Top 10 Skills to Master for Entertaining Clients

Top 10 Skills to Master for Entertaining Clients

Entertaining current and potential clients is an integral part of business. Client breakfasts, lunches, dinners, coffee meetings, seminars, conferences or weekend retreats are an opportunity to get to know each other. Face to face meetings are crucial for establishing trust between any two or group of business professionals. An understanding of your relationship that could mean deal or no deal. Mastering a few skills and social graces will put you years ahead in building trusting long lasting client relationships.

The Plan

“Failing to plan is planning to fail” ~ Earl Nightingale

Before the invite step back and think about how the event will play out. What possible worst-case scenarios can you take a proactive approach to solving? How will your clients arrive at the venue, is there issues with parking, will there be lines, does your client have mobility issues, will there be any language or cultural barriers?

The Handshake

People shaking hands

Whether you’re at a networking event, business meeting or just enjoying a few drinks with colleagues, the handshake may be the single most important action for you to master when entertaining clients. It’s the first point of contact, and you want to make sure you nail it. You might ask yourself: Why not mix it up a little and get creative to win over your clients?

It has to be firm, but not too forceful. If there’s sweat on your palms, you’re probably overthinking things and too worried about keeping the client. Take a deep breath, maintain your confidence and remind yourself that the client wants to be able to relate to you as a person.

Remember: With each handshake, look your client in the eye, give a firm shake that shows them you mean business, yet at the same time says that you’re easy going and friendly. It’ll go a long way to a long-term, lucrative partnership.

The Venue

That trendy new restaurant everyone is raving about might sound like a perfect choice to impress clients, but you’re not the only one with this bright idea.  Service might be slow, the noise level not suitable for conversation, and who knows what other kinks the new operator is working out.

Impress your client with a restaurant where you know the location, menu, and staff. Alleviating the stress of the unknown, and you can make recommendations as to the chef’s specialties or bartenders drinks.

However, on the other hand, if your client has asked to check out that new restaurant or has a favorite haunt their suggesting, do your due diligence and check it out ahead of time.  This could mean going for lunch or dinner, or simply stopping by a few days ahead of time to chat with the seating host for a quick tour. Get the lay of the land to ensure you’re bringing your ‘a game’.

 

The Drinks

This is probably the easiest skill to master, especially in a crowded bar. Keep a few things in mind; first, you should know your client’s drink of choice by this point. Whether it’s a whiskey neat, top-shelf gin and tonic or just a tall pint of Guinness, the goal here is to get your drinks as quickly as possible and get down to business.

To get your drinks fast, the first and most important thing to do is stare down the bartender. Keep your gaze fixed on them until they acknowledge your presence. This shows them you know exactly what you want and are not going to waste their time with endless questions. Once it’s time to make the order, this is where knowing your clients’ drink preference will come in handy.

Be direct, speak up and then remain patient as your bartender crafts your drinks. You can set your cash down on the table, but make sure not to wave it in their face and distract them from pouring your beverages. This will likely result in sub-par drink, and you want your clients to be happy and enjoy the meeting. Have a look at this video to get the bartender’s perspective when ordering drinks.

The Toast

You just made your biggest client rich with your investment advice, and they’ve invited you out for a lavish meal on the company’s dime. Of course, they stuck you at the head of the table – as the centerpiece of this extravagant evening, all eyes are on you. Instead of waiting to be called upon to say your piece and make a toast, why not take the reigns and clink your champagne glass? Before making this bold move, here are some tips on how to really impress your clients:

• Keep the toast short and sweet: You’ve already proven yourself, and now it’s time speak confidently and give your thanks for the flourishing partnership. Make sure you get right to the point and try to keep your toast under 2 minutes.

• Be careful with jokes and humor: Unless you’ve shared a joke or other humorous experience with your client in the past it’s best to stay away from controversy.

• Practice your toast with family or friends: There’s no harm in practicing your delivery with loved ones, so take some time to try out your toast the day before your event. It might feel a little awkward, but will be worth the extra effort.

The Whistle

You just landed a huge client, and after a successful meeting, you surprise him with two front row tickets to the Lakers game. You learned that he was a big basketball fan, but it’s raining heavily out and you need to find a taxi cab as soon as possible. What options to do you have here?

Being able to whistle effectively with your fingers will show your client you know how to take charge of any situation. It will show your client that you’re not afraid to speak up and that you know how to get what you want. But this is easier said than done, and is going to take some practice. Instead of going over the detailed steps here, we suggest you watch this how-to video. It will take you through all the steps needed, and while you may not get it the first time, stick with the process each day until you do. Then, when it comes time to order a beer for your client at that Lakers game, you can also hail you nearest vendor right away.

The Bill

Remember, it’s not just dinner, it’s the cab, the drinks, the souvenir at the game and every other expense you can nab. You want your client’s wallet deep in their pocket collecting dust, while your company credit card gets a good workout. Credit isn’t always accepted everywhere you go and cash can be a quicker method of payment when grabbing a beer in the stands.

Be sure to carry cash in addition to cards. Credit isn’t always accepted everywhere you go and cash can be a quicker method of payment when grabbing a beer in the stands.

Try to take a proactive approach to paying the bill.  Arrange to have your credit card on file with the restaurant or bar, or share your credit card with your server before your meal is over. This enables you to focus more on your clients and have a smoother exit when wrapping up.

 

The Small Talk

Sometimes, you have to give the formal business talk a rest. Your client wants to know that you are human and can shoot the breeze every now and again. Just make sure you don’t bring up the weather or the next presidential election. Instead, do your homework and find out some of your client’s main interests. Once you’ve found a topic of interest (preferably one that you are also are well-versed in), it’s time to ask your client an open-ended question and let him talk away.

Next, ask follow-up questions to keep your client going and talking about himself. When you feel the time is right, add in your own personal experience to the conversation to show you’re actively listening. This will establish a connection with your client, and you can always follow up in the future with this type of small talk before your next meeting to set things off on the right foot.

The Joke

Just like making small talk, a well-timed joke while out with clients at a bar, networking or another casual event could help lighten the mood and move away from mundane conversations about business or the stock market. The key is that the joke must be in good taste, and could a be a risky proposition if you don’t know how to pull it off. Here a are a few tips to remember prior to trying out that next joke you heard from a colleague over beers:

Pacing: Tell the joke using an even pace, but don’t take too long. In all, the joke shouldn’t be more than a minute or two – otherwise, you’ll lose your client’s attention and interest.
Hand gestures: Use body language early and often to add character to your joke and build up suspense leading to the punchline. Animated facial expressions also work nicely to add a bit more color.
Deadpan delivery: Maintain your composure; you’re an actor here and you can’t break part by laughing early, stuttering or losing focus. Reel your client in until the last minute, and then hit the punch line on all cylinders.

The Story

Telling a story is in many ways like telling a good joke. The most crucial thing to remember is how you open up your story. You want to hook your client’s interest as quickly as possible, so keep your first sentence short and leave a bit of mystery to keep your audience guessing. Speak confidently and clearly, using measured pacing and a few pauses here and there add to the suspense. Your story should have a point, and it’s probably best to keep it under five minutes if you can. Your goal here is for your clients to remember the story and share it with their friends and colleagues, a nice bit of free word of mouth advertising for your wallet.

We recommend practicing your story with your friends over drinks, using an animated and natural delivery. Convey your point with authority, as all eyes will be upon you similarly to when you give a toast. You are the center of attention, and it’s your chance to be captivating and recant your story with color and charisma. Add in a bit of humor, don’t be afraid to laugh a little and you’ll have no problem getting a laugh out of your audience.

But it Can All Be for Nothing

You’re out to impress your client, all that work putting together the perfect venue, getting everyone where they need to be, making that memorable toast, and telling that well-timed joke will be worthless if your diving into your mobile device every few minutes.

let significant others or co-workers know that you’re client needs your attention and you won’t be responding to messages.  Put your device away, giving your client what they may just want most from you, your undying attention.