ROTISSERIE: Persuasion 101: How to Encourage Trades

How do we persuade our fellow fanalytic team owners to trade with us?  This article focuses on ethical persuasion techniques that work, not only in fantasy baseball but in life in general. 

Why ethical persuasion?  If the golden rule is not good enough, then consider self-interest.  Ripping off a fellow owner reduces trade possibilities next time, and can create a bad reputation among others in the league.

Ever wonder why some kids were popular in high school, while others were not?  Many of the same rules about likability that applied in high school apply to fantasy baseball as well.  If your league mates like you, they are more likely to want to trade with you.  (Some of the persuasion techniques and thoughts on likability listed below draw on the works of Robert Cialdini, PhD and his comrades, including 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive.  Others come straight from Ron Shandler and our holy disciples at BaseballHQ.com.)

It’s not all about you, so look at things from the other guy’s point of view:  News flash: Other GMs do not care about your team!  They couldn't care less about your need for an ace pitcher; they have their own wants and team needs.  If you hope to trade, it’s your responsibility to scope out their respective strengths, weaknesses, worries and desires.  This cannot be stressed enough. 

Ask yourself: How can a trade help your trading partner?  Shandler suggests that we “try this trick: pretend you're every other guy in your league, and make a pitch to yourself!”  What do I have on my team that will improve my trade partner’s position in the standings?  Or if he’s rebuilding this year, what potential keepers on my team will he find attractive?  Once you can answer those questions, you can begin to shape a trade that may appeal to him—and help your team as well.

Know your trading partner:  What else do you know about his fantasy priorities? GMs may have other predilections that transcend winning.  Some may want more home team players on their team.  We’ve all seen fanalytic owners mired in their league’s basement, who just want somebody on their team to root for after the All Star break.

GMs may have other strategic preferences or prejudices.  Some never own closers, preferring to maximize wins and strikeouts. That means they may be loath to trade for your closers, no matter the potential gain.  Others may be partial to prospects, or big-name stars.   Don’t butt your head against the wall—go after low-hanging fruit, in the form of owners who will likely appreciate your trade goods.

Similarly, be extremely cautious (and even gentle) about promoting early dump trades.  Don’t try to convince a fellow owner to execute a dump trade for keepers if he is not yet ready to rebuild for next year.  If you insult him and his team, you may only make him mad.  When he finally does decide to cash in his chips for keepers, he may be more likely to trade his valuable players to another contender, leaving you stranded.  Sending an opener like this is not recommended:

“Hey, it’s now the first week of June and I notice you are still in last place.  If you are ready to give up and start rebuilding for next year, I’d be happy to take Kemp off your hands.”

Instead, a milder inquiry might be less offensive:

“Hey, we’re now headed into glorious June, and I was wondering about your ongoing plans for your team.  Is there any way that a trade with my team might help you reach your goals?”

If he then replies that he’s thinking about throwing in the towel for the season, that’s your clue to suggest trading him keepers for next year.

Get to know your trading partners personallyHopefully this revelation doesn’t come as a shock, but we are more inclined to make trades with fellow owners we know personally.  Whether we go out for beers or watch a ball game together, it’s easier to trade with people we like. Many a trade has been hatched over lunch or drinks – because we humans are biologically programmed to like people with whom we share food or beverages. Even if our trade communication is primarily through email, it doesn’t hurt to make a personal connection first, maybe months in advance.

Use the principle of reciprocity:  We feel obligated to return favors extended to us.  So maybe buy the beer, the lunch, or game tickets.  Dr. Cialdini teaches that the first to give service, information or concessions is often the beneficiary of even greater favors in return.  Just remember—don’t overtly ask for a quid pro quo. Ever. That’s payment for services, and it spoils any reciprocal good feeling.

Capitalize on the principle of scarcity:  If you have a hot surplus commodity to trade—whether closer, slugger, burner or ace—creating a sense of urgency among your competitors is often useful.  On this site some years ago, Shandler mentioned sending an email to top contenders in his keeper league, putting his high-salaried stars up for trade in return for solid keepers.  Solid trade offers from all three contenders promptly rushed in and he was able to make them compete against each other to provide the best offer. Why? Because he offered a scarce commodity, with each contender fearing the likelihood of falling behind if a rival made a massive trade with Shandler instead.

Finally, don’t try to exert pressure:  It seldom makes sense to be unpleasant, so pressuring or badgering a fellow owner is a questionable tactic. Preserve your reputation for likeability, and you will be more likely to make good trades in the future.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.