Have an important meeting? Here are five reasons to do it over lunch, and some tips to make the most of it.
You finally get connected to the person you have been pursuing. Maybe it’s the client of your dreams. Perhaps it’s the mentor you always wanted. Maybe it’s that perfect recruit or potential partner. It doesn’t matter, you want them to listen and they have agreed to give you time. Now you need to put the odds in your favor.
Phone and Skype aren’t personal enough to close this deal. It needs to be face to face. Don’t go to their office. Don’t even meet for coffee or a drink. You need to invite them for lunch. Here’s why, and how:
1. You’ll Control the Environment
Their office is their territory: their colleagues may interrupt you, or they may be distracted by calls or emails. Even if they agree to come to your office, you don’t want any distractions there either. Besides, being in your territory may prompt them to put up their guard. You want them at ease. You want the environment to work for you. You can control the entire atmosphere at lunch.
Tell your prospect that you will arrange things and send them the info on where to meet. Pick a restaurant that is quiet so they can hear you. Ask their food preferences and find an appropriate setting–be it trendy or classic, elegant or casual–that reflects the impression you want to make. Pre-arrange with the wait-staff (pre-tip, and learn their names) to take special care of your table so the focus is on your business at hand. Now everything is on your turf and your prospect can be wowed by your style, initiative, and way with people.
2. You’ll Be on Equal Footing
I hate going to someone’s office and sitting in front of their desk. They sit in the power position and wait for you to perform. Half the time, their chair sits above you, making you feel small and insignificant. With a little planning at lunch, you can keep the power equal or maybe even in your favor. Preview the restaurant you choose and designate a table that you like with the headwaiter. Make sure that you can see the door and have your back to the wall if at all possible. You should be seated so that you are at an equal height and are the most obvious focal point from their view.
3. You’ll Have Captive time
In a typical meeting, the business agenda controls the time frame. If you only have 20 minutes of substantive discussion, you will find yourself dismissed once you make your point. Lunch is different. Eating is an expected social experience and few people schedule a lunch for less than 60 to 90 minutes. Leave the laptop at home. A paper presentation works best at the table and your prospect can take it home. Once you are done with a brief description, move on unless the prospect wants to delve further. Unless you offend, you will both be there for the whole meal, so use the extra time to connect socially. People do business with people they like. Now you have the time to help them like you.
4. You’ll Create a Shared Experience
The two of you are there together. Make your prospect feel comfortable. Make sure your etiquette is refined. Mirror their behaviors so they are not embarrassed. You have the chance to find common ground and bond. Create a memory that becomes the basis for your future relationship. Let it be an awesome experience you both recall with fondness. Clearly address the need for meeting. Find ways to make it entertaining and creatively generate an unexpected moment that wows your prospect. Call the chef in advance and arrange for a special dish.
5. You’ll Do Them a Favor
Pick up the check!!! It may seem obvious but many business people are inclined to split bills today. Going Dutch is not an option if you want retain power. You want your prospect to feel obligated to you even if only for the lunch. Make sure you have that advantage when the meal is finished. The best way to assure this is to give the waiter your credit card privately before the lunch even starts. You can decide whether or not to tell your prospect up front that this experience is on you, or wait until the end as a surprise. Either way, you’ll put them in a position of gratitude at the end, leaving you open to pursue the next steps.