With technology making it far easier to communicate in this day and age, there are some people who view the classic business lunch as being unimportant and outdated. However, there’s nothing quite like a face-to-face business meeting – it can often help take a relationship with a prospective client to the next level by introducing an openness and intimacy that perhaps doesn’t exist when communication is confined to email.
With technology making it far easier to communicate in this day and age, there are some people who view the classic business lunch as being unimportant and outdated. However, there’s nothing quite like a face-to-face business meeting – it can often help take a relationship with a prospective client to the next level by introducing an openness and intimacy that perhaps doesn’t exist when communication is confined to email. Business lunches still have their place in the business world and can be a great way to build and strengthen relationships, as well as to strike up and close those valuable deals that will help your small business grow. Attending a business lunch is so much more than simply stepping out of the office, so bear these few things in mind the next time you plan a business discussion over a meal.
The Place: Will the environment facilitate discussion?
When it comes to choosing a place to meet for a business lunch, you need to make sure that it’s a suitable environment that will foster discussion and negotiation. Be polite and ask your client if there’s somewhere specific they’d like to meet. If they leave the decision up to you, it’s a good idea to pick a place that is familiar to you and if it’s fairly close to them, then that’s an added bonus. You will want to avoid places that are overly noisy, crowded and too hot or cold. When it comes to choosing a table, opt for one that is slightly more secluded from the rest – you want to be able to have a discussion free from too many external interruptions. Selecting a place that offers various dishes (including vegetarian options) is also something to be considered, but the most important things is to ensure that the venue you choose is conducive for conducting business.
The Etiquette: When is the right time to start talking business?
There’s a guideline that says that it’s only after the fourth hole of a game of golf that you can broach the subject of business. When it comes to a business lunch however, it’s slightly different. There’s undoubtedly going to be the requisite small talk that kicks things off – this is part of the process, but be sure not to get too familiar or personal with your client. Once you’ve ordered something to drink and placed your meal order, consider this a good time to get down to the main reason for the meeting: to talk business. It’s important to convey to your client how you can help them, but rather try and listen more, allowing them to do most of the talking.
Additional etiquette tips:
- Make sure your phone is off or on silent to avoid it disturbing your meeting.
- Remember your table manners.
- Arrive on time to the meeting; in fact, get there earlier than your client to make sure everything is satisfactory.
A note on drinking during business lunches: It’s best to avoid alcohol during business lunches, especially if you’re hoping a deal will come from it. You’ll want to be as sharp as possible and avoid impairing your abilities.
The Direction: How will the meeting play out?
Whilst there’s no way of knowing exactly how the meeting will go, it’s a good idea to steer it in the right direction. You may be out of the office and sharing a meal, but the simple truth is that it’s still a business meeting. It can be easy to get caught up in the relaxed atmosphere of a restaurant, so it’s important to ensure that you don’t lose sight of the reason why you and the client are there in the first place. An easy way to avoid straying from the path is to prepare an agenda beforehand so that you can arrive at the meeting with the aim of achieving certain objectives. Be mindful of the agenda you’ve set for yourself and do what you can to stick to it – otherwise the meeting can end up being a waste of time.
The Bill: Who is responsible for paying it?
Rule of thumb is that if you invite a client to join you for a business lunch, it’s your responsibility to settle the bill. Once the bill arrives at the table, avoid grabbing it and rather reach for it calmly, before placing your credit card down.
Treating a client to lunch outside of the office environment can be an excellent way to make you both feel relaxed and more receptive to forging a business relationship together. If everything goes to plan, you could just walk out of there with one more piece of new business.
You may also be interested in: Six Secrets to Presenting the Perfect Business Pitch
Featured image: http://www.brake.co.uk