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Persuasive Strategies: The Norm of Reciprocity

Article by: Nancy Tobler
November 20, 2013

The norm of reciprocity states that we treat or respond to others in a similar manner as to how we are treated. The Golden Rule and an “An Eye for an Eye” are examples of the norm of reciprocity stated in cultural norms.

What does reciprocity have to do with sales? When you walk through the grocery store and try the products for free, you are more likely to buy them. Not only do you get a chance to see if you like the product, you are likely to feel a sense of obligation.

In fundraising, research has shown that both monetary (from $1 to $5) and non-monetary gifts (calendars, return labels, etc.) increase the rate of those contributing to the “cause” (Church, 1993). This data demonstrates the power of reciprocity.

Party plan companies have used gifts for years. In addition to engendering a relationship with the potential customer, the gift of products allows the customer to try the product. Giving customers the chance to taste, cook, and make are all ways to increase sales (Rawlins & Johnson, 2005). Million dollar party girl has great suggestions on how to do samples for all types of direct sales company product.  If your company offers product in sample size be sure to take advantage and keep a supply of samples around.  She also provides ideas on where to hand out samples such at networking events or when you are out and about doing your daily tasks.

Sample product size also works in person-to-person selling. In fact, Avon started as a book-selling company that included a small sample of perfume with each purchase to increase sales. The perfume became so popular that the Avon we know now was born.

When it comes to making a purchase, people used to believe that money was the key factor to consider. However, research in persuasion has found that consumers use complex motivation factors when purchasing products (Cialdini, 2003). The norm of reciprocity is one that all direct selling companies and distributors can learn. Using a sample product is one way to create a bond between the seller and the buyer.

Check out these other articles for information on the other persuasive strategies of liking, consistency, social proof, and authority.

Cialdini, R.B. (2003). The science of persuasion: Social psychology has determined the basic principles that govern getting to “yes”. Scientific American Mind, 14(1). 70-77.

Church, A. H. 1993. Estimating the effects of incentives on mail response rates: A meta-analysis. Public Opinion Quarterly 57:62-79.

Rawlins, C., & Johnson, P.R. (2005). Let’s party: The remarkable growth in direct sales. Proceedings of the Academy of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict 10(2).

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Nancy Tobler

Nancy Tobler has a PhD in communication from the University of Utah. She specializes in research on how organizations change,...

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