As we all know, in today’s business world there is usually very little that separates you from your competition. Products are fairly similar, pricing is usually close and service levels don’t vary a whole lot in most instances. With that being the case, you—as a professional salesperson—need to take every opportunity to differentiate yourself from the pack. Sometime’s you need to suggest, “Let’s Do Lunch!”
In his book Never Eat Alone, Expanded and Updated: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi outlines many networking techniques, strategies and opportunities including (as the title of the book suggests) the business lunch. While some like to invite customers or potential customers to lunch just to “talk business”, I’ve found these “meetings” outside their office are perfect opportunities to get to know them better as a person—and not just as a customer or potential customer.
People usually eat with friends and family. That’s the way we’ve done things in this country for centuries. To share a meal with someone is still a bit of a private matter. With that being said, I suggest not making these “working lunches” as much as chances to get to know your customer or prospect on a more personal level—gaining knowledge that will help you win more and keep more business in the future. Now, I know there are times that you must work through lunch and take care of business over a sandwich or pizza or whatever. But, I’m talking about an invitation to meet in a restaurant and get out of the office and really get to know each other.
You can learn a lot about a person in this situation. What food do they like? Are they allergic to a certain food? (This is VALUABLE information if you invite them to another function.) Are they a vegetarian? The list goes on and on.
Obviously, you should be on your best behavior and mind your table manners. Those are basics that I’m not going to waste your time going over here. But, how perceptive are you? Are you just getting through lunch—or are you using this as an opportunity to get to know your client or prospect on a much deeper level? Whether you are at a fast food chain or the nicest restaurant in town, you can learn a lot that is can be very useful later.
Relax, have fun and focus on talking about anything BUT business and it can be a very successful “business lunch”. And most of all: listen!