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How To Navigate The Tricky Terrain of A Business Lunch

The business lunch exists so that two people may converse about business matters (which is a meeting), while doing something they had to do anyway (which is eating). It is formal, yet it is human. It is committal, yet it is non-committal. It is awkward, yet it is tasty. The business lunch is a paradox.

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Lunch? Lunch.

We’ll assume you’re meeting your counterpart one-on-one and that the other person is, pretty much, a stranger. And we’ll assume you’re the one who is in need: of money, a partnership or a contract. You’re the one pitching, and you’ve made the invitation.

The business lunch is more lunch than business. The invitee can request a downgrade, like a meeting in their office or for coffee.

“My philosophy is that lunch is not the most productive place to do business,” says Eric Manlunas, a managing partner at US-based venture capital firm Siemer Ventures.

“I like to invite people in for a meeting in the office. If the idea is something we like and we believe we can consider investing in, then we may have lunch. Lunch means they’ve made it through the first filter.”

The point is, whether at the first or second meeting, if you get someone to agree to lunch, you’re in.

Before Your Guest Arrives

The choice of restaurant is crucial. The place should be convenient for the other person. It should be in a place the other person need not travel far to get to. The message should be clear: For the purposes of this meal, the other person is to be catered to.

It helps if you’ve been there before. Because if you’ve been there, you know how you’ll be treated. You want a place that understands service. And good service as it relates to the business lunch is a place where you’re seated and tended to immediately.

“If a guest needs a lot of peace and quiet and no attention, then seat them in an area that’s away from everyone else, and make sure my service person does not provide a lot of attention to the table,” says Richard Coraine, senior managing partner at Union Square Hospitality Group.

“The more we know about what you need, the better we are going to be at exceeding your expectations.” Is the restaurant you’re going to looking to exceed your expectations. That’s the kind of place you want.

You want to walk in seven minutes before the meeting. (Ten, and your table might not be ready; five, and your counterpart might beat you. So, seven.)

You want to sit down at the quiet table your assistant requested, one where business may be conducted. Not a booth. A table. Four-top. (Note: Those who do not have an assistant must, for the sake of reservation-making, deputise someone to be their assistant. It changes everything. Assistants get good tables. If you call, you get a two-top for two people. If your ‘assistant’ calls, you get a four-top in the corner for two people. That’s the best table.)

Service-oriented places welcome specific requests. Says Coraine: “The more the assistant can tell us ahead of time, the less intrusive we will be. We don’t have to try and figure out what your agenda is.”

You want a four-top. You want to sit next to each other, around one corner. The worst way to have a business lunch is to sit directly in front of the other person – all that eye contact is a little awkward, and you might have to talk loud enough that other people can hear you.

The corner is a little intimate, sure, but lunch is an intimate thing. The key with corner seating is that it allows you to avoid the awkwardness, and it facilitates discretion.

Before your counterpart arrives, you want to order some sort of beverage and scan the menu. You want to look around, you want to get comfortable and you want to be ready to receive your guest.

The other person has the upper hand (since you’re the one who needs something, and this may be a place the other person suggested), but by getting there early, being seated early, getting a good table and deciding what you’ll have – by being relaxed – you’ve made this place your place.

When your counterpart arrives, subtly direct him or her to the chair next to you.

Related: Rookie Networking Mistakes You Need to Avoid

The Meeting

The lunch part is easy. You eat, you talk. The business part is a little trickier. Because lunch is mostly about socialising and not business, it might help to wrangle your pitch into something that can be delivered quickly and then dispensed with. Says Jared Goralnick, founder and CEO of AwayFind, an email productivity app:

“Lunches are more about furthering the relationship than the deal. If I’m calling a lunch, I have a goal, but that goal is small, and it might be a five-minute thing. The rest of it is making them comfortable with that five-minute thing or making them comfortable being around me.”

You go to the place, you order the food, you do the pitch and then you have an actual conversation with an actual human being – about business or not. What the other person wants to see is someone who is comfortable being around a potential new business partner and to confirm that you and your business are as interesting as they initially thought.

You can relax. You can have an interesting conversation. You can have an interesting meal. If, after you’ve done your five minutes, they want to bring up the business again, let them.

The best part about the business lunch is that it forces us to do something we don’t do enough in our professional lives: be ourselves. And eat at a table for more than 15 minutes. But mostly, be ourselves.

Key Technical Matters

  •  No sandwiches.
  • No red sauce.
  • No sandwiches involving red sauce.
  • Always pay – But never pay with a coupon or gift card. Or change from the petty-cash drawer.
  • Say “appetisers,” not “apps.” At a business lunch, it might not be immediately apparent which kind of “app” you’re referring to.
  • If your plate is at least one-third fuller than the other person’s you’re talking too much.
  • If your plate is at least one-third emptier than the other person’s, he or she is talking too much.
  • If your plate is at least one-third larger than the other person’s, you have ordered the Admiral’s Feast.
  • If the other person checks their watch, immediately ask for the check.
  • If the other person checks their drink, immediately order them another.
  • If the other person checks their pulse, immediately ask for an ambulance. And maybe refine your pitch a little.

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Networking

The 12 x 12 x 12 Rule For Successful Networking

If you follow the three parts of this rule carefully, you can learn to network successfully.

Brian Hilliard

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The following excerpt is from Ivan Misner, Ph.D. and Brian Hilliard’s book Networking Like a Pro. Buy it now from Amazon.

Perception is reality. How many times have you heard that saying? Probably enough to know that the way you’re perceived really does affect the business you conduct (or don’t conduct) with other people. This is especially true when it comes to networking and meeting someone for the first time, and this is where the 12 x 12 x 12 rule becomes so important.

Basically, this rule involves three questions:

  1. How do you look from 12 feet away? Do you look the part?
  2. How do you come across from 12 inches away? Does your attitude and body language reflect what they first saw?
  3. What are the first 12 words out of your mouth?

What we’re talking about is how important it is to create the right perception of yourself and your business.

Let’s face it: As a businessperson, you’ve got a lot going on. But, most prospects don’t care how much you’ve got going on or how many balls you have in the air. They just want to know if you’re a potential solution to a problem they have, and their initial perception of you goes a long way in making that determination.

The same is true for potential referral partners.

They want to know if they can trust you with their referrals – people (and sometimes clients) with whom they have a good relationship. Do you have your act together so you won’t jeopardise their good name when they refer business to you? Right or wrong, their initial perception of you is going to play a large part in answering that question.

This is precisely what the 12 x 12 x 12 rule is all about. It looks at you from the perspective of other people (prospects or referral partners) and shows you how to optimise their perception. This doesn’t mean manipulating or deceiving them; experienced people can see through that. Nor is it about checking your personality at the door. What it does mean is fine-tuning your networking practices to avoid shooting yourself in the foot.

Related: Great Places To Take Your Clients When Networking

Let’s go over the specifics of the 12 x 12 x 12 rule and how you can manage the perception others have of you.

Look the part before going to the event (How do you look from 12 feet away?)

professional-appearanceYou’d be surprised how many people fall short in the fundamental area of appearance. If it’s a chamber of commerce networking breakfast, don’t go casual. Instead, consider wearing a good suit or nice outfit. You need to be well rested and clearheaded when attending a morning networking session; make a conscious effort to get plenty of sleep the night before. If you’re not a morning person, hit the sack earlier than usual so you don’t look like the walking dead. Regardless of how many cups of coffee you’ve had, people can tell if you’re not all there.

Make sure your body language sends the right message (How do you come across from 12 inches away?)

When it comes to forming networking relationships, most of the important information – trustworthiness, friendliness, sincerity, openness — is communicated through nonverbal cues such as posture, facial expression and hand gestures. When engaging in conversation, look the other person directly in the eye and stay focused on what he’s saying. Lean a bit into the conversation rather than away from it; don’t stand rigid with your arms crossed.

When meeting someone for the first time, a lot can be said about how much your attitude can impact her first impression. Make sure that when you’re talking to others, you have a positive, upbeat attitude.

Another part of the “12 inches” away rule is making sure you know which pocket your business cards are in and having plenty on hand. Nothing screams, “One of these days I’ve got to get organised!” louder than handing a potential referral partner someone else’s card. So make sure you have some type of system for keeping your cards separate from the cards you receive at the event.

One more thing: Remember to smile when meeting someone for the first time. Studies have shown that if you smile when you talk, you seem more open and forthright. Obviously, you don’t want to go overboard with this and start grinning and shaking hands like a hyperactive clown; just show that you’re having a good time, and that will send the right message.

Related: The Top 10 Behaviours To Avoid When Networking

Make sure you’re ready to speak (What are the first 12 words out of your mouth?)

When someone asks you what you do, make sure you’re ready with a response, or unique selling proposition (USP), that’s succinct but memorable. A good USP is the offline equivalent of a good post on social media… something that promotes curiosity and engagement. The attention span of the average adult is 20 seconds; a long, drawn-out answer to the question isn’t going to work. Whatever words you choose, make sure your answer is quick and informative without sounding over-rehearsed or contrived.

Perception is reality when it comes to meeting people for the first time. If people perceive you as not being right for them, they simply won’t be inclined to refer business to you, regardless of the work you can actually do. However, by keeping the 12 x 12 x 12 rule in mind, you’ll go a long way toward creating the right impression in the blink of an eye.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Networking

Why I Never Meet Someone For Coffee

The conventional offer of “getting coffee” is, in my opinion, one of the most frustrating offers that can be made.

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First off, I need to make clear that I am not against meeting people for coffee or even drinking coffee. My issue is that I’ve learned that the offer to go get coffee usually means that somebody wants something from me. Whether it is time, money or to help them make a connection, an offer to grab a drink almost always has some ulterior motive behind it.

You might think that I flat out don’t want to help others, but the real issue is the other opportunities that I have in front of me. I have a lot on my plate, so dedicating the time to a “quick” coffee meeting does not make much sense.

Related: Starbucks Coffee Is All About Culture… For A Reason

Say no to getting coffee

Hours spent in the office doing business are not the time to sit back, relax or socialise. I try to be as efficient, effective and statistically successful as possible during work hours (and beyond). The conventional offer of “getting coffee” is, in my opinion, one of the most frustrating offers that can be made.

I rarely take anyone up on the offer to “do lunch” during work hours. Just consider the amount of time that it takes to get to and from a coffee or lunch meeting, and how much business could be done in that same time.

Then, think about the inefficiencies of utilising that time for things such as small talk, even before you get to the critical business issue.

Have an objective in mind

I have the objective to try and keep every phone call to a maximum of five minutes. When it comes to in-person meetings, I prefer them to take place at my office or overlapping other meetings I have outside the office, which I call “holding court.”

Even then, I try to keep those meetings to 20 minutes long. This allows me to fit in as many meetings or calls as possible. So many people make the excuse that they are “doing business” and then leave the office to do unimportant things, or overlap their meetings around errands.

Make no mistake, I’m not advising against meeting people in person. I’m saying take control of the business opportunity and have them come to you, or meet them somewhere convenient when you are outside of the office.

Related: 5 Ways That Coffee Affects Productivity

No coffee, just grind

The majority of lunch and coffee meetings that take place are nothing but an inefficient use of time. I would suggest not only rejecting such meetings during work hours, but to also stop asking for coffee meetings unless they’re absolutely necessary.

How do you determine whether or not a meeting is necessary? Take a look at the reasons and impacts the meeting can have. If these outweigh the potential drawbacks of an in-person meeting, then it is acceptable to ask. Make sure that you focus on making efficiency a key principle when chasing your objectives.

Stay focused in on critical business issues and you will find that focus will provide you with everything you desire in business and life.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Company Posts

Great Places To Take Your Clients When Networking

Are you hoping to make a lasting impression on your client? Maybe you are trying to woo a new client? If that’s the case, you’re going to want to read on and check out these great places that are ideal for taking your clients to.

Jeff Broth

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Do you live in South Africa and work at a job that entails taking clients out while networking? Are you tired of doing the same activities over and over? Are you hoping to make a lasting impression on your client? Maybe you are trying to woo a new client? If that’s the case, you’re going to want to read on and check out these great places that are ideal for taking your clients to.

Introduce Them to Casino Action and Fun

There’s no better way to make a splash with your clients than by taking them to one of the many casinos found in South Africa. Between the cities of Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Queenstown, Pretoria, and Sun City there are more than 15 casinos to check out. Casinos offer a light and fun atmosphere that is perfect for letting loose. At the same time, they aren’t too loud, which means you can go ahead and sneak in a little shop talk.

Related: The Top 10 Behaviours To Avoid When Networking

Besides the casinos, you can also take your clients to horse races and even bingo. If the casino action is a big hit with them, be sure to let them know there are a large amount of South African online casinos that offer all the same types of games, plus a whole lot more.

Enjoy a Sports Game

sports-ground

Professional sports events are another fabulous spot to take your clients. You get that laid back casual atmosphere that allows you to stray from the traditional business attire, it’s a chance to get out of the office, and you can introduce your client to your own home team.

South Africa is well-known around the world for its love of sports. Among the most popular are rugby, cricket, and soccer. If you want to take them to the most popular sport in the country, however, soccer is the clear winner. Loftus Versveld and Ellis Park are two stadiums that are known to draw in some very rowdy crowds. Just be sure to get your tickets well in advance so you don’t end up disappointing your client.

Share the Local Cuisine

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking your client out for a meal, this particular option tends to be over-done. In order to make yours a memorable experience, skip the chain restaurants and typical locations and instead introduce your client to local and authentic cuisine. These are the places the tourists don’t tend to visit, but the locals know all about.

Plan an Adventure Tour

paragliding

Before you go ahead and choose this option, it’s a good idea to learn as much as possible about your client in advance. Not everyone is up to adventure activities, so you want to be sure you don’t put them in an uncomfortable position.

Related: 3 Practical Tips To Nail Networking

If you’ve got the green light, however, there are all kinds of activities you can take part in. Adventures can include a private helicopter tour, paragliding, zip-lining, a shark watching tour, a private surfing lesson, whale watching, kayaking, a sightseeing tour (by bus, car, or foot), bicycling, hiking, snorkelling, horseback riding on the beach, or even High Tea in Cape Town.

All of these ideas are unique and memorable so you know the visit will leave a lasting impression in your client’s mind.

Don’t Be Afraid to Think Outside the Box

When it comes to entertaining your clients while you spend time networking, there is absolutely nothing wrong with thinking outside the box. Coming up with unique ideas is sure to leave that lasting impression in their mind, which is exactly what you are striving for.

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