Turn On The Power of Reciprocity

Reciprocity: the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit


The type of value you bring to a meeting has changed. In the past, the customer allowed us to ask many questions. The customer was more open to being consulted. Value was created because the customer allowed you to ask a range of questions, and solutions were proposed. Now, the customer is in a different situation. The world is constantly changing, and B2B buying is much more complex. Also, customers are more knowledgeable than before and maybe, even more demanding on what they want out of conversations. They want to see the value created earlier in the conversation. But, they are also hungry for insights.

How should you start the discovery conversation and get the customer to talk and open up? This is a self-reflecting question that can change the way you conduct conversations. Pause for a moment and think about how you currently open meetings… In his book The Go-Giver, Bob Burg says: “All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like, and trust”. True, that’s our goal.

But, how do you do that in the new way of selling? What has changed? Read on to learn about the power of reciprocity.

Chasing or Attracting?

Here is a fundamental question: When meeting stakeholders for the first time, are you chasing or attracting them into the conversation? When you are chasing, you ask many questions; you chase for a moment where you identify a need to be solved so you can link your solution. But, unfortunately, in many cases, this makes people run away from you.

Attracting your stakeholder into the conversation works differently. When you attract people into the conversation, they want to participate, contribute and collaborate. They want to do that because of their perceived value of attention, appreciation and acceptance they experience during the meeting.

As humans, we either are giving these experiences to others, or we are chasing them. In the new way of selling, we should give stakeholders that value.


You attract stakeholders into the conversation when you give attention in a meaningful way. You show that you fully engage in the conversation with all you have. You listen authentically and ask authentic questions. You want to know what is beyond their responses and emotions. You want to know more than the tip of the iceberg. There is a fundamental difference between listening while thinking about the next question you will ask or listening with both your ears, eyes and heart (see the previous blog on thesalesadvice.com)


In the old way of selling, we were chasing appreciation so the customer would let us into their world. We hoped the customer would open up by asking many questions about their business. Think about what would happen if you did this the other way, giving instead of chasing.

You give appreciation when for example, you make a compliment about their business. You show and give your appreciation of what you know about them so far. For example: “John, I looked at your website as preparation for this meeting, and I was amazed by the “Behind The Scene” video clips. I enjoyed it when the camera was following the people in the production and warehouse, which gave me a good impression of the quality of work you drive in your company”. People like compliments.


Instead of chasing to be accepted by trying to solve problems with your solution, why not wait with this and instead invite stakeholders into your experiences? Give. Don’t chase. When the timing is right, share your experience. Customers may already know your products and solutions. What they don’t know is your experience. Remember, they are hungry for insights. For example, you can say: “This reminds me of another customer in a similar situation. What happened was….” Sharing stories drive acceptance. Your stakeholder appreciates your experience and often accept these with open arms.

The power of reciprocity

When you chase attention, appreciation and acceptance, the other person perceives this as low value. Your stakeholder senses that the conversation is all for your benefit, not theirs. So, after a while, the question arises in their head: “Why should I participate in this any longer?”

If you are the giver of attention, appreciation and acceptance, then the power of reciprocity kicks in. The stakeholder naturally feels to participate and return the attention, appreciation and acceptance. They feel they must now apply authentic listening to what you have to say. They feel they must compliment you, maybe on an insight you shared. They feel they have to let you into their world. Reciprocity encourages collaboration, and that’s what you want.

Prepare to encourage collaboration.

Your meetings should have a feeling of collaboration. Of course, you gain new information, but your stakeholder also discovers something they didn’t know that is relevant to their situation and challenges and may even change their perspective. Hence prepare as such:

  • What would you like the stakeholder to discover during the meeting?
  • Show what you know and compliment them about that.
  • Verify your understanding and listen authentically
  • Ask what you don’t know, listen and let the customer into your world by sharing experiences relevant to their challenges.

These first few minutes of the conversation may determine how the rest of the discovery conversation will go. Will there be a dialogue where both the customer and the salesperson collaborate? Consider turning attention, appreciation and acceptance on their head and turn on the power of reciprocity.

Feel free to share with your peers, teams and network.

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