Dollars and Sense: Use entertainment to build relationships

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Last week, we discovered some reasons for entertaining our customers.

Recall, we gain access to customers, spend time with them and begin building relationships.

Before getting into some specific entertainment tips, let&8217;s first talk about what customer entertainment isn&8217;t.

The objective of entertainment is not &8220;get the order.&8221;

The objective is to build personal relationships that may or may not lead to business relationships.

If you go to lunch and don&8217;t come away with business, that&8217;s probably not a failure.

If you go to lunch and not only don&8217;t get a business commitment but also don&8217;t know the customer better and you haven&8217;t made any progress in defining their problems and needs, that&8217;s a failure.

If you&8217;re entertaining just to &8220;get business,&8221; you need to reassess your thinking.

But your intent is good, and you&8217;re looking to get to know your customer better.

How can you optimize the opportunity? The key word here is think.

Think through the logistical details, and think through what you&8217;re trying to accomplish.

– If you&8217;re meeting the client at a restaurant, arrive a little early.

Survey for the table that best fits your conversational needs, and ask for it.

Hopefully, if you expect a serious business conversation, you haven&8217;t picked a noisy venue.

– Be sure you have a reservation. Nothing sets a worse tone for a meal than waiting indefinitely for a table. It also makes your client feel less important.

– Watch the alcohol. Remember, you&8217;re building a relationship and sending a message about yourself.

– Meals don&8217;t have to be formal affairs. Some clients are uncomfortable in those settings anyway.

I often downplay it by asking &8220;Would you like to join me for a sandwich?&8221; Breakfast is also a great place to entertain the otherwise reluctant client.

With a little planning and thought, you can arrange the perfect event, and enjoy getting to know your customer