If you have been in the business world as long as I have, you will understand that creating a good rapport with your clients can do wonders in business. A good rapport with your client certainly helps to establish trust and trust is the foundation in any business deals.
There are many ways that you can create rapport with a client and the way that I nearly always use is having a meeting over lunch or dinner. The thing about dining is that it creates an environment that is relaxed where you can get to know the client at a personal level. A fine dining experience in a socially conducive environment can be just what you need to break the ice with a new client or to strengthen your relationship with an existing one.
Here is how I normally plan my business meeting over lunch or dinner.
Before you take a client or prospective client out, there are several things that you need to consider.
- Check whether they have specific dietary needs eg: whether they are vegetarian, vegan, kosher, muslim, fruitarian etc.
- Ask your client whether they have any allergies to specific type of food. I know of some clients who are allergic to seafood for example.
- Find out about what type of food is well liked by the client. If the client loves Chinese food for example, you will certainly score points with the client if you dine in a Chinese restaurant.
- Check whether the client is bringing others with him/her. If the client plans to bring someone else, do ask what is the person’s dining needs, allergies and preference.
Basically, when you take out client out, you must ensure that you do your homework. The result? The client would be delighted that you are showing care and concern about their needs. This act will make a great impression and reaffirm the trust and confidence of the client to start or continue doing business with you because you show that you always have their best interests at heart.
So, you have done all the preparations, make the necessary reservations and the day finally comes. If you say that you are going to be restaurant at a certain time, arrive earlier so that you can set the stage for a conducive environment to discuss business. These are the things that you need to do on the actual day.
- You will need to make sure that your table is located where it is not too noisy or near other tables that are noisy.
- If the whole event is a super big deal, you will probably need to brief your waiter about the whole event.
- There are cases where I will pay the bills ahead of time because in my experience, the client is always a bit nervous when they see the bill and becomes uncomfortable about prices. You could have the staff run your card and add a tip percentage just before your client arrives or if you can step away in the middle of meal to make the payments.
- When the time arrives to order, keep the food or drinks that you order balanced with that of your client. This means that you can order similar items and eating at a similar pace. You should follow the clients lead through the whole experience because things can get awkward if you finish your plate before the client does.
- You should always be respectful and courteous with the waiting staff. If the food is not as good as expected or the service quality is not to your liking, you should always show class when in front of the client. It is a reflection to the client on how working with you will be like.
- Make small talk and avoid pauses.
- You may add some business talk but do not underestimate the value of getting to know the client at a personal level. More often than not, the client already knows the business deal but would just like to know whether you are someone that they can connect.
- If there is a need to make major business talk, you should reserve this for the main course when the waiting staff is unlikely to interrupt.
Last but not least, always remember the important parts of the lunch or dinner and the commitments or promises that you made and need to fulfill. There is nothing that will hurt the relationship and business more than showing that you cannot follow through on your commitments and promises.
So, share with me your experience doing business meeting over lunch or dinner.