By Phyllis Weiss Haserot
Several years ago, after developing materials for the marketing and business development training I had been conducting for my professional services firm clients, I decided to compile my checklists and tips into a book, aptly called The Marketer’s Handbook of Tips & Checklists. It provides over 100 checklists covering a range of topics any professional needs to know in order to master building a successful career as both a rainmaker and client-focused service deliverer.
This article features one of the checklists. Keep it handy as you make your plans and make business meal opportunities work for you.
"Doing lunch" so it leads to business
Doing lunch (or breakfast, or dinner) is a standard business development practice that can either bring desirable results or eat up a marketing budget with little to show beyond an expanding waistline. Client meals and entertainment can be pleasant ways to build and bond a relationship. However, if you want those occasions to yield actual business opportunities as well, the meal must be preceded by advance planning and strategy.
A business meal can have one or more of the following purposes:
- To sell your (your firm's) services.
- To learn a prospect's needs.
- To expand representation of a client.
- To retain the business.
- To talk over an existing matter or project.
- To move an engagement along.
- To exchange information with a referral source or peer networker.
Do not assume that merely by getting together, something wonderful will materialize. All that may be generated is a string of meal tabs that you have trouble justifying to your partners or management.
So, first determine what the purpose of getting together is and what your goal for the meeting is. Since the medium will be a conversation, not a presentation, the best outcome is that both parties give and receive benefits.
- Set yourself an agenda.
- What, specifically, do you want to accomplish?
- What result, what next step, will make the lunch a success?
- Set a goal and prepare as necessary to achieve that goal.
- Do background research on the guests and their business.
- Be prepared with a concise and on-point statement about you – and your colleagues if you are part of a firm or network.
- Research and determine some common interests among the parties at the meal.
- What do you expect to achieve at a meal that would not be achieved at a regular business meeting?
- Prepare your agenda – a brief outline – to focus your thoughts and timing.
- Figure out how you will get to your goal.
- Consider an alternative approach if you find the first one is not working well.
- Give some preliminary thoughts to follow-up.
- Bring paper on which to take notes, visually make a point, or map out plans with the guest. Paper may be more effective in a conversation than an electronic device.
- Bring a pen and/or pencil. (The person with the tools has a certain degree of control.)
- Bring your calendar. You may want to set up follow-up meetings or set target dates.
- Have the reservation in your name. Be the first to reach for the bill. If you know the restaurant, ask for a particular table or location that you prefer.
- If you are meeting strangers, you may want to invite them to your office first for a brief tour.
- If you have more than one guest, identify the "preferred guest" to focus on and sit close to that individual.
- If you are in doubt about whether to order a drink, follow the lead of the people you are trying to impress. Stop at one alcoholic drink; avoid alcohol at lunch in most cases. (Most people do not drink alcohol at lunch anymore.)
- Begin the conversation with something of interest to the guests to establish rapport.
- Do not wait too long to get to business topics. (Dessert is too late.)
- Try to get agreement early on about the facts and background of the discussion.
- Set out the agenda items you would like to discuss and get agreement.
- State where you are heading and what you would like to accomplish.
- Take notes and summarize orally at the end.
- A "closing" is in order, even for introductory meetings. Ask a closing question to lead to a next step.
- Be as specific as possible under the circumstances, from "Do we have a deal?" to "When should I call you to get started?" to "What else can I do to convince you that we are the right firm to handle your problem?" to "What further information do you need?" to "When should I call you to arrange the next step?"
- Agree on the next steps before you part. Confirm them so that each party has a stake in following up.
- Inform other relevant parties of what took place, the outcome, and next steps. (This may include partners, staff, referral sources, and others.)
- Send notes to the participants promptly – thank yous and reminders.
- Follow up diligently. Do what you said you would do when you said you would do it.
It may take some time to achieve results in revenue terms, as your guests may not have an immediate need. But there are milestone goals along the way to keep track of within the big picture. It is important to be explicit to yourself to keep in mind those intermediate goals that lead to a next step. That will help to keep you motivated and see progress. Regular follow-up is crucial.
About the author
Phyllis Weiss Haserot is the president of Practice Development Counsel, a business development and organizational effectiveness consulting and coaching firm working with professional services firms for over twenty years. A special focus is on the profitability of improving workplace intergenerational relations. Phyllis is the author of
The Rainmaking Machine and
The Marketer’s Handbook of Tips & Checklists (both West/Thomson Reuters 2011). email@example.com . URL: www.pdcounsel.com ; blog www.nextgeneration-nextdestination.com .
© Phyllis Weiss Haserot, 2012