How to entertain clients and prospects

Time spent socially with prospects and clients is more than an enjoyable part of our profession. It can also help close the deal, strengthen the client relationship or encourage referrals. Here are a few ideas, ranging in cost, to create casual quality time with clients.

Buy them coffee. The weather is great. You’re in the neighborhood. You stop at an upscale coffee or ice cream shop. You call a client and ask if they can get away for a few minutes to join you.

Rationale: You were in the neighborhood and hadn’t seen them for a while.

Meet for drinks at an outdoor cafe. It’s one of those perfect days when everyone wants to go outside to enjoy the weather. You call a client, suggesting you meet for a glass of wine after work.

Rationale: It’s a relaxing environment. You both get to know each other better. You learn about each other’s personal lives. You can ask questions.

Buy them lunch. You schedule a periodic review for that morning. You meet your client couple at your office. During the review, you make suggestions; some they accept, others they want to think over. You have scheduled lunch after the review. Relaxing over lunch, you revisit the suggestions they wanted to consider.

Rationale: They see you buying lunch as a benefit of the client relationship. You are all relaxing away from the office. Without pushing, you can ask if they have any questions after the review, specifically about the suggestions you made. They might agree to them over lunch.

Help them celebrate something. Your client is retiring soon. You invite your client to a celebratory lunch and ask them to invite a few friends from work who are retiring later that year. Over lunch, you congratulate your friend and inquire about their plans for retirement. They talk you up.

Rationale: The close-to-retirement guests start wondering if they need the kind of advice you gave your happy client.

Organize a dinner to get referrals. You might try to get some financial support from a marketing partner. You invite two or three clients out to dinner. You ask them to each bring a friend, someone they think you should meet or you might be able to help.  Everyone has a good time chatting socially over dinner.

Rationale: The guests will ask about what you do. Maybe your clients will explain. Everyone relaxes and gets to like you. People do business with people they like.

Retitle a seminar as a briefing. A manager at a major firm came up with this idea. If you hold a seminar for clients and prospects, people assume they are going to be sold something. If you title it a “briefing,” they feel they are coming to learn something.

Rationale: Briefing sounds exclusive. Political leaders get briefings.

Bring them to a museum opening. You are a major donor, or your firm has sponsored an exhibition. You have tickets to bring guests to the preview party. You bring a couple of clients, sticking with them the entire time.

Rationale: People feel cultural events are upscale and exclusive. They feel they are treated as important clients.

Invite them to a sports event. Your firm has a skybox at the stadium or maybe the firm sponsors a golf tournament, and you have access to tickets. You bring clients to the golf tournament, entertaining them in the firm’s hospitality tent.

Rationale: Your client is attending something they couldn’t get into otherwise or they are in premium seats. They feel like they are special clients, strengthening their bond with the firm.

It’s time to remind ourselves how client entertaining works. There is a social aspect to it but also a business purpose.

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. His book “Captivating the Wealthy Investor” is available on Amazon.

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