What a coincidence! Personal connections improve sales

Jul 20, 2009

If a salesperson shares a birthday or a birthplace with you, you're more likely to make a purchase and feel good about it, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"This research examines how the fundamental human need to connect with others plays a role in sales encounters," write authors Lan Jiang, JoAndrea Hoegg, Darren W. Dahl (all University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC), and Amitava Chattopadhyay (INSEAD, Singapore).

In one of the studies, a personal trainer introduced participants to a fitness program. People who discovered that they shared the same birthday with the trainer reported that they liked the program better and were more interested in purchasing a membership.

In another study, patients who learned that they were born in the same place as a dentist reported a more favorable attitude toward the dental care they received and showed a higher willingness to book their next appointment with that same clinic.

"Across individuals, we found that naturally social people are more responsive to such coincidences," write the authors. "On the other hand, people who tend to isolate themselves from the outside world are less sensitive."

The researchers concluded that revealing personal information helps service providers create connections and initiate conversations with customers. When information is provided on nametags (as Disney does with employees' hometowns) or on websites (as many health organizations and fitness centers do), most consumers react positively. However, when service providers exhibit negative behavior, like rudeness, the shared similarity loses its positive influence.

Finally, faking a connection is not an effective sales tactic. "Creating misleading or fake similarities with a customer as a persuasion technique could lead to negative outcomes if the similarities are found to be disingenuous," write the authors. "To mitigate the chances of this outcome, salespeople must be careful not to falsely claim similarities."

More information: Lan Jiang, JoAndrea Hoegg, Darren W. Dahl, and Amitava Chattopadhyay. "The Persuasive Role of Incidental Similarity on Attitudes and Purchase Intentions in a Sales Context." : February 2010 (published online June 26, 2009).

Source: University of Chicago (news : web)

Explore further: Willingness-to-pay for monorail services in Penang, Malaysia

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

More than meets the tongue

Feb 12, 2007

Does orange juice taste sweeter if it's a brighter orange? A new study in the March issue of the Journal of Consumer Research finds that the color of a drink can influence how we think it tastes. In fact, the researchers found ...

Extended service contracts: When and why do people buy them?

Jun 15, 2009

Consumer experts have long recommended against buying Extended Service Contracts (ESCs) with products, since they are rarely cost effective. A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research examines the reasons why so man ...

Recommended for you

Extra time in math class has its minuses, scholar says

Jul 21, 2014

(Phys.org) —Eric Taylor, a PhD student at Stanford University's Center for Education Policy Analysis, found that students who spent more of the school day in math class had higher math scores, but the gains ...

User comments : 0