After the Getting to Know You and Mirroring ploys are in play (described in my earlier blog entries), the vendor will likely next use the "Making an Impression" ploy. The ploy is exactly what it sounds like—it’s an attempt to impress or awe you. The intent is to ingratiate you, obligate you, influence you, make you accessible at the whim of the vendor, and make you less demanding and more accommodating. Another purpose is to make you more susceptible to other ploys. Making an Impression is effective if you let yourself get sucked into it and carried away by it.
There’s nothing subtle about this ploy. The vendor will invite you to events such as dinners, shows, travel, and sports entertainment with the intent of trying to impress you. Think expensive wines, chartered jets or first class flights, limos, suites, top entertainment, etc. The ploy works on the unsuspecting… Who doesn’t like to be impressed, live the high life, or rub elbows with celebs? Once you get a taste of it, you’ll feel obligated to the vendor for that “nice thing” they did for you and, maybe, because you’d like more.
Hopefully, your own personal ethics or your company’s ethics policy is going to stop you from accepting whatever the vendor is offering you. If you start accepting the vendor’s offers, you’re on a slippery slope. Worse, the vendor knows that he or she can “buy” you. I’m not implying that you shouldn’t socialize with a vendor—in fact, quite the opposite. I think, for example, going to lunches and dinners with vendors is extremely important and not going is actually detrimental to the business relationship. Clearly, there are times when you shouldn’t socialize with a vendor, such as during a competitive bid where the vendor will be providing a proposal. There are also times that you should absolutely socialize with a vendor—provided that the social setting isn’t extravagant. For example, if a vendor that you currently have a relationship with asks you to dinner because his or her boss is in town, you should make every attempt to go. Why? First, it’s a great chance to interface with the vendor. Second, it makes the vendor look good with his or her boss that you think enough to take time outside of work to go to dinner.
For more on this ploy and counter tactics, check out "The Contract Negotiation Handbook: An Indispensable Guide for Contract Professionals". Also, if you’re interested in reading my general rantings and ravings on purchasing topics, check out my Vendor Management Office blog.