Posts belonging to Category sales tips

Holiday Gift Giving and Entertainment – Do It The Right Way!

BSJ - Business Gifts and Entertainment

The holidays are upon us, and it would  be wise for us to review entertainment and gift giving issues as all sales professionals know, or need to know these points.  Proper etiquette in the matters shown below are important.  As a matter of fact, you can display proper sales manners and move to the top of the list as many sales professionals do not employ them consistently.


Whether in business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-personal (B2P), the number of sales professionals that display proper sales etiquette is not where it should be.

Proper sales etiquette comes in many important theaters:

  • Business entertainment and business gifts
  • Prospecting
  • Sales presentations
  • Telephone solicitation and use
  • Other

This post of Black Sales Journal will cover proper sales etiquette in business entertainment and gift giving.  We will cover the other sales etiquette categories in the next month or so.

Entertainment Should be Entertaining!

Business entertainment should have a purpose and be enjoyable, even when the meeting objective is not the most exciting.  Obviously, it gives you time and a way to build relationships, and in sales, relationships are everything.  This area is important as it is ‘your’ moment in the spotlight and as you spend this time focusing on the customer, the last thing you want to do is to strike the wrong cord and turn him or her off.

You may want to take a look at Black Sales Journal 4/4, Business Entertainment – Some Do’s and Don’ts, for some basics on purpose and cautions.    It would serve as a simple refresher to set up many of the points made in this post.

You can be in two different positions with respects to business entertainment, you can be the host, or you can be the guest.  We will touch on these two different levels of status, as they are different.  Regardless of which position that you are in, you are in control of your own actions.

The Host With the Most

As the host you want to be in control of the financial elements and the operation of the meal.  You have to be prepared to exercise control regarding:

  • Selecting the venue to match the occasion
  • Assuming control of the event
  • Setting the financial tone
  • Managing the wine and alcohol
  • “Managing” the conversations to include all parties

Match the venue to the importane of the occasion in terms of cost and atmosphere.  Good ‘business’ restaurants with favorable pricing are essential to sales professionals, and are usually a good venue, but the occasion should dictate.  Gentleman’s clubs and topless bars are a strict no-no, even if the client suggests it.  You are in control, and your ethics, appetites, and professionalism are at stake here.

Assume control by giving simple signals to the wait staff that you are hosting and expect the tab.  This gives immediate control.  The knowledgeable wait staff recognizes that when a guest orders something that will impact you, they will look to you for a ‘veto’. Remember to tip correctly as it is evidence that you are the professional.

Set the financial tone for the event.  Order first to set the tone.  If you order a sandwich, they will most likely all order a sandwich, yet if you order lobster, you will have a monster tab if the others in your party follow suit.  This means you may need to order a substantial meal even if you have a limited appetite to make sure that the group feels comfortable eating (if you are not hungry), yet that is the responsibility of the host.  Also, be discreet with the tab.  The guest(s) does not need to know the amount of the tab.

Manage the wine and alcohol by reviewing the wine list, ordering the selection, and inspecting the purchase.  If you do not drink, you need to delegate that but give some clear directives on cost, and you approve additional purchases.  Know when to cut it off.

Manage the conversation to include all parties.  From your vantage point as the host, be inclusive in your conversations, and get to know all of your guests

As a Guest

As a guest, you have some simple rules that you should follow which will help you.  These rules are simple, and show good manners:

  • Let the host choose the seating
  • Order based on what the host orders
  • Let the host ‘manage’ the alcohol, appetizers, and the deserts
  • Offer to leave the tip
  • Say “thank you” when the host pays the bill

Your objective is to be entertained, and these simple points will get you there without going ‘south’ of what the host is doing.

The Art of Giving

Your company probably has a gift giving policy, and you should refer to it for some basic rules.  While the IRS Publication 463 (2010) covering giftsnotes your employer or your company receives a deduction for gifts, the $25 deduction that is afforded simply means you should always be careful and discreet in your gift giving.

What is more important is that the gift should be matched to the importance of the relationship.  The government prefers that gifts be ‘nominal’ in value, yet we do know that some relationships deserve more than others.  When you decide to give, the memorable way is to give a well-composed note with the gift that explains the purpose of the gift.  There is a good possibility that the note will be around for a while.

A gift that is ‘out of proportion’ with the relationship will be recognized for that peculiarity, and may not have the desired effect that may be honorable.  An engraved pen is a fine gift, and signifies a business relationship.  It is a great gift for an important business relationship.  A gift of golf balls is a sound and affordable gift for golf lovers, and does not break any rules.  Giving elaborate gifts can give the appearance that you are manipulating the relationship.  Giving a putter is good, giving a ‘set of clubs’ does not look as innocent.

Many organizations require their employees to sign disclosures of all gifts over nominal value once a year.  The firm that is auditing the customer usually requires this.  Keeping in mind that many of the buyers that are courted are financial professionals and very much careful with this requirement.


When I was a sales manager I had a a responsibility to determine if gifts were appropriate or inappropriate, as well as question and consider approval of some interesting entertainment.  Returning a gift is an uncomfortable process; you would be wise not to put a customer in that position.   By the same token, finding out that you might be funding some of your business entertainment out of your pocket because you violated expense policy can be quite painful as well.

These areas of etiquette easily learned but also meet the ‘smell’ test.  If it does not feel right, don’t do it.  Knowledge is important, so know your company’s expense policy, and keep it handy.  Expose yourself to your company’s gift giving policies as well, and avoid errors up-front.

Knowledge is everything.

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Are You Managing Your Sales Manager?

This is the most important relationship that you are going to have in your career!  Don’t flinch because of the title, managing this relationship is the key to your success.  Invest the time to make it work for you while making sure that you take the time to “guide” it correctly!


I am a believer in this topic.  Managing your manager is the way to success.  I was a sales rep, and a sales manager, a vice president of Marketing (that managed sales managers), and know this topic from a variety of angles!

There should be no negative implications for a topic like this.  We attempt to manage time, territories, expenses, production, and performance outcomes as a natural course in our jobs.  I would hope that understanding how to “manage” your sales manager would be just as important.

“Managing” your sales manager involves important issues such as training, performance evaluations, potential merit increases, territory allocations, participation in sales calls, and the allocation of valuable resources such as prospect distribution, house accounts, and major accounts.

This is not anything nefarious, yet is respectfully making sure that you get the attention and resources that you need, and in some cases the space you need to do your job to the fullest.  It also would be designed to give you resources you need in a competitive atmosphere to be the premier sales professional in your unit.

As a Black sales professional, you are quite visible.  You need to be calculated in your performance, and how you frame that performance.  Your manager should be active with you as well as an observer in your performance and work activities.

Relationships Count

The most important relationship you have at your job is the one you have with your manager.  Your ability to ask questions, seek assistance, and suggest improvements should be natural.  Likewise, your ability to get feedback, accept criticism, and be generally evaluated should be a given.

This relationship is a give and take.  He or she is still the boss, and you have expectations of each other.  You need to work at this relationship if you are not the premier performer.  The premier performer has his/her results to support the relationship.  Until you get to that status, you need the manager a little more.

‘Fair Game’ Tactics

Here are some ways to effectively manage your sales manager:

Communicate Upward – Keep your sales manager knowledgeable of your activities, and the status of major clients and prospects.  Your managers should always be kept abreast.  Sales managers communicate upward to their managers regarding major prospects and clients, sales projections, and goal attainment.  The last things they want are surprises.  By communicating these things frequently, it will keep them from making projections and claims that cannot be met.

Request Assistance and Sales Manager Presence – Request your sales manager’s help for profile and difficult prospect/clients.  Remember, you will be in the boat by yourself to get the attention or negative attention depending on the results.  Sharing the attention when you win is better than ending up with the sole negative attention “spotlight” if you blow it.  You can more easily manage your sales manager if you make him or her look good.  Have the sales manager attend calls that you need help on, but also calls that put you in a good light.   You can choose calls that display the strength of your relationships, showcase your strong technical abilities, and calls that reveal your technical sales ability.

Be The Expert on You – Your manager can have as many as 12 direct reports, and the responsibility for getting results from them, and a particular territory.  He cannot possibly know you, your accomplishments, and your strengths, the way you want.  It is easier for the focus to be on your weaknesses.  You must be the expert on you!  Know the following:

Know Your Sales Manager – Knowing as much as you can know about your manager without being invasive is good business.  It will help you understand the motivations and better be able to answer questions and complete tasks.  Know where your manager went to school and the composition of his/her family.  Know his/her previous jobs, and what motivations are present.  A sales manager who was formerly a financial person may have a focus on the numbers and metrics, and you should know this.  The more you know, the better off you are.  Know the background and feel comfortable discussing it with him/her.  You will notice that the manager will be flattered.  Information from Linked-In, or your company’s website can help you here.  You may even use Google for this purpose.

Volunteer with a Purpose – Every manager needs some help, and you should be prepared to give some assistance and learn in the process when it benefits you.  I certainly am not suggesting that you be ‘oily’ and kiss “you know what”, yet when you can add something you should step-up.  Those that don’t step-up will probably get the items they would not have chosen.

Always be Prepared – Repeat after me “I will never go into a meeting with my sales manager and be unprepared!”  This is important.  When you go in to any meeting with this most important relationship you have at that company, you should go in with a solid agenda.  No rambling and no scrambling but a meeting with a purpose that you requested and are in control of. Have your questions written down, and stick to your appointment time.  Your manager will realize your efficiency and effectiveness.

Always Perform

Here is where you start to make the distinction between you and your counterparts.  To be most effective at this, you need to consistently produce sales results.  It is a given that you need to be in good standing, yet it always helps to be exceeding goals and be a sales leader.

If you do this, you will be “shining” the light on yourself.  This type of self-promotion is totally ‘legal’.  Make sure your managers sees what is necessary and knows your value.  This is something that you can do without seeming like a “weasel”.

‘Manage” this relationship wisely.  It can make a difference in your compensation and your future.

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