Power of Persuasion: Reciprocity and Gift Giving

July 23rd, 2009 by Frank Damelio

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In his seminal book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D, names reciprocity as one of the six pillars of persuasion. In short, the law of reciprocity dictates that by giving, you will get far more than you gave.

Gift giving is a sure way to engage in the law of reciprocity, which is why the act of giving in business has been practiced since the beginning of civilization. Beware, however, that it is a double-edged sword. Here are some guidelines to ensure that you appease the Gods of Reciprocity:

Three don’ts regarding the law of reciprocity:

1) Avoid giving cheap trinkets with your company logo: A cheap pen with your logo that doesn’t write says a great deal to your prospect about YOUR standards of quality.  When the pen breaks or fails to work, you are cultivating a sort of reverse sense of reciprocity.

2) Avoid giving high-priced items with general appeal: While some recipients may feel quite beholden to you for your gift, it can be perceived by others as crossing the ethical line. In other cases, it could be considered an illegal kickback. I remember my college roommate’s mom was a nurse in the early nineties. She received a free high-end laptop from a pharmaceutical company. A physician once told me that the same company sent him on vacations. Currently, that industry is becoming highly regulated with respect to gift giving.

3) Avoid “strings attached” giving: People may take you up on your offer, but when you call it a gift, they subconsciously regret it. Have you ever received a thank you coupon from a retailer? It says “we appreciate your business, so come in for your FREE gift __________”.  But, the tiny print on the back says “Free with the purchase of $100 or more”. Yes, the company is technically covered, but do you ever get that sense of reverse reciprocation?

Five applications of reciprocation that will get results:

1) Invitation to share time: If you really want to give a sincere gift, offer lunch, dinner, golf, boating, BBQ, anything where you will share time with the person. Keith Ferrazzi in his bestseller, Never Eat Alone talks about adding food to the mix because it creates a much more pleasant experience and memory for the person.

2) Reading or viewing materials: What interests the person you wish to gift? Finding out is so simple with google, facebook, twitter, myspace, linked in, or simply by asking the person. Once you know, it is a simple matter to send an article. Mailing it is more impressive than sending a link because it requires more labor and it can have a hand-written card or post-it attached. Jason Kallio, founder of Expovantage is a master networker. One of his tricks is to scan the news every morning and select which articles will be of interest to his contacts. His results are amazing. Books and DVDs are excellent ways to give a sincere and personalized gift.

3) Birthday Cards: Most people will never remember that you sent them a holiday card, but they will certainly remember a birthday card.

4) Links: What a great gift to give any networker. If your person has his or her own website, and the content is somewhat related to yours, providing a link is a great gift. You are helping them gain exposure and putting them in a positive light.

5) Give value not teasers: A great gift to give is your expertise. I vehemently disagree with those who say you devalue what you do when you give even a taste of it away. Even worse: “give them the why, and make them come to you for the how.” I am talking about gifting a bit of your expertise. A “bit” is a bit subjective. I say, more than a sample, but less than an appetizer, and not the full meal. It should be simple for you to do, but have stand-alone, intrinsic, walkaway value for them.

It is easy to note a common denominator regarding what works and what does not. It appears the techniques that work require some thoughtfulness. That’s why they don’t smack of insincerity. You have to be interested in the person, and most “slick” salespeople aren’t going to make the effort. The gifts that typically backfire appear to require less thought, as they have a more general appeal, or they are cheap tokens, or they have a transparent “ulterior” motive.

Keep in mind that I am employing the law of reciprocity to INDIVIDUAL relationships; not mass market. As per usual, I remind you that these are guidelines and not rules. There are always exceptions.

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18 Responses to “Power of Persuasion: Reciprocity and Gift Giving”

  1. Bella Nox Says:

    Frank – love the video, great job! I love how it shows your personality and isn’t just stiff and matter-of-fact. Your smile is great, so nice to see it again. Also great advice, as always! I look forward to more videos like this one.


  2. Frank Damelio Says:

    Bella Nox! Thank you for being the first to respond. I’m finally getting used to the technology, and I’m being more “me”. Glad you like the tips, and please remember to share it with your contacts. Much obliged, Bella, and all the best to you.

  3. Gloria Says:

    Hi Frank,
    I loved it! The “Do’s and Don’ts” are great and you presented it with such professionalism in a casual manner. That is what kept my interest. Great video!

  4. Frank Damelio Says:

    Gloria, thanks for watching and commenting. Keeping interest is the biggest challenge; so I’m very happy to hear that it kept yours!

  5. Michelle Smith Says:

    Hi Frank!

    Loved your video! You always give great tips that are so helpful especially for a new business person like me. I like that you give just a few things to think about so that they aren’t overwhelming. Thank you for sharing these with me!


  6. Frank Aubuchon Says:

    Good sensible tips. I’ll forward along to one of my networking groups!
    Frank A.

  7. Frank Damelio Says:


    I hope these tips help you in promoting your administrative and event-planning services. Be sure to include a link to your site next time, so my readers can visit you.

  8. Frank Damelio Says:

    Frank A,

    THAT’S a great GIFT! I really do appreciate you forwarding this, and I’m honored that you are doing so. THANKS!!

  9. Rita Schiano Says:

    Thank you, Frank. As always, informative and entertaining!

  10. Frank Damelio Says:

    Rita, Thank YOU for always staying in the loop, and sharing encouraging words!!

  11. Donna Blain Says:

    Wow! Great video! And as someone on the receiving end of SO many of these…you nailed it right on.

    Very nice job!

    P.S. Jacob can still “raise a dollar” thanks to you!

  12. Frank Damelio Says:

    Donna! HOW nice to hear from you! Jacob can still do it? Wow, I’m impressed. You must tell him hello for me. Hope to see you and the boy sometime!

  13. Kellie Frazier Says:


    This was very well done. You mentioned how my personality came out in my message….bravo….you just showed exactly how its done! Excellent. Will forward to my master mind group.

    Connecting Coach

  14. John Miller Says:

    lol, What am I going to do with the $355 worth of Fly Swatters I just ordered with my logo on them? Arghh 🙂

  15. Frank Damelio Says:

    Kellie, I’m happy to see you here on my vlog! I very much appreciate your forwarding this to your mastermind group. Thanks so much for sharing it!

  16. Frank Damelio Says:

    John, fly-swatting is part art/part science. Add value by including an instructional DVD. Start with the basic overhand swat and build up to the reverse-fake, back-hand crush. I’ll be expecting mine in the mail. 🙂

  17. Personalized gifts Says:

    Thanks for sharing another good piece of information. Outstanding, Joakim Kinnie @ tinypocketpeople

  18. Frank Damelio Says:

    My Pleasure – I appreciate the comment!

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