Don't entertain and discuss business

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Q. What are the guidelines for talking business when entertaining a client? I don't want to be too aggressive.
A. It's always difficult to negotiate the fine line between maintaining relationships and being too aggressive. When entertaining, you must first consider why your client agreed to spend this time with you. Was it to get away from the office and relax in a casual environment, or was it to be tortured with an even lengthier sales presentation? If you end up taking this opportunity to latch on to your guest like a dog on a bone and pester them for business, then you've wasted a golden opportunity. Hard-hitting and aggressive entertainment will likely result in the hapless sales representative being banished to waiting-room purgatory in the future.
For countless years, I've been tagged as a manager or consultant that constantly preaches sales aggressiveness, but there is one exception to this mantra: Never bring up business when you are entertaining customers. Whether on a quick lunch or playing a round of golf, never bring up business. Regardless of the occasion or circumstances, the account should always initiate a business discussion. When you do not cram business down the throats of your potential customers, they begin to let their guard down and enjoy themselves, and in this relaxed environment, clients appreciate your courtesy and will respond by initiating business discussions.
Once the client has begun discussing business, then it should be very easy to steer the conversation to achieve your goal. But, never forget, your goal when entertaining customers is not to make a sale or close a deal but to strengthen customer relationships.


Joe Sansone is CEO of TMC Orthopedic. Reach him at 713-669-1800 or