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The Salesperson's Guide to Gift-Giving
By Michael Dalton Johnson, SalesDog

A carefully-selected gift shows your customers how much you appreciate them.

Anyone braving the shopping malls during the holiday season knows that finding the perfect gift for family or friends is not easy. Business gift-giving can be even more challenging. Choosing the right business gift requires more time and thoughtfulness. How do you go about selecting exactly the right gift for that important client? Here are some time-honored rules of thumb:
  • Reject run-of-the-mill. Shun the ho hum food baskets and opt for a more memorable gift. Check your client notes. What are his hobbies? Does he golf, cook or play sports? If your client, the gourmet cook, is still raving about the meals he enjoyed during his vacation in Tuscany, send him a beautifully illustrated regional cookbook. Your gift, and you, will be remembered far longer than a generic tin of cookies.

  • No advertising! When is a gift not a gift? When it comes with your company's logo on it. Save the logo-imprinted pens, paperweights, mouse pads and calculators for trade shows. And gift certificates from your own company are not really gifts. They're promotions that make you look stingier than Scrooge. Instead, send a gift certificate from a national department store or ecommerce site.

  • The ultimate in thoughtfulness is a gift you make yourself. This is especially true around the holidays. Unless your customer is a Martha Stewart type, she probably has little time to make much of anything. Gifts of homemade cookies, candy or preserves will be greatly appreciated. Packaging is important with homemade presents, so make them look pretty!

  • Women love chocolate. In this case, think quality, not quantity. A small box of exquisite, handmade truffles will be appreciated far more than a big box of run-of-the-mill chocolates. Gourmet coffees and teas, crystal items and potted plants are usually a hit. Remember, a saleswoman may send more personal items-aromatherapy candles, a spa kit-to her stressed-out female clients, but salesmen should not be so familiar. Sorry guys - that is life. You are not in the club.

  • Men love gadgets, toys and food. Think of the latest electronics, or a clever desktop novelty. High-quality pens, nuts or jellybeans also score highly with men. Cigars are a great idea if you know he smokes them. Once again, think quality, not quantity. It's far better to send a few of the very best than a box of duds he will throw away.

  • Think regional. Consider sending a gift from your region of the country: Ghirardelli chocolate from San Francisco, smoked salmon from the Northwest, cheese from Wisconsin, citrus fruit from Florida or California, authentic Cajun fixin's from Louisiana, or barbecue sauce from Texas. Cleverly packaged, these unique local gifts (and you) will be remembered far longer than a generic tin of cookies.

  • Do not overspend.  Many companies have strict rules on the value of gifts that employees may accept. When in doubt, send a fun gift that can be shared by the whole office, rather than one expensive gift for your client.

  • Beware of booze. Alcoholic beverages are usually risky business. The one exception is when you know someone loves a certain brand of Scotch, a particular bottle of wine, or a regional microbrew. Never send a bottle of champagne to that key account in Salt Lake City or for that matter, frozen steaks to a customer who is vegetarian. Don't laugh-it happens!

  • Everyone gets a card. All clients, large and small, should receive a holiday card. Avoid religious themes (stick to "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greeting"), and again, no advertising. You'd be surprised how many people can't resist putting their business tagline or logo on a greeting card!

  • Think New Year's. If you run out of time to plan or shop for the holidays, get the cards in the mail and send an appropriate New Year's gift. Think pens, desk clocks, or paperweights, packaged with noisemakers and streamers. Timing your gift to arrive right before New Year's is a great way to stand apart from everyone else.
A carefully-selected gift shows your customers how much you appreciate them. Give your giving the time and effort it deserves, and you will impress your customers, and be fondly remembered when it is time to buy again.

Michael Dalton Johnson is the Editor & Publisher of  "Top Dog Sales Secrets", the best-selling sales book featuring; advice from 50 renowned sales experts. He is the Founder and Publisher of, an education resource for sales professionals. Johnson is a successful entrepreneur with over 30 years of business leadership. For a free subscription to his weekly sales tips newsletter, visit his website at

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