Some (well okay, most) of these have been learned from bitter experience….

(1) What are the rules?
Rules are meant to be broken – if you have a client that you know particularly well then you can bend the rules. If however you are taking a local solicitor to lunch with a view to getting his business you’d better behave yourself.

2) What is the dress code?
Whatever you think your client will be wearing — if they are the same sex as you that is — or smarter if you are not sure. Never be under-dressed – you will feel inadequate. If you are going to a place that needs a certain dress code make sure your client is aware and is happy about it.

3) How do you decide where to take a client?
Sensible answer: Where do you think the client would most like to go? Some clients would rather a pie and a pint than the latest trendy Gordon Ramsay resturant. Also, how much time do you and your client have available will impact on your choice.

Honest answer: How flush are you? Where do YOU want to go? How much is your client worth to you? If you have another meeting close by, you should choose the resturant to make it easier for you.

4) Should you drink?
Sensible answer: Follow your guest’s lead
Honest answer: If you fancy a drink and your guest doesn’t you can always use the line “If I didn’t have a pint you wouldn’t believe that I’m a PR guy”. It never fails. And nothing goes down worse than if your client wants to have a drink and you won’t (so I’ve heard!!)

5) Should you talk business straight away?
And it’s no, nay, never, no nay never no more, will I talk busines at lunch – no never no more. Taken loosely from the lyrics of the Irish song “The Wild Rover” Unless of course your client starts it ….

6) How do you, or should you, seal the deal?
Like Victorian children — normally again — not unless you are spoken to. Seriously, it’s okay to clarify what’s been said at the end of the meeting.

7) On what note should you depart?
More sober than your client – always. Especially if you have another meeting to go to afterwards! If you think it’s going to be a drinking lunch then don’t plan anything afterwards.

8) What should I eat?
Nothing messy! Not oysters either. A client still reminds me of the time ten years ago I made a mess of Thai food down my shirt — and I had another meeting to go to afterwards! Take your client’s lead about whether to have starter or desert.

9) Topics of Conversation
Current affairs, the client’s industry, sport, music, films, family life (if you client has one) hobbies (the client’s and NOT yours!) Let the client lead this unless they don’t talk. Have some anecdotes up your sleeve. There’s nothing worse than awkward silences.

10) A few Do’s and Don’ts
* Do be charming and witty and polite
* Do go to the local resturant where the staff/owner knows you and will make you look artificially important
* Do arrive before your client — and if you are late say “a journalist kept me on the phone talking about your company and I couldn’t get away”
* Do enjoy it 🙂
* Don’t rush off saying I’ve got to see another client (if you do have to, say it’s a journalist you’re seeing)
* Don’t use your mobile/BlackBerry (if you have to say you’re just checking on something urgent for the client you’re with) If you need to make a call or see the cricket score do it when you go to the toilet.
* If you have to leave your phone on in case another client has to call you, say you have a family crisis and have to leave your phone on just in case.

And if none of the above work you’re on your own. Just blag it.

Chaz Brooks – Published on Fresh Business Thinking

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