Have you ever received a gift from someone you do business with and thought, "What on earth?" Gift giving and receiving during the holidays can add a professional touch to your service. However, it's important to get it right. So how can you make your present one that hits the right note? Choose your gift wisely by first asking these nine questions:
#1) Does your client celebrate this upcoming holiday season?
Do they? So many people have different beliefs and it's important to learn whether they choose to celebrate the holiday season at all, meaning Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hanukkah. If they don't celebrate these holidays, find out which one's they do; there may be a gift giving time during that holiday such as Eid al-Fitr.
#2) Is your client allergic to any food, scent, or material?
What a not-so-lovely surprise it would be to give a decadent dessert arrangement full of chocolates and learn that they're allergic to chocolate itself... Find out before you make a choice that may be remembered, and not in a good way.
#3) What type of lifestyle do they live?
Don't go and purchase a certificate to ski mountain when they don't actually ski: You catch my drift. Also, if your client is an expatriate, keep in mind that gift giving customs are different around the world. For example, you would not gift someone who's Chinese a set of high-end knives for this is symbolic for cutting of your relationship. That makes sense when you think about it. Although, perhaps your client loves to cook and could use a beautiful set of WÜSTOF chef calibre knives.
#4) In which climate does your client reside?
The weather can play a handy role when thinking of a gift. If they live in Colorado they may be rather adventurous–throughout all seasons. Maybe they love to hike, so state-of-the-art gear or training with an expert instructor to help them achieve a great hiking experience could be just the ticket. Now, if your client lives in Arizona, you could look into reservations with private astronomers at Sedona Stargazing, private tours held through the Enchantment Resort.
#5) Are there past gifts they didn't care for?
Here's a great lesson in general communication: Listen! When you open your ears and hear what the other person says they don't like, make sure to take a mental note. Perhaps they aren't a fan of rock music and so getting them a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame membership would not make any sense.
#6) Has your client enjoyed a previous gift with much joy?
Pay close attention and think back for a moment. What have you, or someone else, given to your client that has had them raving about it for years? Sometimes a repeat gift–or something complimentary–could be the answer. An example might be that your client has a daughter who loves to dress up for special occasions and has previously gone to the Boston Ballet's The Nutcracker. A great gift may be high tea for two at Trifecta, Four Seasons One Dalton for it's another experience which a parent and daughter to enjoy together.
#7) Does your client enjoy receiving gifts at all?
Have you ever heard of the The 5 Love Languages®? People show and receive appreciation in many ways; gift giving is not the only one. But, when it comes to business, here are three to keep in mind:
Words of affirmation.
Acts of service.
If you can figure out what would speak to your client the most, for example, they love to go to the movie theatre and see the latest films, perhaps you could get them a private theatre viewing for both of you to spend quality time together for an upcoming blockbuster in their favorite genre. Or, perhaps you can make a donation to a non-profit charity like Catie's Closet or The Jimmy Fund in their name as an act of service.
#8) Where does your client relationship stand?
When you're at a stalemate and want to reach out to your client with a respectful gesture, an olive branch alternative may be just the remedy. I suggest gifting a high end olive oil, such as ZAAZEY® Golden Drops, along with a handwritten card with kind words to show gratitude. This is a gift that will say a lot–without going over the top.
#9 ) Did your client ever give a present to you?
My sister once told me, "When someone gives you a gift, they generally wish to have it for themselves." This is why the final question is one of the most important tell-tale signs of what type of gift to look for when you are getting one for them. When you look back at the presents you've received in the past, which ones didn't make sense? Was it because "you" wanted the gift? Or vice versa? You might be able to determine what to give them just from knowing what they've given you!
Finally, the thought you put toward the gift you give can be symbolic of the type of relationship you have with your client. And–if you choose your present wisely–you will strengthen your rapport to build greater trust over time. Be "the better professional": Take the time to make your gift extra special. Furthermore, please use me as a resource if you need any assistance.
About the author, Janika LeMaitre
Jan is a certified etiquette advisor, specializing in personal brand strategy. Her mission is to provide life-changing soft skills for business owners and industry trail-blazers to self-manage and evolve their reputation. Jan is certified with the Protocol School of Washington® and The British School of Excellence™. In addition, she is the board president of Women's Business Group Connects, and as a second-generation Rotarian, proudly serves as a board director at the Rotary Club of Weston & Wayland.
Download your complimentary copy of Jan's "Handling Gender-Neutral Pronouns With Style" quick guide here.