One of the assumptions that beginning networkers have is that giving gifts to people in their network automatically builds a stronger relationship.
True, if done correctly, giving presents can be a valuable part of good networking practice. Done poorly, however, the best you can hope for is that it won’t have any effect at all. Let’s take a look at some of the do’s and don’ts of the art of gifting.
Don’t go generic. Sending a generic corporate gift has about the same power as sending an email or making a call to someone. It’s not special and doesn’t tell them that you were thinking of them. In fact, if it’s anything with your logo on it, it only tells them that you are thinking about you.
Do know the recipient. For the highest impact send a gift that they actually might want. This means that you need to get to know them, to know about their interests, their families, and their goals in their lives — essentially to know who they are as people. This gift tells them that you are really paying attention.
Don’t give them something that they don’t want. This is a corollary to knowing the recipient. Don’t give wine to someone who is a recovering alcoholic. Don’t give candy to the guy with diabetes. Skip the flowers with the person who has severe allergies.
Do give at a level appropriate to the relationship. If you just met someone, even just the gift of buying lunch might make them uncomfortable. Always take into account how far the relationship has progressed. You never want your gift to place a burden of obligation on the other person.
Don’t gift out of a sense of obligation. Obligation won’t result in a gift that is truly from the heart. Gift only when you feel a sense of true appreciation for the other person and for everything they’ve done for you.
Do surprise them with your timing. Almost everyone who does gift, tends to give around the winter holiday season. The downside of this is that, first, some who are not of the Christian faith will be offended. Second, your gift will be lumped on a table with a bunch of other corporate gifts. It will be terribly difficult to be remarkable. Sending someone an Autumnal Equinox gift, however, will definitely make you stand out.
Keeping these rules in mind, gift giving can become a powerful part of your networking skill set. Using gifts to show your appreciation, when done with the recipient fully in mind, can cement and reinforce an existing connection and let the other person know that you are not only aware that they have helped but that it has also had a significant impact on your life.
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