"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 study, 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," they added.
The researchers said that revealing personal information helps service providers create connections and initiate conversations with customers.
However, 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," the authors added.
The study appears in the Journal of Consumer Research.