This is always a tricky time of the year to be able to juggle how you want to thank a purchasing department you’ve worked with and yet ensure you’re in compliance with any rules or policies your buyer’s company may have.

This can be an extremely slippery slope and if you do it right, you can score points and develop new relationships.  If you do it wrong, you can make your buyer feel uncomfortable or even get him or her in trouble. Even worse, you may put at risk your personal stature and integrity with the account.

A few tips to help you through this process:

Check the account’s website. Many of them have a set of “supplier guidelines” that will spell out how vendors are to deal with buyers.

Never give a gift of alcohol unless you know specifically the customer is 100% ok with it.

Never send a gift of any value to a customer’s home address or any address other than their work address, unless you have written approval to do so from the buyer’s superior.

Never send a gift that will be perceived as potentially buying the business or seen as being out of line with what other vendors are providing the customer.

Never give a gift that does not match your company’s values and your own values, as the gift you give does and will say something about you and your company.

Look to give a gift the office can appreciate and benefit from.

Look to give a gift that will allow your name and your company’s name to be recognized in the office.

Look to give a gift of modest value.

Always make sure the gift you give includes a personal note from you.

Always try to deliver the gift in person.

Don’t hesitate to ask how they enjoyed your gift the next time you’re visiting the customer.

Now if you’re wondering what types of gifts I recommend, it’s simple. I suggest some type of a food item the entire office can enjoy. The specific type depends on the resources you have available.    Once you find something that works, stick with it. There is nothing wrong with delivering the same gift year in and year out — in fact, for many offices, they’ll begin to know you for the particular gift you deliver and they’ll look forward to it.

Copyright 2010, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter.” Sales Motivation Blog.

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