Vendor dinners and gifts

TheFORCETheFORCE Senior MemberMember Posts: 2,298 ■■■■■■■■□□
I am being approached by vendors to go out to dinners and lunches, some give free tickets to events and such and all want to sell their solutions in the end. Knowing this fact, how do you approach the situation? I feel bad saying no because currently we might not need the product that they sell but at the same time i know in the future we might. Or we might be looking at 2-3 different vendors and we are leaning towards only one, but all of them want to take us to dinner and events. So question is, do you ever decline or just go for the free lunch and still keep them in your contacts pocket?


  • Danielm7Danielm7 Member Posts: 2,306 ■■■■■■■■□□
    We have some vendors that take us out all the time as part of customer service. For sales pitches I'm a lot more picky though. If it's something I'm actively researching and it's local I'll go.l get offers for events constantly, a lot of them don't apply to what I do or what I'll need, I skip most of those.
    It's not even that the products are bad, or the info isn't interesting, but if I never have any intention of purchasing it makes the post event follow up awkward.
    I'm even more picky now as of a few months ago. One larger VAR invited a bunch of us from our company to an event for a software package. We're actively looking to buy that product. They didn't send out email confirmations to most of us so only myself and one other guy ended up going, the others didn't even have it in their calendars. When we got there I got a HUGE attitude and lecture from their sales guy about how we wasted their time and money. Now I'm ready to spend about 400K on that product, guess which VAR I'm not going to use?
  • scaredoftestsscaredoftests Security +, ITIL Foundation, MPT, EPO, ACAS, HTL behind youMod Posts: 2,781 Mod
    It is not like Government and Contractors..where there is a 'law' of a certain amount etc...
    Never let your fear decide your fate....
  • twodogs62twodogs62 Member Posts: 393 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Check your company policy. There might be $25 limit per quarter, $100 limit per year.
    if so, there should be a policy on this.
  • networker050184networker050184 Mod Posts: 11,962 Mod
    If it's not against company policy or anything like that then why not? Make some connections, get some product pitches. Might end up making the relationship mutually beneficial and save your company some money in the end. Get yourself promoted!

    Last time our main vendor couldn't deliver on schedule I had a relationship with another vendor (we never buy anything from them) and got them to come in on time and beat the price. He got a nice sale and I saved the deadline. We've started to use more and more of their gear now and I'd say we both ended up looking good to our companies.
    An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made.
  • LexluetharLexluethar Member Posts: 516
    I deal with the same thing. It's not a bad situation to be in but you need to be tasteful and respectful imo.

    I only go to events and do things with vendors I realistically expect to do business with. There are fringe vendors that we don't use now but might later on. For those I'm always up front saying nothing is on the table now but maybe in the future.

    I've found over time only the vendors you do business with will continue trying to swoon you, others fall off over time.
  • varelgvarelg Banned Posts: 790
    Good to see IT people being targets for gifting by vendors, I thought only doctors and their staff are entitled to gifting, from pharma reps...
  • tedjamestedjames Scruffy-looking nerfherdr Member Posts: 1,179 ■■■■■■■■□□
    I work for the state, and we have very low limits. Generally, though, we just say no to vendor attempts at buying us expensive dinners, etc.
  • UnixGuyUnixGuy Are we having fun yet? Mod Posts: 4,280 Mod
    TheFORCE wrote: »
    ..I feel bad saying no ..

    yes they are exploiting an age old sales(compliance) technique, where they offer you a 'free' 'gift' will feel bad not accepting the 'gift' (that you don't need), and later on this will increase your chance of saying 'yes' to their sales pitch.

    How to approach this? It's very hard because as human we're hard wired to respond to this.

    What works? call it out for what it is..i.e.: tell the vendor that they are taking you out to an event that you don't need so that they can have a better chance at selling you stuff, tell them (verbally AND via email) that by accepting this 'gift' you can't make any promises of buying their stuff and that the sales process will be based on merit only.

    Ah I love sales..
    In Progress: MBA
  • TechGromitTechGromit GSEC, GCIH, GREM, Ontario, NY Member Posts: 2,042 ■■■■■■■■□□
    twodogs62 wrote: »
    Check your company policy. There might be $25 limit per quarter, $100 limit per year.
    if so, there should be a policy on this.

    I ran into this dilemma at Black Hat, various vendors were offering 3D printers, drones, $2,000 cash as prizes, but my company forbids accepting anything but nominal value from a vendor. Anything more than vendor swag or free food is against company policy.
    Still searching for the corner in a round room.
  • BillHooBillHoo Member Posts: 207 ■■■□□□□□□□
    The first few years I was an IT Manager, I had a personal rule not to accept gifts, dinners, sports game tickets, etc.

    As I got older, I said "What the heck!?"

    Usually, they will give you their sales pitch while the dinner or lunch commences. I take notes and keep them in mind if I ever need their services.

    Sometimes budgets for a few targeted dinners is more effective than spending thousands on advertising to the general public. They are not losing anything by paying for your steak dinner even if you have no need for their product. Most I've worked with do not try to twist your arm. I also learn a few things when I attend such lunches.

    They could spend $600K for a few full page ads in InfoSec Today, or they can spend $100K for a a few dinner events with product pitches for known Information Security people.
  • revboxrevbox CompTIA: A+, Network+, Security+, Project+, CySA+ ISC2: SSCP Little Rock, ARMember Posts: 90 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Check your company policy. I've never seen meals restricted, so as long they are at an appropriate venue (i.e. no strip clubs, Hooters, Twin Peaks, etc.) and not of an extravagant nature (no rooftop champagne with surf and turf). My company policy allows me to accept gifts of a small token value, but I've always declined this just to stay in the clear. Most vendors seem to realize this and only offer items like t-shirts, flash drives, cup holders, or anything else with a vendor logo. I will accept free lunch from anyone who wants to offer it to me...even if I have to listen to a sales pitch. My company policy only says that I can't promise any deals or arrange any quid-pro-quo type endeavors. I like knowing who my vendors/account managers are. They tend to move up or change roles or switch companies now-and-then and you never know where your next lead might come from. Call me a sucker for free BBQ.
  • tmtextmtex Member Posts: 326
    Absolutely YES. Take advantage of it. Recruiters are the best. My ex boss taught me to "Pretend" that your going to need 2 new hires and then let them take the bait. Once they bite be prepared for a nice dinner, lunch or event. When all said and done, just explain the positions weren't approved at THIS time which still leaves it open. I went to many Dallas Cowboy/Texas Ranger games icon_smile.gif
  • 636-555-3226636-555-3226 Member Posts: 976 ■■■■■□□□□□
    General rule of thumb for these things - if it's a blanket offer to everybody in your department then it's generally OK. if it's a targeted offer to you, then it's bad. if you already have an established business relationship with them, it leans towards being OK. if you're a potential new client then it leans towards not being OK.

    Example 1 - vendor you just paid $10k sends you a really nice tie as a thank you. That's an instant thanks-but-no-thanks - and send the tie back to them

    Example 2 - vendor you just paid $10k send you an email and says they're sponsoring a night at the local baseball team for all their local clients. you're invited and are asked to share the email with your coworkers. Go party; don't drink & drive.

    Example 3 - vendor is courting you to buy their $10k product and invites you out to a round of golf and happy hour afterwards. Nope.

    Example 4 - vendor is courting you to buy their $10k product and offers to come in and host a lunch and learn for IT. Go for it.

    Example 5 - if you have to ask if it's OK, don't do it. There's obviously something unknown or "should I do this" and the answer in that case is always NO dont do it
  • networker050184networker050184 Mod Posts: 11,962 Mod
    Example 3 - vendor is courting you to buy their $10k product and invites you out to a round of golf and happy hour afterwards. Nope.

    What's wrong with this one? Assuming it doesn't violate company policy of course.
    An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made.
  • beadsbeads Senior Member Member Posts: 1,520 ■■■■■■■■■□
    I often tell vendors I am a consultant but I do talk to a lot of people. Generally, I have no direct purchasing capability or perhaps no need. Keep in mind the exposure I have to various clients who may need that type of solution. Nothing like seeing someone else get a $250,000 sale while your being treated to a taco salad at the local greasy spoon.

    Be completely upfront as to whether you plan to purchase or not. Generally, I will limit these to a simple lunch or a nice dinner IF there is a good opportunity for networking with peers etc., if not, I'll pass. Often times the conversation can be very interesting, others have occasionally fallen a bit flat but you get some great LinkedIn access to various folks and I still say nice things about the company.

    I am not constrained by policy only good taste. A meal is fine. Baseball games would be unless I were watching the vendor's kid play little league or something casual. Then I wouldn't mind. Yeah, cheap date.

    Sometimes its like karma. What comes around goes around.

    - b/eads

    Edit for the pedantic. Changed 'wouldn't' to 'would'.
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