Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Lies


Yesterday I told you about reciprocity and how – if used ethically – it’s a fantastic way to start a conversation with a prospect, and keep it going.

Today, I’m showing you an example of how it should not be used.


I’m strolling through the streets of Granada with a friend.

There’s a throng of tourists and locals in the street.

The sun’s out and life is good.

Suddenly there is a middle-aged lady in front of us, dressed in black.

She looks fairly unkempt and has the sly look of a crow in her eyes.


She thrusts her arm out at us, proffering a twig of rosemary.

Emphatically she jiggles the sprig at us, insisting we take it from her.

I know who she is – the city is full of them.

I know their game, and I know it’s filthy.

So I walk on, looking straight ahead, saying clearly ‘No, gracias’.

My friend however doesn’t know what’s going on and thinks it’s a friendly gesture.

Quite what she wants him to believe.

“Take it – it brings good fortune!”

He takes the twig from her, and at that point he’s lost. And she knows it

As soon as she lets go of the twig she grabs his hand and starts reading his palm.

He tries to pull his hand back but she’s locked onto it like a pit-bull.

She mutters some nonsense about his future at him, and then holds out her hand.

“Pay me”.

“Martin, pay her? What for – what’s going on?”

“You’re screwed mate. You shouldn’t have taken that twig. Now you’ll have to give her a five-Euro bill or more, or you’ll never get rid of her”.


“Very seriously. See that group of women over there? Those are her cronies. If you don’t give her some money, they’ll all be over in a second, and they’ll start shouting and threatening us until we do give something.

Just don’t look at her, give her some money, and instantly walk away – fast.”

People like that woman use the reciprocity mechanism, but they abuse it

They know that by ‘giving’ something first, the recipient will feel indebted.

That in itself isn’t wrong – but what she does with it is simply vile.

See, when you give a prospect something, what you’re doing is asking for permission to talk to them.

It’s up to them to decide whether it’s worth their time.

At any time, your permission may be revoked.

“Thanks, but I’m not interested”. If you have any sort of ethics, that’s when you’ll stop.

They close the door – why push on?

Those ladies though, they manipulate, force, cajole, they use emotional blackmail – they’re rip-off artists.


Careful with the powers you assume. Reciprocity is massively powerful, and it brings responsibility.

Use it wrongly, and it will backfire horribly.


Remember: All you can reasonably ask – not expect: ask – from a prospect is that they hear you out.

And if they don’t, can’t or won’t? Then you suck it up, and ask permission of the next person.

But never abuse that permission given.


Being allowed to market to someone is a dear privilege. Treat it with care.






P.s. If you have permission from your list to talk to them, one of the best ways to do it is with email marketing. Done right, it gets you fans, clients and brand ambassadors. And you’ll never have to resort to dubious tactics.

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Martin helped our co-working space get to full occupancy and $25.000 monthly revenue in less than a year.

~ Antonio Herrezuelo,
Avenida Capital

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