Lunches with clients are never just lunches. These meetings build interpersonal connections above and beyond phones, emails and social media, making business lunches essential for small business owners looking to create valuable, long-lasting connections that can help their business grow.
In my experience, making and retaining strong client relationships and business lunches go hand-in-hand. They give you the opportunity to gain your clients’ undivided attention, and put your best foot forwards on your terms.
Here’s a short and sweet guide to hosting a business lunch with confidence.
Cater to Your Client’s Personal Needs
Catering to your client’s personal needs sets the stage for your business lunch. Tailoring the meeting to their tastes will make them more agreeable to what you have to say, and more willing to consider your proposal.
Being able to control the setting, environment and atmosphere of your lunch also means that you’re able to choose how you represent yourself and what your business is all about. For example, making sure lunch is convenient for them shows that you’re thoughtful, while making reservations shows you’re a well-prepared person.
How to cater to your client:
- Make sure of any food preferences, dislikes or allergies. This makes you look considerate and detail-oriented, which will impress your client.
- Confirm with both the restaurant and your client a few of days before so no mishaps occur.
Keep in mind that lunch is about creating an enjoyable and comfortable dining experience for your client.
Follow these helpful tips during lunch:
- Arrive earlier than your client and wait for your party before you take your seat. Don’t be late, and don’t make them wait for you, as this indicates that you don’t respect their time.
- You’re there to make your client feel at ease with good food and conversation, so avoid experimenting on a new or messy dish, such as lobster or spaghetti. Food is not the priority
- Make your client feel comfortable enough to indulge in a cocktail or wine, but refrain from enjoying a drink if they decide to pass. You don’t want them forming the wrong opinion about you.
Creating a Rapport
Nothing beats a dining experience to really get to know someone on a whole new level. You will be scrutinized intentionally or unintentionally, so your best bet is to be yourself with a touch of polish and a lot of social grace.
Be authentic, charming, give honest compliments, stay attentive, make conversation on safe topics and, above all else, listen to what they are saying.
Ways to create a good rapport:
- Engage in small talk before talking This is the opportunity to get to know them, to build trust and improve your relationship.
- Be sincere, and conduct a real conversation, even though you’re at a business meeting. This shows that you actually care about the client, not just what you want to get out of them after your meeting.
Navigating the Table
The key to pulling off a lovely meal rather than turning off the client is to follow what your parents taught you!
Some basic rules to follow:
- No cell phones on the table. If your client is using theirs, just wait until they are finished to continue your conversation.
- Pay the bill with your credit card, as it’s usually the simplest and most professional looking.
- Thank your guest for taking time out of their busy day to join you for lunch.
Finally, remember that by treating your client out, you’re showing them a sign of appreciation, which will make them feel good. Relax, follow these tips and enjoy your meal!
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