Part of running a business is courting clients who will sign the big contracts that will be your bread and butter. Indeed, some businesses exist only to capture that one client who will then revolve around for their rest of their business life, whether they’re chasing a government contract, or want to work with tech giants like Google.
As well as having some solid expertise behind your claims, you need to know how to entertain these clients: where to take them, whether to wine and dine them, or simply make your pitch in a neutral business setting. Some clients prefer to be formally ‘entertained’ while others might be taken aback and look on it as something tantamount to bribery. Certainly, if you were making a pitch to a government department and tried to offer their representative tickets to a show or an unlimited array of free drinks you could be making their life very difficult. Their job is to report back on your costings and capabilities to superiors and an attempt to entertain might look like you’re trying to sway a decision making process they actually can’t influence all that much.
You should also be wary of pushing the boat out too far. Even if you identify a client who likes to be treated like royalty, draining your expense account for the next quarter could leave you in a spot of bother if you need to make some other charges!
So, what are your first steps when you have an incoming client?
Start with google, continue with Twitter and LinkedIn. Identify their interests, and if you can’t do that, find some shared contacts you ask. It’s no good booking tickets for a show on the West End if your client is interested in exploring some of the best private dining London has to offer.
Even if you have a good understanding of what your client is going to want to do, don’t leave things to chance. If a restaurant you have in mind turns out to be closed at the last minute, leaving you scrambling for a back up, you might come out of things looking worse than if you’d left the client to their own devices after the meeting.
Book in advance where you can, and even if you can’t phone ahead to make sure there are no unexpected closures or private bookings that will scupper your evening.
Unless the client starts it, don’t talk shop. You both know the reason you’re there – you want them to sign a contract, but outside scheduled business engagements, remember they’re on leisure time and so are you. If they want to discuss the contract, be ready to but otherwise let them relax and enjoy themselves. If they feel you’re exerting undue pressure they’ll run a mile!