This is an ethical dilemma that not only a lot of businesses face but sales reps for companies face too, is the giving of gifts ethically appropriate or just plain old bribery?
I myself personally sit on middle ground when it comes to gifts.
But these days, especially in Australia, you have to watch out in relation to gifts.
It’s as if the perception is one of bribery and it goes further there are some big fines to be had by the sales rep and also the company he or she works for if it is perceived as a part of influencing an increase in sales.
I recently started a new sales role with a different company and for the first time in my life I had to do two things, sign an anti bribery / anti corruption agreement as part of my employment and also get my work visa number even though I have been in Australia since the last century working and paying taxes (This is a story in itself).
The anti bribery and anti corruption covers many thing including gifts which I am writing about here.
Now you have to be careful with gifts that in your business to business relationships for your company and also personally as a sales rep that the offering, promising, requesting, giving, accepting, receiving of money or anything of value in exchange for an advantage in business dealings or gaining extra business is not perceived or reported as bribery.
This is a very fine line and open for scrutiny by all parties involved.
Under these guidelines it covers gifts, hospitality, kickbacks and more, so as you can see even a thank you gift leading into Christmas if taken the wrong way maybe perceived as a bribe.
Also maybe the age old tradition of picking up a coffee on the way in to see your customer is under threat here if it is classed as inappropriate gift to get an advantage over your competition and to garner sales.
Also taking customers to sporting games maybe seen as border line and this is an age old tradition too in regards to sales processes in Australia.
As a sporting nation it isn’t uncommon for companies to take a group away to the football for the night or a day at the cricket.
Another one I have encountered is fishing trips and golf days too.
Now these types of situations above are a bit different than some of the stories you hear about in regards to big gifts or money changing hands to seal the deal for companies.
But in all seriousness these days are passing, businesses and sales reps have to work smarter these days and also with a slight business down turn here in Australia.
I’m sure there are a lot of businesses social accounts starting to dry up and they are having to focus more on sales and selling rather than trying to buy their business through entertainment.
Also I have noticed in the last years too that the business owner or manager’s of the businesses you are dealing with, especially at the top end turnover wise, don’t have the time to go out for a meal, coffee or even the sporting trips away as they used too.
The pressure of hitting targets, keeping on top of staff, budget forecasting and all the other pressures of running a modern day 24/7 365 days a year profitable business has eaten up all the spare time these men or women used to have in this regard.
You are lucky generally if you get 20 minutes in front of a decision maker.
So sales and the approach of the sales rep has changed over the years too adapting to these laws of bribery and corruption.
You need to at the top of your sales game every minute in front of the customer as your time is short.
I think in the end common sense is the key to keeping yourself on the right side of the fence in regards to bribery and corruption.
In regards to is giving gifts ethically appropriate in sales or just bribery, I think personally that thank you gifts around Christmas with no strings attached for your top customers as a symbol of your appreciation personally more than the company.
Anymore than this and you maybe treading a fine line now and into the future.
It would have to be an extreme situation as well to think that a cup of coffee once every 6 to 8 weeks can influence a business to purchase off you.
Especially if you have built a great relationship with that customer over a long period of time.
I think you would probably have more of a chance to win the lottery than getting in trouble for the odd cup of coffee in this regard!
Now the next question is and this may be challenging too for you ethically.
What would you do if the company you work for wants you to do something which you think could border on bribery or corruption.
Do you say no and stick to your personal ethics or do you bow to company pressure and do as you are instructed?
Hmmm, lot’s to think about when it comes to the mixture of personal ethics and company ethics in sales.
This is Part 9 in the Ethics in Sales series.
Go to Part 10 here, Business Sales Ethics to Increase Sales
If you have come here first you can start the series Ethics in Sales here, What is Ethics in Sales