Business Lunch - Perk or Purgatory?

Lee Lister
 


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A business lunch for a client is a device to make your client feel valued, comfortable and wanted. It is often looked as a status symbol. A few things to remember are:

  • The lunch is seen as a social event – don’t jump into your sales pitch too soon. Both parties know what the aim is – so enjoy yourselves.
  • Make the client feel special and be polite.
  • How to set up your business lunch:

  • Choose a restaurant that you are familiar with and have preferably been to before.
  • If you have not been to the restaurant before e. g. it has been chosen by your company – introduce the restaurant to your guest as one that you have heard good things about.
  • Always book – there is nothing worse than pleading with the maitre d’ for a table whilst your guest stands by looking embarrassed.
  • If you do arrive to an empty restaurant at lunch time – you’ve not done your homework.
  • Choose an appropriate restaurant that will make your client feel comfortable. If he is a hard bitten manufacturer – fusion food may not be what he is comfortable with. Similarly if your client is female – they will not appreciate a restaurant where what they see in the bathroom mirror each morning is on full display in the restaurant! Similarly your male client may be uncomfortable. You should aim for a mid range restaurant with good service and an atmosphere. Remember you need to be able to talk over dinner as well.
  • Have a couple of names of medium price wines that you enjoy and know about. This makes you knowledgeable and removes the embarrassing wait if you are asked to recommend a wine.
  • Ask the maitre d’ for a table where you can talk business. Most good restaurants understand this need. Preferably do this when you book or just as you arrive.
  • Let your guest order first, unless they show hesitation, in which case you can suggest a good dish they may like. The hesitation may be because they are not aware of your budget.
  • When ordering your meal– don’t embarrass everyone by ordering more or less food or a more expensive course than they are.
  • Do not order difficult food such as spaghetti or crabs legs that require careful handling, unless your client does.
  • They may suggest you order the wine – otherwise let them order for you both.
  • Ensure that you do not drink too much – just wine is a good idea, followed by an aperitif. Stay sober and professional at all times. Similarly do not encourage your client to drink too much.
  • You should be doing everything possible to make your client feel valued, comfortable and special.
  • Never forget that you are working and representing your company. Now is not the time for personal details, gossip or revelations.
  • Do not talk inappropriately about your competitors or their products.
  • Be polite with your restaurant staff – running the waiting staff around or unnecessary complaints is not a good atmosphere and reflects badly.
  • The best time for the sales pitch is just after desert as you sit-back to enjoy coffee etc. Wait until desert is complete and then suggest that you discuss business over coffee or aperitif. You client understands that you are there to discuss business and should be mellow and feeling good about your company now. The period in between can be used for small talk and general discussions about the market you are in.
  • Give a quick review of your company’s offering. Please make sure that the waiter is not listening. This should be a relatively private matter. Don’t discuss money unless your guest brings it up. Have all the relevant details to hand in your brief case – but in manageable amounts – this is a restaurant after all. You can answer the money questions tactfully by offering your proposal in writing.
  • Don’t pressurize your client. Let them read the details and ask the relevant questions and have the answers at hand.
  • Offer gentle discussions ensuring that your client is aware that you would prefer some decisions now. Remember your client is not obligated just because you have given them dinner, but they should be feeling mellow and on good terms with your company.
  • Have a good pen to hand for any signatures that have to be made and a good quality folder so that your client can take the documents away without the remnants of dinner attached to them. Include your business card and contact details.
  • When it is time to pay, your guest will probably hesitate allowing you to pick up the check. Don’t be too slow as this will embarrass both of you. It is possible with some restaurants, particularly if your company uses it often, to leave a credit car with the maitre d’ of pay later. This creates a very good impression.
  • Lastly shake hands with your client, thank them for an engaging time, get their coat and ensure they know how to get back to the office. Confirm that you will be contacting them very soon and that you look forward to your two businesses working together in the future.
  • When you get back to the office, drop them an email or letter thanking them for their time and confirming what you have discussed at dinner as well as what will happen next.
  • Enjoy yourself.

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    © Copyright 2005 Biz Guru LLC Lee Lister, writes as The Biz Guru, for a number of web sites including her own sites http://www.BizGuru.us With over 20 year’s management and business consultancy experience with businesses large and small as well as being a serial entrepreneur, she now helps others set up, develop and market their businesses. Also visit http://www.FindMeLinks.com for our internet marketing solutions or http://www.clikks.com for eBooks and informational products we write.

    This article may be freely distributed if this resource box stays attached.

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