It is the time of year we traditionally think of a way of thanking a customer or referral partner, and we toy with whether to send a prospect some sort of a gift.
First off, it can be a hassle and really does need pre-planning. Also, in many cases there are companies with strict gift receiving policies – especially bigger companies. This is because, as a sales professional you don’t want to seem like you’re trying to buy your customer’s business nor reward them for being your customer. I think because I spent five years early in my sales career working with the biggest American airplane company - whose buyers had a strictly-enforced $10 gift receiving limit (back in the day) I learned quickly to be creative, not extravagant.
Even in a smaller company, a very nice gift for your client can be extremely uncomfortable for them to accept - although they have no firm policy against gifts, it is important that you consider the possible fallout of the perception from others - even if your recipient is OK with it.
So when Gary Vee talks about buying a Jay Cutler jersey for a client or prospect because someone on his team saw in social media that the person has a love for a player or team - very few of us can pull off giving a several hundred dollar gift - cool as it may be. You, however, have so many other options -- you don't need to try to be Gary Vee.
A gift should be simply a token of appreciation - showing that you went out of your way to think of them or better yet, LEARN about them -- and it should be as personalized as possible. It should not be too expensive because that is not appropriate for a buyer / vendor / partner relationship.
Here are my top ideas for what to send a customer, a prospect, or a strategic referrer to show appreciation during the holiday season.
I'll preface my tips to remind you to PLAN WELL IN ADVANCE. If you are mailing something it can take extra time to reach your intended person - especially these days. If your contact works remotely (they most likely do) - they may not want to give out their home address. If it is someone important, be sure to send Priority in the mail system or use FedEx or UPS to track that it was delivered. It is well worth the fee to know that it actually got to the recipient’s corporate offices. (note: since Covid-19, I don't surprise anyone by sending a gift. I will have someone on my team email them to see if they will be "around" next week, for example - and confirm their address. Worse than not sending, is sending something that is never received.
My #1 tip for a holiday gift is to donate to your contact’s favorite charity. I don’t mean the charity supported at the company they work for….although it could be. Most business folks volunteer or help with some smaller, local charity that has meaning because of a family or friend connection to it. Ask early on when they are new to being a customer or in a conversation about other things if they volunteer and if so, for whom?
Most of the time you can donate online and get an email sent to the person you’ve donated on their behalf for – or some will mail them a note. Make sure the charity / non-profit follows through, and let your contact know that you did this because you knew it would mean something to them.
Make it better by sending a gift box that supports worthy organizations and small businesses. I recently learned about a gifting company called Packed with Purpose. They thoughtfully select products for their gift boxes from companies that support great causes and non-mainstream businesses, including BIPOC led companies, women owned, and B Corp's.
#2 Books – either a “real” book shipped through Amazon or a Kindle gift, depending on the person’s preference. You may need to ask which type of reader they are, as a passing comment in a conversation. I prefer mailing an actual book to simply sending an Amazon gift card, and this way I can often support my local bookstores. I also support my business author friends by buying several copies of their latest book when one launches, and have them at the ready to mail.
#3 Professional Development – sites like CreativeLive offer a “Creator's Pass" which you can gift to someone.
#4 Gift Cards – still very easy as you can order most digitally. I look for a card that has broad appeal – meaning it will be of use to more people than a brand I may like but others don’t know about, AND I look for ease of my ordering the gift card(s). Starbucks is very easy to gift, so are many others. With a coffee card, you can also suggest making a time for an actual "coffee" with them.
#5 Handwritten Poem – If you are a good writer and can convey a verse or two about the company or recipient in a fun or funny manner, this can be a very special gift. There are lots of people online who can turn it into something even further with calligraphy and graphics.
#6 Use a gift platform – It is so easy now to use a gifting site like Alyce, Postal, or Sendoso where they can send out a group of gifts at the same time in a very simple way since they have done all of the pre-work and they streamline the sending. They can also include your swag that you send them in advance. Since the pandemic, these mailing companies all created great digital gift distribution as well.
#7 Regional gifts – Since Score More Sales is based in Seacoast New Hampshire, we have some great options to send our partners and clients gifts around lobster, chowdah, or from our friends at Stonewall Kitchen who make jams, mustards, and lots of great gifts for foodies. How about goat milk soaps from a local farm? Check out Joy Lane Farm - another small business near me who were literally saved by their customers during the Covid-19 years. One of the great things about living in a fairly rural area is that we have so many farms, farm products and crafters nearby. You cannot go wrong in your customer's eyes supporting good local businesses. We also look for BIPOC-led companies and women-owned businesses.
#8 Immortalize a Saying – if your prospect, or referral partner, or customer has a saying they always say or are known for, have a calligrapher create it on paper and frame that as a gift. It shows you were paying attention – and is not a high dollar gift so is a great one all-around. Could also work for a corporate tagline. For example, I often say, "Never confuse sales activity with sales accomplishment" or N-C-S-A-W-S-A!! If anyone had that made for me on a lightweight sign or board, I'd put it right up in my office.
#9 Logo’ed items – be careful with placing your own logo onto "gifts" for your customers because, well, they are really just promo items for them to remember you by, right? We've had a few nicer items given out with our logo on them that people appreciate, like YETI mugs. Because they are YETI mugs, people use them. We also have a logo that resonates with sellers and sales leaders: "Score More Sales".
#10 Handwritten note – A thoughtful note on a great, artsy or special notecard can go far – and while is not a cool gift from Amazon it IS something that most buyers or customers will keep – especially if it is personalized and meaningful in some way. These take time to do. I often will write note cards in an evening or on a weekend when I can focus. Buy really nice ones online at Papersource or the Museum of Modern Art gift shop - for unique ideas.
Take a look at the book, Get the Meeting by best-selling author Stu Heinecke for many more ideas – especially if your goal is to land a meeting rather than simply thank someone – there are hundreds of ideas here. Next we'll talk about how to thank and appreciate strategic referrers.
Lori Richardson is CEO of Score More Sales, a top B2B sales strategy firm helping mid-sized companies grow revenues by solving key issues in their sales department - like recruiting, retention, diversity hiring, process, pipeline and leadership Lori is also President of Women's Sales Pros - a community created to help move the needle for more women in sales and sales leadership roles. Lori helps She speaks at CEO groups on topics of sales growth and the importance and value of diversity. Clients include companies in the technology, telecom, manufacturing, distribution, and professional services industries.
Lori received the 2019 "Lifetime Achievement Award" from AA-ISP (American Association for Inside Sales Professionals - The Global Inside Sales Association) and is a Salesforce 2021 Top Sales Influencer..
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