As a career sales person I’ve had the
opportunity to attend many events as a means of client entertainment. Many
years ago I was at the inaugural NASCAR race at Homestead (Florida). I’ve been
to other NASCAR races, a variety of major league sporting events. I’ve been
fortunate enough to travel to wonderful cities and dine in some of the best
restaurants. And, most importantly, I’ve always, always, always been grateful.
Sometimes I believe these fortunate opportunities were mine because of my role
in sales. Other times I just feel downright lucky to be in the right place at
the right time. Either way, I’ve also made sure to make the most out of each
opportunity presented to me.
Not that long ago I was reminded that
there is another side to client entertainment: “what’s in it for me?” I was
shopping in Costco when I ran into an old client contact Joe. Joe left the
client’s organization about 2 years ago to move onward and upward as he put it
back then. While he was the director of marketing, he also worked in a sales
capacity, and whenever the contract was up for renewal he would ask me for
tickets to a Cleveland Brown’s game. That’s right, he came out and asked me,
and made sure I knew something had to be in it for him directly.
As we continued to talk he explained
that he just started another new position with another new company. He claimed
he “didn’t get any good perks you know, tickets and stuff”, from the previous
position. I couldn’t believe he was saying these things, but sure enough, there
just wasn’t anything in it for him. Well, nothing other than his salary,
commission, bonus, benefits and fantastic vacation package. So, he moved onto a
new gig in hopes that he’ll get more perks from others wanting to do business
This is a horrible position to take
and one that sales people should be very careful of when dealing with a “what’s
in it for me?” type of person. Sales people, even the best ‘A’ level talent,
want to please a new or existing client. Whether it’s a nice thank you lunch at
the hottest steakhouse in town or a couple of tickets to a game, saying thanks
with a small token of appreciation is not a bad thing. Most clients are very
receptive and do not take advantage. But some do.
Here are a few tips to help you avoid
the “what’s in it for me?” group: after a nice lunch the prospect or client
suggests another lunch at the same or equally higher end restaurant for the
next meeting instead of at the office; when he asks if you can score him an
extra ticket or two to the game; when she invites others to the dinner meeting
that you’re paying for without telling you or even asking you; when instead of
saying thanks for taking them to an event they say that it was good and look
forward to the next event (on your dime).
I’m certainly not suggesting that you
cease client entertainment. I’ve closed or celebrated some of my largest sales
in such a manner. But, I do caution you to watch out for these “what’s in it
for me?” characters. They can become a real drain on your time and resources
and can keep you from being productive.