If you're sending a holiday gift to a customer, make sure it will build a better relationship.
With the holiday season on us, you might be thinking about gifting your customers to help build a closer business relationship. While that's often a good idea, according to Jerry Acuff, author of the book The Relationship Edge, gifting can backfire if you don't know the rules:
1. DON'T give expensive gifts.
Unless you're selling very big ticket items, an expensive gift seems more like a bribe than a gift. That's especially true in B2B relationships, where the customer is likely to resent a gift that's intended to make the customer feel obligated to continue to buy from you.
2. DO follow laws and regulations.
There are some professions where accepting a gift from a client is either unethical or illegal. Journalists, for example, are forbidden to accept gifts from companies they cover. Gifts presented to government officials can also be dicey. Find out what's legal first.
3. DON'T gift mere prospects.
Giving a gift too early in a business relationship is like when a guy shows up on a blind date with a dozen roses. It just makes him seem desperate. Gifts are only appropriate if you've got an ongoing business relationship that involves mutual regard and respect.
4. DO gift something meaningful.
A gift that ties into a customer's outside interest and which is unusual is more likely to be memorable than something that's generic or might appeal to anybody. The more it matches the customer, the more it will be appreciated.
5. DON'T gift promotional items.
If a "gift" has your corporate logo on it, you are asking the customer to provide you with free advertising, so it is not really a gift. If a "gift" is something that you'd hand out at a trade show, don't be surprised if the customer is insulted.
GEOFFREY JAMES writes "Sales Source on Inc.com," the world's most-read sales-oriented blog. His new book, Business Without the Bullsh*t, will be published in early 2014. To get weekly blog updates, sign up for his free "Insider" newsletter. @Sales_Source