Cognitive Bias 7 out of 25: Kantian Fairness Tendency

We’ve all heard the golden rule, right? Treat others as you would like to be treated. Personally, I’m all for it and I was raised that way. But watch out! There are a few loopholes in your brain where this thinking and rule can be used against you. It relates to the treat others as they treat you instances and golden rule.

The law of reciprocity is fascinating to me. You know the one where it is scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours? It is programmed in our brains that when someone does something nice for us we are compelled to return the favor. This means if someone does you the tiniest of favors you will be compelled to return that favor and more times than not it’s in a bigger way… like forking over your money for whatever they are selling.

Have you ever wondered why the salesperson would be so kind as to give you snacks or water bottles? More times than not it’s because of the law or reciprocity. If you take their food and water you will be more compelled to buy from them thanks to that small favor. Seem a little one-sided to you too? That’s because it is. This when the law of reciprocity can detonate in your brain like a time bomb.

Before we get how to use this in sales, he last portion of this rule relates to people feeling like everyone needs to be treated fairly. As much as this makes sense and we aim to treat everyone the same… it doesn’t work out that often. People are inclined to have favorites and tend to lean towards treating these favorites better than others. I am 100% for this behavior ONLY if you are treating higher performing employees better (more on why you should seek a performance based career here). You should never base this off if you like someone personally more than someone else.

But Cody, How Can I Combat This?!

Well if you would have shut up and listened, I would have explained how! ? It’s very simple how you can overcome this. One, you can either be 100% closed off to any kind gestures like that. You may be thinking but what if I’m super thirsty?! That’s perfect for my next suggestion. Two, you can take the kind gestures and be aware of this tendency and not feel compelled to give back. I recommend the first one, but sometimes you want that muffin to occupy the kids or something. The reason I would shy away from my second one is because it’s programmed in our brains to want to reciprocate if someone does us a favor. You’ll still feel the need to pay back the kind gesture, even if subconsciously, so bring your own water and snacks when you go to interact with salespeople!

How this Tendency can Stagnate your Business

If you’re treating poorly performing employees better than higher performing employees you’re going to destroy your business. This tendency creates animosity and fosters a negative working environment. How would you feel if you were producing more and working harder than someone but they were treated more favorably than you? I’m sure it has happened to you before, you feel unappreciated and awful. This is how all your employees will feel if you’re susceptible to this.

That’s why I love sales; your performance speaks for itself. If you have a great leader they should value you more if you’re performing better. Why? Because you’re a bigger part of their business, their success, and their paycheck. If your leader doesn’t do this you should probably look into switching jobs.

“Sales cures all” – Mark Cuban

If you’re selling and producing it’ll make up for your failures and mistakes. Fun fact; this is one of the things that led to Mark Cuban’s success. He worked for a guy that didn’t value his output because he didn’t follow the “rules”. Mark tells the story of how he got in trouble for closing a huge sale because he was late to opening up the store he was running at the time – how crazy is that!? You should always follow the money and close the sale! After all, closing that sale determines everyone’s paycheck and means life or death for your business.

Violation and negative uses of the Kantian Fairness Tendency can also bring forth the disliking/hating tendency (more on that here), that leads to prejudice. This isn’t something that is alright at work or in life but everyone experiences it.

3 Ways to Use the Kantian Fairness Tendency to Your Advantage

You can use this to your advantage in sales and to help drive you performance. These quick strategies will help you become more successful. Give your clients food, water, toys, etc. Seriously, you need to hustle and do small favors and kindnesses for all your clients. Kill them with kindness! While you may be working in sales, you are also working with people. Being the first to initiate a kind gesture, whether it be a friendly greeting or a bottle of water in July, makes people feel welcome and at home. Your untainted generosity creates a positive environment for both work and sales.

Give your clients friendly suggestions and look out for their best interest. If your gifts get rejected you can always give intangible value. You have to look out for your client’s best interest. They can tell if you care about them or if you are trying to get at their pocket book, that being said, if someone is looking at something that’ll fall apart quickly suggest a higher quality item that’ll hold up longer. And vice versa too; if someone is looking at something that’s way too much for their needs then suggest a downgrade, this builds trust and then you can suggest items that’ll amplify their purchase.

Give your clients good deals. You can do favors for you clients by working them offers they cannot refuse. This means stacking deals, not slashing margins! Giving a customer a free product or service to work them a better deal is a great tactic. The Guinness Book record holder for car sales stated one of his two main strategies was to work his clients great deals (law of reciprocity/trust) and to write them all holiday cards (random kindness/top of mind tactic). People want to know they are getting a great value for their money and no one likes feeling like they are screwed; I know I hate it. The feeling even will keep me up at night. This is where buyers remorse sets in, meaning you can lose sales and, more importantly, your customer’s trust. No trust means no business.
This golden rule is great, but people can easily use it to their advantage. Be aware of your surroundings to ensure that you are prepared for the tiniest of negotiation and psychological tactics. Let these suggestions become the wind under your wings that help you get to new heights with customers. They’ll push you towards massive numbers that make your bank account soar!

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Be great,

Cody Cameron