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Are You Savvy About Entertaining Clients?

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Entertaining Clients

Lunch had me wondering if the guests were at all savvy about entertaining clients. A group of women agreed to meet at a historic location. While the ambiance of the restaurant is charming, the persona of some of the guests was not.

There is usually an intersection where everyday life may teach us business lessons when we pay attention. The lack of thoughtfulness of some of the guests was eye-opening. Stories from the corporate days instantly came to mind.

Long ago, Amdahl, a mainframe computer company, treated its sales staff to a dining etiquette course. The goal was to teach the proper way to entertain clients while enjoying a meal. As the spouse, I took in every word of instruction as my husband relayed it to me. Years later, as I entered sales, the teaching came in very handy.

Good manners were at the heart of the instruction. Clients are to feel appreciation and comfort on every level. Such an experience will encourage deeper engagement and further business. The words of wisdom proved to be true.

Food for Thought

The lunch experience brought the instruction to mind. As the three of us entered the banquet room together, we spotted one long table with a few empty seats. There were two chairs at the end on one side, and a place in the middle of the bench on the opposite side.

To our surprise, two women seated on the bench chose to sit on the end. The middle seat was empty. No gesture was made to get up as we approached. I then asked they move over so that I could sit down. My request annoyed them. They suggested I go to the other side of the room where there was an empty table. Their issue was they were saving the seat for their personal belongings without care about anyone else.

And then the dining experience got better. When the bread and butter plate arrived, the same women plus another gobbled almost all of it up. With only two slices left on the plate, they decided to offer the leftovers to the three of us. We all refused the gesture.

Given the poor start, the conversation was less engaging than what otherwise might have been. And this is where the idea of lost business is up for serious consideration.

Similar to a sale, have ideas in mind for where to dine. But ask for your client’s input first. Learn the types of cuisine each one prefers. Ask if they would like you to drive or meet you at the establishment. Should you meet, arrive ahead of time to let the concierge know that you will be picking up the check. Wait to be seated until the guest arrives.

Make the person feel important. Let them be the first to follow the waiter to the table. Once seated, suggest that your client look over the menu and select what they find most appealing. And then choose food in a similar price range. Pacing yourself with the client on all levels increases the comfort level between you.

Related: Experimentation Propels Success as We Journey Forward

Unlike the women in the above story, offer condiments to your client first. Once the food arrives, ask if it meets their expectations. And then relax as you enjoy the meal and the company.

As an employee, salespeople usually have expense accounts to pay for these special times. Entrepreneurs in the process of building a business have a need to be aware of their budget and the costs involved. It is best to research restaurants in the area that fit the requirements, and then provide your client with a reasonable choice.

The effort you make in being a gracious host pays back big dividends. Should you be selling to a large company, your first point of contact will tell their peers all about the dining experience. If you aren’t already in the executive suite, the activity may well put you there. Business development may soon turn into a team effort. Applying the same level of graciousness to each is likely to have you on the preferred vendor list.

Sales Tips: Entertaining Clients

  1. Allow the client to order first
  2. Match the pace of eating
  3. Have a more personal conversation such as their career
  4. Do not talk business until the check arrives and you provide a credit card
  5. Check for satisfaction, feedback, and what might be new on the horizon
  6. Should new projects enter the conversation, inquire about the timeline
  7. Confirm the better time to reconnect for updates
  8. Thank the person for their time as you leave the restaurant
  9. Write a thank you note afterward and include your phone number
  10. Celebrate Success!

Today’s blog is provided to help you achieve the Smooth Sale!

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