Rethinking Reciprocity in Prospecting

When it comes to effective sales, I teach clients how to apply the principles of persuasion throughout the sales cycle. I take this approach because hearing “yes” at each step is crucial; without it, you won’t move forward. This is especially true in prospecting because without a “yes” here, you won’t secure that coveted first meeting.

Recently, my perspective on using the principles of influence when prospecting has evolved. Typically, I emphasize three principles in prospecting: authority, social proof, and scarcity.


People tend to follow trusted experts. Do you highlight your expertise or your organization’s reputation in your prospecting? Without demonstrating expertise, why would anyone take a meeting?

Social Proof

We’re inclined to follow the lead of similar others. Does your prospecting show how you’ve helped organizations similar to your prospect? If you’ve helped similar companies succeed, prospects will naturally assume you can probably help them too.


We want what we can’t have. Does your prospecting emphasize what makes your product or service unique? It might be the unique combination of features that makes your offering desirable. If you frame that uniqueness in terms of what the prospect is missing, you’re more likely to hear “yes.”

Tommy Changed My Thinking

I usually don’t advocate for using reciprocity in prospecting because often, the giving feels superficial. Pens, stationery, or items with your logo often come across as marketing ploys rather than genuine gifts. However, one individual changed my perspective on gift giving when prospecting for new clients.

Listening to Tommy Shaff at Influence Amplified was eye-opening. Tommy excels at engaging reciprocity in prospecting like no one else I’ve seen!

Personal, Meaningful, and Unexpected

Tommy doesn’t just give things away. His gifts are personalized, tailored to an individual’s likes. 

His gifts are meaningful too. In other words, they hold real value as opposed to generic giveaways.

Perhaps most importantly, Tommy’s gifts are unexpected. This adds a wow factor. For example, during his talk he shared how he gave a children’s book to a prospective client. That seems odd except for the fact that Tommy did his research and knew this book would mean something to the individual.

He didn’t stop at the gift; he personalized it by inserting the prospect’s picture throughout and added handwritten notes on many pages. The extra effort was obvious, and as a result, Tommy secured the meeting.

Your Giving

I challenge you to reflect on your giving, whether for prospecting or other purposes. Are your gifts personalized, meaningful, and unexpected like Tommy’s? If you incorporate these elements, your chances of getting a “yes” to your meeting request will increase dramatically.

Engaging reciprocity effectively means giving something of real value that resonates personally with your prospect. It shows that you’ve invested time and thought, which can compel them to reciprocate by agreeing to a meeting.

By rethinking how you use reciprocity in prospecting, you can create a more impactful and genuine connection with potential clients. Try to make your gifts personal, valuable, and surprising, and watch how these thoughtful touches open doors for you in your sales efforts. 

Let’s help each other by sharing experiences and ideas on how to engage reciprocity effectively in the comments. How have you used personalized gifts in your prospecting, and what results did you see? I look forward to reading your stories!

Brian Ahearn

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE and a faculty member at the Cialdini Institute. An author, TEDx presenter, international speaker, coach, and consultant, Brian helps clients apply influence in everyday situations to boost results.

As one of only a dozen Cialdini Method Certified Trainers in the world, Brian was personally trained and endorsed by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by Book Authority. Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents was an Amazon new release bestseller. His latest book, The Influencer, is a business parable designed to teach you how to use influence in everyday situations.

Brian’s LinkedIn courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by over 700,000 people around the world and his TEDx Talk on pre-suasion has more than a million views!

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