I was involved in a fairly large opportunity where they had an eight member team that was to recommend the vendor. After a long process, where many times we thought we were in the lead, we lost the deal. Heart breaker. During the sales process Starbucks Coffee was offered. Not a bad thing right? Except my salesman did it almost every week, sometimes a couple of times a week, to the person heading up the decision. There were some serious politics between this team that we weren’t exactly privy to. Prior to one of the meetings this same salesman sent a message to all eight asking what they would like to drink. He said “I already know what Jill wants how about the rest?” At that point she went out of her way to not show us any favoritism. Prior to this she had been our advocate.
In another instance trying to woo a potential customer with a game of golf seemed to be working. For a while. As time went by my sales pro started to get nervous and offered another game of golf against my recommendation. It was flatly turned down as they now felt it was going against company policy. He then could not get them to return calls and/or emails.
While these two examples were not the only reasons for losing these deals I firmly believe they “tipped the scale” away from us.
What is a business relationship?
“Every issue, belief, attitude or assumption is precisely the issue that stands between you and your relationship to another human being…” I have found that my best business relationships have been founded on trust and respect. Without either there really is no relationship.
Where to draw the line?
In both of the previous examples trust and respect became suspect. Offering refreshments for a meeting is perfectly harmless. Lunch would work as well. Twice a week for a couple of months is simply over the top. If you and/or your customer feel uncomfortable then it’s too much. You should realize this, however, before the offer is made.
What act or gift works for one customer may very well insult another. You have to be adept enough to gauge the potential client. You have to resist the temptation that “more is good”. Like emails, gifts’ purpose and/or meaning can be misread. I would go so far as to say most of the time they are. Then there’s the politics of who gets what and why. A sticky business at best. This is why I usually pass on gifts. It’s just too easy to jeopardize your opportunity.
Today’s sales arena is as competitive as I have ever seen. We are all looking for the “edge” the “differentiator”. Experience has taught me gifts really don’t work for this. What does work is professional salesmanship. Do your due diligence. You need to understand the opportunity in an in-depth manner as to resolve the customers concerns and pains. Then prove this by offering a relevant solution. No tricks, gimmicks, gifts. Just solid salesmanship. At the end of the day you will win more deals and your customers will thank you.