A relative of mine had been trying unsuccessfully to get a letter from a doctor. The letter was important for part of an insurance settlement, but the doctor was always busy or gone and the letter just never seemed to get written. I offered to help, so I called and talked to one of the nurses. She was sympathetic and said she would try to help, but the doctor was, after all, a doctor and it was really up to him. I thanked her and got off the phone.
My wife pointed out that when she worked as a nurse, food was often a very big motivator. An hour or so later, my assistant had located a bakery nearby and ordered them a batch of cookies along with a note thanking them for their help.
The next day, the nurse called to say that the letter was on its way. They said the cookies were completely unnecessary, but so very much appreciated.
A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great.
I’m not suggesting you try to bribe people to get things done, but don’t overlook the power of sending a simple gift to help make your request stand out. If someone deals with 100 people every day, who do you think they will help first, the person who sends candy or the person who yells at them on the phone?
Here are some things we considered in selecting an appropriate gift to send in the above situation:
- Something that was shared. When a box of cookies show up in an office, they are going to be shared and people will ask where they came from. If the doctor comes by and says “where did these cookies come from”…. you get the idea.
- Something that would smell. Fresh cookies will generally attract people by smell alone. This helped give us maximum exposure in the office. A box of chocolates might not have been as noticeable.
- Peer pressure. By sending the cookies, we basically let the entire office know that we were waiting for a letter from the doctor. This put a bit more pressure on him to write the letter and make sure it didn’t get put off for a few more weeks.
Gifts aren’t appropriate in every situation. If you are going to court over a traffic ticket, I wouldn’t recommend bringing a cake for judge. Still, there are many situaitons where a gift can help oil the social gears and help you accomplish your tasks with much less friction.