Note: This is the second in an occasional series on language, tools and techniques that can help you become more persuasive–a vital skill for making sure more investors are receptive to the advice and guidance they need. The previous blog focused on a simple way to double your chances of “yes:” Becoming More Persuasive #1 — Freedom.
You are at the end of a nice meal at your favorite restaurant. The waiter approaches with the bill…
What she does next will have a major impact on the tip you leave behind.
If she includes just one mint with the bill, you are only going to increase (on average) your tip by 3%.
If she give you two mints, your generosity more than doubles, with your tip going up 14%.
But a smart waiter has one more trick up her sleeve. After giving you those two mints, if she walks away, stops, returns and says “For you nice people, I’m giving you an extra mint,” you are going to give her a 23% bigger tip.1
This is the power of reciprocity. As social animals, we are hard wired to respond to generosity with generosity. If a friend gives you a birthday present, you will feel almost duty bound to send him something when his birthday rolls round. If your neighbors have you over for dinner, you know you will have to return the favor in the next few months.
Whenever someone gives us something, even if it is intangible, such as advice, we feel an obligation to give back in some way. This is why reciprocity is such a powerful means of persuasion. And every marketer knows it. Free samples, 90-day free trials, complimentary evaluations, even logoed tchotchkes, are all designed to trigger our need to reciprocate and make us more likely to buy the particular product or service.
What does this mean for you as a Financial Advisor? Here are some ideas to foster reciprocity with clients and prospective clients:

  • Complimentary Discovery Meetings
  • Complimentary Second Opinions
  • Complimentary Portfolio Gap Analysis
  • Prospective Client Package
  • Offering drink/snack for every meeting
  • Educational gifts, such as books like The Wealth Solution
  • Thank You Gifts
  • Logo items (pens, notebooks)
  • Meals (“Let’s grab lunch, no business, just to catch up. My treat!”)
  • Holiday and Birthday cards
  • Newsletters (such as Financial Insights)
  • Sending along articles of specific interest
  • Educational Events
  • Social Events

As always, be mindful of gift rules. And remember that you don’t have to spend much — or anything — to have an impact.
Reciprocity can also be engaged by something as simple as a personal touch — something that shows you took a little time and effort.
In 2005, a social scientist sent out a brief survey to 105 students about conditions on campus. One-third of the surveys included a hand-written Post-it note requesting the recipient complete the survey. One-third of the surveys included a blank sticky note. And as a control, one-third of the students received only the survey.2 The results:

  • Hand-written note: 69% response rate
  • Blank sticky note: 43% response rate
  • No sticky note: 34% response rate

In other words, simply adding the personal touch of a note doubled the response rate. But it is fascinating that even a blank sticky, a barely noticeable, absolutely minimal reciprocity trigger made a major impact on response rates.
So don’t overlook the importance of hand-written notes and other personal touches. If you haven’t done so already, get some nice stationery, and use it frequently. But even adding a little note to a report or an agenda can have an impact.
Going back to waiters, several studies have found that adding “Thank you” to a bill or even a smiley face has a small but noticeable impact on tips.3
The greatest benefit of reciprocity is that it not only makes you more persuasive — done well, it also delights your clients and prospective clients.

1Strohmetz, D. B., Rind, B., Fisher, R. and Lynn, M. (2002), Sweetening the Till: The Use of Candy to Increase Restaurant Tipping. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 32: 300–309.