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Life Health > Running Your Business > Prospecting

How to Take a Client to Lunch

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What You Need to Know

  • Nice weather helps.
  • Talk about more than business.
  • Look as if lunch is more than a task on a checklist.

Summer is here. The weather is nice. This is an ideal time to invite a client to join you for lunch.

This should strengthen the relationship and you might get business out of it too.

You might think it’s simple. You call someone and say: “Let’s go to lunch.”

It’s more involved than that, and there is logic behind your approach.

And, of course: Before you take any of these 12 steps, review them with your compliance advisors.

1. Invite a client into the office for their annual review.

Some people like reviews, others do not.

Suggest you meet at the office for the review, then head out to lunch afterwards.

Logic: Getting a free meal has it’s appeal.

You have seen this before with seminars.

2. Bring their spouse into the picture.

You want both parties on the account to be present.

You will make suggestions. There will be changes you want to make and ideas for fresh money.

You do not want “Let me talk to my better half and get back to you” to be the answer after you ask for the order.

Logic: You have both decision makers in your office.

You are strengthening your connection with both parties on the joint account.

3. Complete the review at the office.

This includes those recommendations. After the review is completed, place the orders for suggestions where they gave the go ahead.

Now it is time to leave for lunch.

Logic: You want to get those orders placed and confirmed while you know the prices and availability.

4. Pick a restaurant that is a step up.

Put another way, do not take them to a diner.

You are a professional. You respect the relationship.

Logic: The restaurant sets the tone.

5. Dress well.

Everyone is dressing down these days.

Your client might be dressed casually. You want to be in business dress.

You might be the best dressed person (or party) in the room.

Logic: Your manner of dress communicates you are a professional. A well-dressed person is buying them lunch.

6. Establish who is paying.

You are picking up the check, of course.

You will not allow them to pay, split the bill or leave the tip.

If you can charge the meal to your firm as an expense, you do not mention it.

If you are spending your own money, it is fine to let your client know it is your pleasure to pick up the check.

Logic: Taking them out to lunch is a way to say thank you for your continued business.

It is unlikely anyone will go crazy ordering expensive dishes.

7. Let them make some decisions.

Would they prefer sitting inside or outside? If inside, are they OK with a quiet table away from the crowd?

Let them order their meal first.

They get to determine if it is going to be entrees only or a three-course meal.

It’s another way of establishing they are the ones being honored.

Logic: You are being gracious.

It will be noticed.

8. They can order alcohol. You do not.

They are the guests of honor.

You ask them if they want a beer or glass of wine with lunch.

You stick to water or iced tea because you are “going back to the office” after lunch.

Logic: There is plenty. Having wine with lunch feels like you are on vacation! If you drink and they do not, it sends the wrong message.

If you drink wine and order a second glass, they might think you drink too much.

9. Thank them for their business.

This would be a pretty good reason for a toast when beverages arrive.

Logic: You are showing respect for the relationship.

10. Talk business, but social subjects too.

This is a good time to recap the highlights of their annual review.

You can tactfully remind them what you do for them.

You will know when to stop talking business and move to social subjects like vacation plans.

Logic: You are laying groundwork for further business discussions while learning more about their personal interests.

11. Have dessert or at least coffee.

If you have made recommendations and they wanted “to think about it” this might be a good time to bring the subject up again.

Hit the highlights of your recommendations. Explain why they are timely.

Respect they wanted to think about it. Stop talking.

Logic: They may have had enough time to “think about it.” They might say: “Do it.”

12. Wind down lunch, being respectful of time.

If they have agreed with your additional suggestions, review what you will be doing and thank them.

Call for the check and pay the bill.

Walk them to their car or at least out of the restaurant.

Logic: You do not want lunch to look like a task that has been checked off as completed once the bill is paid.

You want to see them safely on their way.

The Value

Lots of business gets done over lunch. Connections are strengthened over a meal.

Its a pleasant part of the business relationship.



(Image: ASDF/Adobe Stock)


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