Why what you think works does not… and what to do instead
Practical sales advice based on conversations between experienced training consultants Fred Copestake and Clare O’Shea
Clare: Hi there. Fred. Nice to see you again. Today’s DON’T is ‘Don’t Gift’. So don’t give gifts to customers. Very interesting. Tell me more.
Fred: Sure, we just need to put this in context. I’m not talking about presents and giving them things. In many instances, you can’t do that anyway, so it’s not even a discussion. A lot of people say I can’t accept anything so don’t do it as it is a waste of time. Therefore, that’s not one to talk about. I’m talking about as we’re getting into negotiation or closer to negotiation where we just start to offer things up for no reason. That is what I define as a gift; we just give things away.
Clare: Okay. It’s all about stop giving things away.
Fred: It is about stop giving things away for no reason. So let’s have a think about why people think that this a good idea. It’s to do with value and trying to add value when you don’t really know what value is. It’s just adding a load of stuff hoping something in there is going to be of value for the customer. That’s one reason why people think it’s a good idea. By potentially putting things in which aren’t of any value, they waste it or maybe they are of value and it’s something that could be used far more effectively later on.
I think people also think its good idea because it’s about being liked. They want all their customers really like them because but putting extra in there and padding out the offer the will look at them with kinder eyes. Again, the customer might not even realize that that’s what you’ve done and even worse is the customer thinking ‘Well, that’s just pretty standard, that’s nothing special’ because they have not had to work for it.
I think people do it to make life easier. They figure it makes it easy to close a sale, because again, we’ll go back to the value issue. ‘See how much there is in there, look at this how wonderful it is. How can you possibly not want to do business with me?’
Clare: You think salespeople are doing it, because by giving lots of things, they’re thinking of the person will like me more, so they’re more likely to buy. I’ll just keep giving them things. They’ll think I’m wooing them basically.
Fred: Pretty much, that’s what’s going on. I think they’re trying to make life a little bit easier by making the customer’s think you’re great. But it just doesn’t work like that. That’s why it’s flawed. If the customer doesn’t recognize the value because it just is not useful to them then it’s irrelevant.
Clare: That’s interesting actually, I know a director, who is a friend of mine that received a remote helicopter from a supplier. A remote control helicopter and you had to phone up to get the remote-control access code. He thought it was crass, he felt uncomfortable… and he’s got his own plane anyway.
Fred: What plane? As in his own proper jet?
Clare: Not quite a jet, but he flies his own plane. On every single level, it just irritated him, and it wasn’t relevant, and it didn’t give him any interest at all.
Fred: That was just a silly little present. If they are going to give stuff they might as well say, ‘Look, I’m going to give you an extra three years on this license’
Fred: But the he still might be thinking ‘Well, I don’t even need that license. It’s just a waste, it’s of no value to me whatsoever and you must have got that free anyway’. Why would you want to give that away? Normally people pay for that and you just throw that in for no reason’.
Clare: The customer is not even valuing it.
Fred: If they’re not valuing it, or they look at it and think ‘Right that’s how it is then? What else have you got up your sleeve? If you’re just going to keep chucking things at me that I’ve not even asked for, wait till I start asking’. Now it’s going to get fun isn’t it? What else are they going to go get when they actually start trying
I’ve told you the story of when I’ve worked with professional buyers and was doing very, very formal, structured role plays and simulations. There was one buyer and she just totally owned the salesperson. She didn’t tear the poor guy apart, she just said the same thing again and again, and again, she just kept saying ‘What else… what else… what else… what else?’. She did it four times. The salesperson just kept giving. In the end, I had to stop it.
However, it was great when we all looked back at it. She said ‘Of course I’m going to do that, and the more you give it to me, I’m telling you it’s not going to stop. You only stopped me there Fred, you have tapped out for them. I’d have carried on doing that’
Clare: That’s the old cake slicer or salami slicing, cake slicing of the negotiation. Very Clever.
Fred: With just two words. What else
The other thing it does is it raises the bar. If you’ve given away lots of these things and then you stop the customer thinks, ‘Oh, what’s going on here now? You used to give me toy helicopters and software licenses and other sort of little things and trinkets and bits, some of which actually were useful to me; but now you’ve stopped? Oh, hang on a minute. What was this relationship built on?’. There’s a lot of flawed thinking in just purely giving things away.
Clare: If it’s flawed, what should they be doing instead?
Fred: Get to give. In a nutshell.
Swap, trade, bargain, negotiate. I don’t, care what word you use. The words that I would suggest you use are ‘If you… then I…’ That’s for me the core of negotiation. When we train it, that is what is in the 15 second negotiation course. It is always what it boils down to. If you do that, then I do that.
If you have got these things that you could potentially gift, don’t gift them swap them. You’ve heard me in training talk about ‘swapsies’. I’m using more and more childish language with this as in ‘swapsies’ because people can remember it. It’s kind of funny, and also, children are brilliant negotiators. They will always ‘do a swapsy’ as they’ll know the value of things. They won’t let stuff be traded, that isn’t a fair swap, that isn’t of good value. Now whether it’s your trading cards, marbles, sweeties, whatever. It’s like, ‘No, that doesn’t equal that, you’d have to do better there if you want to do that swap with me’.
Clare: I like the swapsies idea and I love the don’t give anything unless you’re getting something back. Hence the swapsy, only give to get.
Fred: Only give to get and it’s a good swapsy, it’s a decent trade. When I was a kid, it was those sticker albums, you know, with all football players in them and the club logo that used to be shiny. Now, a shiny was worth three players. You wouldn’t just swap a shiny for any player, unless it was a really good player, then you might consider it. It’s just knowing these different values.
Now we’re not trading stickers, but the mentality works. The way that we can then use this is to work out well what is of high value to them? Actually it could be this rubbish player because they haven’t got it. It’s the last one they need for that page. They really appreciate this. I’ve got four of them. Well, that doesn’t matter. It’s high value to them and it’s low or no cost to me. I’ve got four of them, it’s in my sticker album. It’s working out what that translates into in real life.
So that’s a good swap. They really value it. It’s not costing me a lot. That is no longer a gift. It’s a trade. That’s what the thinking is. That’s what we’re trying to do with that. When we say don’t gift, what we are saying is do trade.
Clare: That makes a lot of sense as well. As you say, the occasional gift in the past, maybe that’s still okay but most of that’s not allowed anyway. However, stop giving things away, link it to things and try and get something back for it. We’ve talked about this once before, which was that even something as simple as ‘If I give this to you, could you introduce me to somebody else?’ is good. Swapsies, or ‘tradables’ to give then a technical name, are great, and you can ask all sorts of things including actions, introductions and referrals.
Fred: Use those when we get into this trading phase of a sale, moving into negotiation. I even say people stop saying ‘give’, just take that word out of your vocabulary.
As soon as you take it away and start saying trade, or if you then just change your language pattern that starts to work far better.
I’m not saying, not to use ‘Oh, I saw this and thought of you’ as part of relationship building or this little piece of information or something that just is actually low cost, low value. That’s very much part of a different phase of selling, that’s part of building the relationship.
However, when we’re talking about the package and what we’re actually buying and selling, then what we’re talking about has got to be defined, it’s got to be traded. It’s swapped to make up something that’s worth it for you, worth it for me, so we are both all still good with the agreement.
Clare: Which goes back again to really understanding the customer and their perception of value and to stop throwing things at them. To stop over delivering as we discussed in a previous podcast. We should aim for mutual benefit and having a trading conversation is great to achieve that
Fred: That is another conversation. It’s about having the commercially equal mindset and not feeling subservient or having to try to prove yourself and seeking to be liked and loved. That is a large part of some of the motivation behind gifting. It far better to indicate ‘I’ve got something that you want and you’ve got something that I want. Let’s do a good swap here, and we come out of it as equals, and we’re both happy’
Clare: Credibility is enhanced as well. That’s brilliant.
Fred: It is with a professional negotiator or anybody with any amount of commercial experience. They will understand what you’re doing, and they won’t be offended by it.
Clare: If you could sum it all up in one final sentence, how would you do that?
Fred: Don’t gift but trade. If you, then I. Those are the magic words.
Clare O’Shea is Founder of Marlow Sales Academy
She was instrumental in the design of the first ever Qualifications in Sales back in 1998 with the first Institute of Professional Sales and continues that interest as Course Director for the CIM Certificate, Advanced Certificate and Programme Director for the Post Graduate Level 7 Diploma in Strategic Sales Practice
Clare specialises in helping salespeople to be more consultative and consultants to be more commercial, by developing the right mindset, process, tools and skills.
Fred Copestake is founder of Brindis, a sales training consultancy.
Over the last 22 years he has travelled round the world 14 times visiting 36 countries to work with over 10,000 salespeople.
His book ‘Selling Through Partnering Skills’ looks at the evolving world of sales and sets out what salespeople need to do to refine their approach. It explores how to take things to the next level through understanding partnering intelligence and using the innovative VALUE Framework.