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Wellbeing

7 reasons to bring back the art of the business lunch

What happens when you take a client out for a business lunch? You win more work, writes Natasha Hawker.

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My career started in Banking & Finance in the late 80’s, when “greed was good”. Trading halted for a 90 minutes lunch and the traders vanished to the pub to mingle with clients and drink 3 or 4 schooners of beer (wine was not drunk by men in pubs then). Obviously, this was not great for their livers BUT it was great for business – and a significant amount of business was transacted over their beer froth.

I then worked as a Recruitment Consultant and we were regularly encouraged to take clients to lunch to thank them or to solicit more business. I can remember one time, where I accidentally picked a restaurant that was not accustomed to having a lady host the table, and the service I received was dreadful. As a result, and I did not return there. Haven’t times changed?

My sense is that in our new world of social media, and with our attention span reducing to that of a goldfish, we are not investing in developing deeper relationships with our clients. This, in my view, is to our, and to our company’s detriment.

We recently made the decision to invite our best clients to lunch to thank them, both for their business and for their support to date. One client I fully expected would just be a ‘thank you’ lunch only, as the assignment was winding up. What happened, is that we ended up quoting on five new pieces of work – valued at thousands of dollars. Not a bad investment of time and cost in my view.

"With our attention span reducing to that of a goldfish, we’re not investing in developing deeper relationships with our clients. "

So what did we learn from our long lunches?:

  1. Lunch conversations differ – the conversation with your client over lunch is different (wine helps) – but they are personal, deeper and some barriers drop. You get to know them better outside of their office persona
  2. Trust levels build – the more the relationship builds, so does the ‘trust bank’ – as you explore assumptions, options and diverse schools of thought
  3. Time slows – when you call a client everyone is looking at their watch for the next meeting. At lunch time you are less pressured and there are fewer interruptions – and you have their full focus and attention
  4. You win more work – if not over lunch, then it is highly likely that more work comes your way in the near future
  5. ‘Thank you’ goes a long way – when you thank a client for their business – which, let’s face it, happens infrequently these days, you build recurring clients and you also differentiate yourself in your business
  6. The client feels the love – your client feels special and valued – people remember how you made them feel, long after they have forgotten what they ate and drank
  7. Referrals – over a leisurely lunch a client can explore more about what you do, and actively think about people in their network that could also benefit from your services

So who should you be inviting to lunch this month? By the way, I am always up for a long business lunch, if you would like to invite me along?  Bon appetit!

Natasha Hawker

helps SMEs understand the challenges their businesses face and unlocks the mysteries of effective HR. She is the co-owner of Employee Matters and author of From Hire to Fire: Everything in Between".

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