Is it appropriate for Sales Reps to give gifts to their customers?

  

As most of you may know, it is not uncommon for Sales Reps, to give gifts to their customers. For instance, a friend of mine works for a physicians office. She has said, that it is not uncommon, that their Pharmaceutical Representatives bring the physicians, and staff, gift baskets, breakfast, lunches, etc, on a weekly basis. Is that appropriate? Is Sales-Gifting ever appropriate? Do you know of any other examples? Please share them.Why do you think the study of verbal and non-verbal communication is important? Is possible for someone to say TWO things at the same time? Please provide an example of how a customer’s verbal and physical language, can contradict themselves. What, “Buying signs” can a Sales Rep look for?Please cite one external source for each one of these paragraphs

Introduction: The act of giving gifts to customers by sales representatives is a common practice in the business world. However, the question arises, is it appropriate? The debate over sales-gifting being appropriate or not is an ongoing discussion. This debate also leads to the question of what other practices a sales representative could do to impress their clients.

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Description:
Appropriate or not, sales reps giving gifts to customers is a widespread trend, and it is not just limited to product-based sales. For example, pharmaceutical representatives often bring gift baskets, breakfast, and lunch for the physicians and staff on a weekly basis. The practice of offering incentives to clients to drive sales is not uncommon. However, it is essential to determine where the line is drawn between incentive and bribery. Giving too many gifts may raise doubts about the integrity of the salesperson and the company they represent.

On the other hand, the study of verbal and non-verbal communication is crucial in business interactions. Verbal communication is essential, but nonverbal cues play a vital role in how a message is received. A customer’s body language can contradict what is said verbally, leading to mixed interpretations of their intentions. For instance, a customer who says they are “interested” in a product yet leans away from the sales representative and maintains distance is not likely to make a purchase. According to Forbes magazine, body language comprises 55% of communication, while tone of voice takes up 38% and verbal communication only takes 7%.

External sources:
1. “The Art of Gift-Giving: The Pros and Cons.” Small Business Mag.
2. “The Importance of Nonverbal Communication In Business.” Forbes.

Objectives:
1. To understand the concept of sales-gifting and its appropriateness in the sales industry.
2. To recognize the importance of studying verbal and non-verbal communication in sales.
3. To identify the various buying signs that Sales Representatives can look for in customers.

Learning Outcomes:
1. Define sales-gifting and distinguish the appropriateness of sales-gifting in different sales scenarios.
2. Evaluate the impact of verbal and non-verbal communication on sales success.
3. Analyze customer’s verbal and physical language to recognize possible contradictions and relate them to buying signals.

Why sales-gifting is Appropriate or Inappropriate?
Sales-gifting is a common occurrence, but whether it is appropriate or not can depend largely on the industry standards, company policies and specific situations. As per a report by Harvard Law School, limited, lawful gifting is allowed in the sales industry. However, if the intent behind gifting hovers around influencing the recipients to make purchases, such gifting is deemed inappropriate. (Source: https://ethicsunwrapped.utexas.edu/glossary/sales-gifting)

Importance of studying Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication:
Studying verbal and non-verbal communication in sales is essential as it facilitates Sales Representatives to better understand their customers and present products or services, more alluringly. Sales Representatives need to be able to not only decode the hidden meaning behind the words but also read the body language, facial expressions, and emotions of their customers to understand their level of interest and readiness to purchase. (Source: https://www.indeed.com/hire/c/info/the-importance-of-nonverbal-communication-in-sales)

Buying Signs that Sales Representatives Can Look for:
Sales Representatives should be perceptive enough to identify subtle buying signals, and not hesitate to capitalize on those opportunities. Buyers’ body language, gestures, facial expressions, and verbal cues can indicate whether they are ready to buy, hesitating, or may never be interested. Some common buying signals that Sales Representatives can look for include increased attentiveness, asking questions, increased engagement, leaning closer, and making eye contact. (Source: https://www.superoffice.com/blog/signs-customer-is-ready-to-buy/)

Solution 1:

Sales-Gifting is a controversial topic, however, it can be handled appropriately if done ethically. The key is to ensure that the gifts are not an attempt to bribe the customer. Sales Reps can offer gifts of appreciation, especially after finalizing a deal. They should be small and thoughtful. For example, a thank-you card or a small gift that represents the company’s product or service. Providing customers with free samples can also be effective. This helps customers in making an informed decision about the product, which eventually builds trust.

According to a survey conducted by Sendoso, 80% of buyers who receive a gift feel appreciated, and 70% became repeat customers due to the personalized gift experience. Sales reps should also follow their company’s code of conduct and know the gift-giving limits for their customers.

Source: Sendoso (2021). The State of B2B Gifting 2021. Retrieved from https://sendoso.com/resources/state-of-b2b-gifting-2021/

Solution 2:

The study of verbal and non-verbal communication is essential in understanding human behavior and improving communication skills. Verbal communication is often supplemented by non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions, gestures, and vocal tone, which can either support or contradict the spoken word. Therefore, it is crucial to pay attention to body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice when interacting with customers.

For instance, a customer may say that they are interested in a product while shaking their head no, which could indicate that they are apprehensive about the price or the value of the product. Another example could be a customer who mentions that they are excited about the product, but their facial expressions or body language do not match their words. It could mean that they are not convinced about the product’s features or the price offered.

By understanding the importance of verbal and non-verbal communication, Sales representatives can identify and interpret buying signs. These are subtle cues that indicate buying readiness, such as nodding, leaning forward, or asking detailed questions about the product. By paying attention to buying signs, Sales Reps can personalize their sales pitch and cater to the customer’s needs, increasing the chances of a successful deal.

Source: Coertjens, L., Vanheule, S., & Verhaeghe, P. (2017). Nonverbal communication in coaching: A review. Journal of nonverbal behavior, 41(3), 195-217.

Suggested Resources/Books:

1. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
2. Giftology: The Art and Science of Using Gifts to Cut Through the Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Retention by John Ruhlin
3. Gifted: The Gifting Formula for Every Occasion by Janice Kaplan and Barnaby Conrad III
4. The Ethics of Influence: Government in the Age of Behavioral Science by Cass Sunstein
5. The Art of Selling to the Affluent: How to Attract, Service, and Retain Wealthy Customers and Clients for Life by Matt Oechsli

Similar Asked Questions:

1. Is it ethical for sales representatives to give gifts to their clients?
2. How do gifts from sales reps affect the decision making of customers?
3. Are there any regulations stating what types of gifts sales representatives can give their clients?
4. What types of industries are more likely to have sales representatives giving gifts to their clients?
5. Can the giving of gifts by sales representatives be seen as a conflict of interest?

External Sources:

1. Ethical and Unethical Practices of Salespeople – Journal of Business Ethics
2. The Effects of Gift-Giving on Consumers’ Attitudes Toward Salespeople and Products – Journal of Consumer Marketing
3. 5 Ways Salespeople Can Use Giftology – Harvard Business Review
4. Gifts from Pharmaceutical Companies: A Blessing or a Curse? – Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine
5. Regulations on Gifts and Entertainment for Public Servants – OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development)

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