by John Ruhlin
The holidays are upon us, which means it’s time to give gifts to clients and important business partners. But before you sign that purchase order for branded tins of flavored popcorn, you should stop and think about what you’re doing. Gifts are an important investment in your company’s relationships and its reputation, and you can’t afford to take shortcuts.
Most companies give ho-hum holiday gifts that get lost in the hustle and bustle of the season. Clients notice when you cut corners, and giving out knickknacks with your logo on them is not going to make a great impression. Exceptional entrepreneurs give gifts that exceed expectations and are focused on making the recipient feel special. These gifts will leave a positive impression that remains long after the holidays end.
Here are five reasons your company should give more than is reasonable this holiday season.
1. A Gift Represents a Relationship
People don’t make purely transactional business decisions. They also consider relationships. They do business with people they like and trust. If you go above and beyond with your gift, that item will remind the recipient of your unique relationship and make him feel good about doing business with you.
One of my favorite gifts is custom cutlery. My clients spend quality time preparing and sharing meals with the people they love most, and a custom-made knife will become a family heirloom. Each time they use the knife to prepare a family meal, they feel valued. And when people feel valued, they remember who made them feel that way.
2. Distinguished Gifts Distinguish You
Gifts aren’t just a reminder of existing relationships; they’re also a way to build new ones. Giving beyond what is reasonable means giving gifts that distinguish your company from the companies that are competing for your prospects’ attention.
There are two things you can do immediately to elevate your company’s gifts: Ditch the logo and splurge. Too many companies fall into the trap of giving “gifts” that have their name and logo on them. A great gift isn’t an advertisement, and your clients aren’t billboards for your business.
Instead of using your name and logo on a run-of-the-mill trinket, buy your client a best-in-class gift. If you can’t afford a Rolex, don’t buy a watch. Choose another gift category, and max out. A classic, usable gift from a quality brand will elevate you in the eyes of your clients.
3. Gifts Help You Stay Top of Mind
When you spell someone’s name correctly on a handwritten note that accompanies a thoughtful gift, you’ll become the “surprise and delight” guy people remember. Your calls will be returned more quickly, your employees will work harder on your behalf, and clients will go out of their way to let you know when a new opportunity comes up.
If you aren’t sure how to select the kind of gift that surprises and delights, here’s a tip: Remember the recipient’s spouse. Businesspeople are wined and dined all the time, while husbands, wives, and kids are usually left out. When you give gifts that your clients or partners can share with their families, it makes them look good. And when they look good, you look good, too.
4. Gift Givers Receive the Benefit of the Doubt
Giving more than is reasonable can also help you hold on to clients. We all strive for perfection, but we still make mistakes. We miss deadlines or make errors on invoices, and junior employees do and say embarrassing things. If a best-in-class gift for a client seems expensive now, consider the cost of losing that same client later.
Exceptional holiday gifts are insurance policies against those inevitable missteps. When you’re generous with people, they’ll associate you with high standards. When your company makes a mistake, your client may give you the benefit of the doubt.
5. Reciprocity Is Part of Human Nature
Robert Cialdini, the author of one of the business world’s best books on persuasion, said that reciprocity was one of the six key principles of influence. Most people are wired to reciprocate, which means that a kind gesture is often repaid later.
A gift is an unspoken social contract, and giving more than is reasonable is an investment in the future.
This holiday season, distinguish yourself from your competitors, and elevate your relationships with employees, clients, and business partners by giving gifts that are above and beyond their expectations. Extend your generosity beyond what is reasonable, and you’ll be rewarded for years to come.
John Ruhlin is the founder and CEO of Ruhlin Group, a firm that specializes in high-level gifting plans to build relationships and acquire new clients. John is a sought-after speaker on the topics of C-level selling, relationship development, and strategic gifting, as well as co-author of the best-selling book, “Cutting Edge Sales.”
Steven Depolo | Courtesy of John Ruhlin