If you want to grow your business, you need to meet with the right people. One way to do that is to take them out for a business lunch or dinner. Meeting potential clients in an informal setting is a great way to boost your relationship with them. People are also more amiable if you remove the pressure of a corporate environment. Signing a new client can give you a boost up the corporate ladder, but first, you need to know how to play your cards right.
A corporate dinner with potential clients can make or break your career. If you want to get a promotion, you might have to wine and dine with significant people. Talking shop during an informal event requires different skills. You also need the right attitude to navigate tricky conversations. Here are four socialization tips from people who have aced their own client dinners.
1. Get there before the client
Think of a client lunch or dinner as a date, minus the romance. Usually, you’re the one who has to extend the invitation. But if a potential client invites you to a social gathering, don’t tell them you need time to think things over. Grab the opportunity and say yes.
Things like these are time-sensitive, and if you make them wait too long, your potential client will move on to someone who will take the time to impress them in a different setting. Try not to look too eager, though; accept the invite as if you were their equal, not as someone who is tagging along.
At the gathering, always act like someone is watching. Dress and act appropriately, and be cool and confident when asked questions. This is an assessment of your character; make sure you present the best version of yourself to ensure you can roll with this crowd.
At the same time, consider the politics of the situation as well. Does this person have a good reputation? Or is the situation grayer than you’d like? If the answer is the latter, you can turn them down. Another opportunity like this will arise in the future, and it’s better to stay in your lane and politely reject an invitation rather than risk your company’s reputation.
2. Greet the client by name
When you get to the venue, make sure to greet everybody by their name and give everyone a firm handshake. You should’ve done your research before the event. Greet the most important person first and work your way down. Remember to be polite and jovial and discreetly mirror their actions. Mirroring people’s actions is a psychological tactic used by people to subconsciously make others like them. It also helps to give locally made gifts.
Once the event starts, make sure to pay attention to everyone at the table. Talk casually yet with professionalism, and don’t be scared to laugh now and then. It is still a social gathering, after all.
3. Aim for a balanced approach
You want to impress your client, but you don’t want to dominate the conversation either. Lighten the mood by asking your client for order recommendations or their opinions on a few light topics. You can also follow what they order and say you trust their taste enough to get the same thing.
Fitting in through clothing can also work wonders as well. Try not to wear too loud colors that draw unwanted attention if someone takes a photo, especially if you’re meeting discreetly. Sticking out like a sore thumb too much might backfire on you and take away your chance of landing the client.
4. Think about what you say
As casual as the mood is, you have to have to watch the things you say. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to colleagues, and be careful about who you talk to about certain topics. You can talk about their needs, their business background, or even their favorite hobbies. Anything that isn’t too heavy to discuss over food and light drinks can be fair game.
In this situation, respect is of utmost importance. You don’t want to accidentally cause tension between you and the potential clients. Avoid topics like religion, sexuality, and politics up unless your opinion is explicitly asked for it. This kind of conversation can be a landmine, so navigate it carefully, and it pays to do a bit of research ahead of time.
A final word
Social gatherings with potential clients can be a delicate situation, but you’ll have a better chance of acing it when you keep these things in mind. If it doesn’t work out at first, don’t fret; there will always be more opportunities in the future.