We work hard to transform our offices into spaces that push productivity. And thanks to technology, we don’t even have to limit our work to only one place. We can accomplish a multitude of tasks with a phone call, a text message and via email and do it all from our car, in an airport or on our couch.
But sometimes, the old ways are still the best ways. Every day across this country, countless deals are being discussed and sealed face-to-face, and those faces are often located in a bar or restaurant where they’re downing a drink or two.
So how can you use this semi-social but still-serious setting to your business advantage? We asked two deal-making pros at The Chamber — Director of Corporate Development Shelby Stringfellow and Destination MGM Director of Sales Keely Smith — for their tips.
TIPS: DEALS OVER DRINKS
- Always be prepared: Have an agenda, talking points and know your audience.
- Know your role. Are you selling? Being sold to? Brokering the deal?
- Don’t jump right into business. Take your time with the introductions, get the pleasantries out of the way first. Let the other person do most of the talking. Let the other person do most of the talking.
- Always be prepared to pivot. The deal may not work the way you envision it, but there may be alternative ways to structure it that still work for everyone.
- Always follow up in writing. Summarize your conversation in an email within a few days of your meeting. Be sure to include action items, deliverables and a schedule.
- Don’t give up too soon. Very few deals worth making are solidified in one meeting.
- Don’t burn bridges. If this deal doesn’t work out maybe the next one will or maybe you’ve just made a great business contact. There are relationships that I have formed through business proposals that did not come to fruition that have turned into some of the most valued members of my social and professional network.
- Do your homework long before you order a drink. Know what you need to get out of the deal and know at what point you would walk away if the deal isn’t in your company’s best interest.
- Begin lightheartedly; make easy conversation and build some rapport by revealing a little about yourself while asking more about the other person.
- Keep your drinks to a minimum and order something middling, nothing too exotic, too strong or too expensive. Deals over drinks can go awry quickly.
- Don’t be in a hurry. Let the negotiations percolate and do more listening than talking.
- Always be honest and have your client’s best interest at heart. You may sell something, but you won’t make a friend or a long-term business relationship if you are the only one that comes away with the win.
- When the time is right, make the first offer, leaving room for negotiation if needed. Aim high and expect the best solution. In the end, have fun, make a friend, and don’t take yourself too seriously! If things need to be more formal meet in the board room, not the bar.
BAR BUSINESS ETIQUETTE: HOW TO MIX & MINGLE WITH BUSINESS ON THE TABLE
Mixing booze and business is not always profitable.
Too much of a good thing can go real bad, real fast. Stick to these rules when it comes to deals over drinks.
Do Make It Clear.
Ensure everyone understands that adult libations are part of your plan for the meeting. That way, if your client or colleague doesn’t drink and would be uncomfortable in the situation, you can change the plan.
Do Consider Some Quiet.
Don’t pick a restaurant or bar that’s always crowded and noisy. If you’re going to talk business, you’ve got to be able to hear each other.
Don’t Forget Your Objective.
You may not be in an office, but professional behavior is still smart. While it doesn’t hurt, having fun is not the primary goal. Don’t let the more relaxed vibe of a “drinks” meeting lull you into forgetting why you are there: to get some business done.
The point of getting out of the office and sharing a few drinks is to have some social time, but don’t let that part go on too long. Get down to business after the first drink if not before.
Do Be Prepared.
If the meeting goes long, and your client keeps drinking, feel free to slow down and always have some water and maybe even some appetizers on hand to ensure you can keep from getting too buzzed. And on the flipside, if your client isn’t up for ordering another round, don’t push another drink on them.