I’m in the process of selling my house.

One of the real estate agents turned up to the listing appointment and thrust a cupcake into my hand – before he had a chance to shake it.

He told me it was ‘their 4th birthday’ (whoever ‘their’ was!) and said it was part of the celebration (as though I cared!)

This technique is part of what Robert Cialdini terms reciprocity and rapport building and he outlines it in his book Influence: Science and Practice. Reciprocity is about giving in order to receive. The Real estate agent wanted to give me a cupcake to get (buy) my rapport.

The problem with this type of rapport building is that it makes things awkward.

He assumed that I eat cupcakes – I don’t.

He assumed that I would put something with a huge amount of blue food colouring in my body – I won’t.

He assumed that I wanted to eat a cup cake he had been holding in his hand for the past 10 minutes – eeeewwwww.

Social norms say that when 2 strangers meet for business they shake hands. How can I shake his hand while I’m holding a cup cake?

Bringing a gift like this to the start of a sales conversation de-powered his positioning. It makes him the servant and me the master. It says I won’t have rapport unless I give you something. That is not what a leader does.

I was looking for an expert to guide in the sale of my house. All he gave me was a cupcake.

Are you inadvertently offering a gift that your customer does not want?*

Would love your thoughts on this




*gifts aren’t always cupcakes. They can be faking interest in what someone did on the weekend because you think that they want you to know.