examples of high-value resources include:

  • A blog with regular, relevant articles.
  • A weekly update of property or suburb news.
  • A social media page that offers useful tips or information that clients can follow.
  • An offer to assess your client’s paperwork, insurance etc. If you have skills or information that would be of use to your clients, offering it will help you establish yourself as a helpful and potentially invaluable resource.

In summary

  • 1. Giving your time freely and unconditionally is the clearest investment you can make in your clients. It also can’t be faked or rushed, broadcasting to your clients and prospects that you are thinking about them even when they aren’t thinking of you.
  • 2. Focus on the act, rather than the gift. Building reciprocity is all about client relationship management. Use gifts or resources to build on your relationships with clients and prospects.
  • 3. To really make an impression, consider offering one or two high-value resources. Set yourself apart by truly offering value to your clients.

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