Entertaining clients is part of the American way of doing business. I had an interesting conversation recently with a German friend who is working at a Swiss company in the U.S. with her husband and she commented how the sales cycle in our country is prolonged because of the relationship building and entertaining that goes along with the sale. I asked her what they do in Germany. She said either the prospective client buys the product or they don’t and they don’t have to take them to lunch to figure out if there will be a sale. In America, the perks of doing business with a company and salesperson are layered into the foundation of our capitalist economy. We have to show prospective clients we value their relationship by getting to know them and spending money on them. Whether you are a small business owner or you work for corporate America you have some type of budget. You may be running on near empty as it’s the end of the year so here are a few ‘entertaining on a shoestring’ tips I have picked up along the way in almost a decade in sales and marketing.
- Movie matinées. One of our vendors sponsored a matinée screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and it was such a hit with my clients and referral sources that I would love to do this again on a smaller scale. Some clients could not attend but told me in person or over email how much they appreciate the gesture. You don’t have to buy out the theater. Check out the upcoming movies, ask clients what they want to see and buy tickets to a 4 p.m. showing on a Friday. Plan a meeting spot and get there early to meet them.
- Cash/trade relationships. This is a great way to stretch your entertainment dollars. However, I would not recommend too many of these because you need cash to support your book of business. I have one cash/trade client where we discount our advertising in exchange for admission to their non-profit park and VIP tickets to their events. Some of the events were kid friendly so I invited a young family to one of them and other events were perfect for a date night out. In each case, I invited only one client at time so I could pay attention to them and get to know them better.
- Mom and pop dining. You don’t want to take your client to a dive restaurant in the beginning of the relationship but get to know what type of restaurants your client likes because they might enjoy dining at cheaper restaurants. If they are pretty low key, you can check out some of your town’s favorite “mom and pop” restaurants and get out the door for less than $30 for both of you.
- Dine around. Many cities such as Seattle, DC, Chicago and Phoenix offer a yearly dine around where you can check out a posh restaurant at a prix fixe price. This is a good time to take your client to an expensive restaurant and sample the chef’s cuisine. Oftentimes, these lower-price opportunities last during so-called “Restaurant Week” so keep an eye out for the deals.
- College sports. Support your local college sports teams. Get to know your clients to see who likes to watch college basketball or college football. It will cost less to take them to a college game versus a pro game. Tailgate and have some fun!