How to Best Entertain Your Clients
How to Best Entertain Your Clients
Staff writer – 18 June, 2018 – Updated 14 June, 2019
So-called “soft skills” can be just as important in business as “hard skills,” if not more so. This is especially obvious when you need to entertain clients. If your people skills are not up to par, you can easily damage your relationships with your clients, as well as with your co-workers.
There are plenty of books to help you with people skills in general, such as How to Win Friends and Influence People. But, assuming you know the basics, there are some extra things to remember when entertaining clients. Read on for some tips on building relationships with your clients outside the office.
Mind Your Manners
Sometimes it seems that etiquette is a dying art form, but if you show good manners, people notice and appreciate you. First, look at your clothing. Don’t wear your gym clothes to the airport to pick up your client. You don’t have to wear stiletto heels or a tie either, but dressing well makes a good first impression and shows clients that they are important to you. And be sure to arrive on time!
Table manners are essential. No one wants to sit with someone who chews with their mouth open, talks while chewing, or shovels food in like it’s their last meal. Let them sit down first. Go easy on the alcohol. And make an arrangement with the restaurant about the bill so the client doesn’t have to see the price or the exchange of money. Avoid inappropriate humor and vulgar language, and keep the conversation light—don’t bring up work unless they do.
Avoid checking your phone when you’re with the client. If you think you will have to check your phone—if you are expecting an urgent message from your boss or you have a relative in the hospital—let your client know this and apologize.
Finally, be attentive to your clients’ body language and anticipate their needs. Walking around the city? They may be hungry or thirsty, or they may need to sit down and rest. They may not tell you unless you ask.
A Local Touch
If your client is visiting from somewhere else, they will be interested in your city or region. Skip the chain restaurant and take them somewhere that serves a local specialty (remaining aware of any dietary restrictions or tastes). Do you live on an ocean? Suggest a boat ride. If your city is historically significant, go on a historical tour. If your town is known for beer, they might enjoy a tour of a brewery.
Know Their Tastes
With social media, it’s easy to find out about your clients before you meet them, and you should be able to learn a bit about their tastes and hobbies. Take the time to plan a personalized activity.
If your client likes art and your city has an amazing art museum, take them. If they love baseball, football or tennis, get tickets to a game.
Plan well, but have a Plan B. Bad weather may cancel your golf outing. The client may show up on crutches and not be up to a walking tour. Your client may not be thrilled with the restaurant you chose.
Know the Place
When booking a restaurant, remember that it’s still a business event. Make sure it’s not too noisy to talk, and go at a time when it won’t be too crowded.
Some business professionals entertain at the same restaurant every time. Not only do they know the restaurant well that way, but the restaurant staff knows them and knows their guest is probably an important client. Frequenting one restaurant can also give your confidence a boost since you know what to expect in that area.
You do not have to stick to one restaurant, but do make sure you are familiar with the restaurant you choose. Make sure they can accommodate your guest’s preferences. If your guest has mobility issues, make sure the restaurant, and any other activity you choose, is accessible to them.
Whatever you decide to do with your client, make sure you are friendly and genuine. Listen closely to them when they’re talking and remember that you’re both just human beings!