How to use a business lunch to your advantage

Here’s what’s required to get the most from your next mealtime meeting.

1. Plan your meeting carefully
Mealtime meetings must achieve the results you’re looking for, be it in furthering business relationships and social contacts, or improving your business. Without plan, the meeting might become little more than social get-together. If you’re the guest, think about the likely reasons for the invitation but set your goals anyway. While you’re at it, plan your exit beforehand. If you think the meeting may go over time, and you don’t want to be delayed unnecessarily, have colleague phone you at predetermined time.

2. Dine to your advantage
The meeting must make the best use of everyone’s time. If you sense reluctance on the part of the invitee to have business lunch, provide some options Ñ breakfast, dinner, coffee. Perhaps the other person may prefer brief office meeting with lunch being brought in. If you’re the host Ñ or guest, try to suggest the time and place for the meeting that’s most suited to your purpose.

3. Select the appropriate mealtime meeting
Your goals and your guest’s availability will generally dictate the type of mealtime meeting you’ll choose. summary of the main types:
? Breakfast meetings Ñ can be in restaurant or your office and their purpose is to talk business. Their advantages are:
– you’re fresh and wide awake
– simple menu and quick service
– there’s no temptation to drink anything stronger than coffee
– there’s work-imposed time for completion of the meeting.
? Lunch meetings either in-house or at restaurant, provide for high degree of flexibility in timing and location. If you want serious meeting and privacy, have it in your office. Luncheon meetings provide:
– chance to impress with good food, responsive service and quiet atmosphere
– convenient and pleasant way to talk business
– an opportunity to be seen in business social environment.
? Dinner meetings Ñ more of social event to wine and dine an important client. Very few big deals are ever closed over dinner, but you can set dates or appointments to get down to business.
? Other options:
– try coffee break; it feels good to take break and get out of the office
– order in; if you’re lunching with colleague or co-worker
– pay your own; chance to discuss ideas and plan areas of mutual interest Ñ and share the bill
– let your hair down with night on the town for clients and their partners.

4. Keep the conversation moving
Intersperse the conversation with issues of common interest Ñ family, mutual friends, issues peripheral to your industry, sport, or some other interest. Never lose sight of your objective however. Encourage your guest to talk about their business, goals, aspirations. Remember the old saying “bores talk about themselves, gossips talk about others, perfect conversationalists talk about me”.

5. Play your cards slowly
Get to the point by letting your guest see your position step-by-step. Encourage discussion, and make sure they’re listening. Try to have your guest study your proposal and arrive at your most favourable conclusion by themselves Ñ as if it were their idea.

6. Use note pad to jot down important issues
A blunt pencil can help sharp mind. Don’t be embarrassed to jot down some notes to act as memory joggers. Always have business cards and business brochures on hand just in case. After the lunch write brief note of appreciation and diary the outcome of the meeting including dates and future deadlines.

7. Stay focused
You’re not in the business of buying people meals; you’re in business to do business. If the other person seems reluctant to schedule follow-up meeting after your lunch meeting, they’re probably not interested in doing business with you.

From Just about Everything Manager Needs to Know, by Neil Fl & Jarvis Finger, Plum Press. Copy information to email: [email protected]; fax: (04) 528 9916

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