Monday, July 18, 2005

Giving is Profitable? An eBay Sales Secret

There are quite a few spiritual and practical references to giving that are taken for granted by people but not fully understood. "Give and ye shall receive" is one. In the business world, strategists often suggest that you give free information or services first to build prospect relationships.

Dr. Robert Cialdini, the author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion suggests that whenever you enter a room full of people you should ask yourself "What can I do for these people? How can I help?" as opposed to "What can I get out of this situation? What's in it for me?"

The psychological/social concept at the root of these approaches is reciprocation. When you give, the receiver enters a contract that says she'll offer something in return at a future date. This receiver of help, information, gifts, services, freebies, advice, etc. will give back. She's obligated to, because she accepted what you gave. This is where the term "much obliged" comes from.

The "contract" has to be understood, however. If someone doesn't accept or request your offers, then they aren't obligated to anything. This is why we struggle so often when offered free things. We know that there are strings attached, and oftentimes we turn down the freebie, because we don't want to be bound by the social contract of reciprocation.

So, not only is giving an internally satisfying activity -- it's productive... eventually. Cialdini talks about how the government of Mexico received a multi-million-dollar earthquake relief gift from the government of Ethiopia when Ethiopia was in a state of chaos, despair and brutal poverty. Why? Mexico had given Ethiopia wartime assistance 50 years prior.

How can you use the concept of reciprocation in your eBay listings?...

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