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14 tips for improving your client entertainment ROI

September 27, 2019

Entertaining clients is both serious and fun business. It can be a significant investment of time and money. Done right, however, socializing with clients can also be one of the best ways to deepen relationships and nurture future success.

After all, what client doesn’t like to get away from the four walls of the workplace from time to time? Entertaining clients on a more personal level, instead of on opposite sides of a conference table, can build real trust and understanding with even the most serious of clients.

Face time is not just an app.

With today’s technologies, face-to-face interaction can feel like a thing of the past. After all, we communicate much more now via email, text, and conference and video calls. That makes the original face time – not the app – so valuable for building more genuine (and more profitable) relationships.

Be careful, though! A careless blunder or awkward outing can spell disaster.

To make things easier, here’s a list of essential dos and don’ts for entertaining clients. They’re worth printing out and keeping in your drawer for the next time you plan a client outing.

DO have a plan.

There’s a saying about how the best times are spontaneous ones. Don’t believe it, especially not with clients whose money is helping finance your business.

What if an attraction is closed or a restaurant is under renovation? Make a flexible itinerary and call ahead for reservations. It also helps to let venues know that you’re entertaining an important client. Always speak with the manager and highlight your need for extra special service. Take advantage of relationships you or your company has already built with local venues.

DON’T show up in sweats.

And keep the backwards baseball cap at home, too. It doesn’t matter if you’re headed to a football game or indoor karting track, dress appropriately. You will be judged as much on your appearance as on your ability to entertain. Always dress appropriately for the occasion or activity.

DO your homework on client interests.

Start with LinkedIn (where you have a profile, right?) and check your client’s volunteering activities, articles and other interests. If they have a blog, spend some time reading it.

Are they on the board of a museum? Take them to see an opening of a new exhibit. Do they play golf every weekend? Organize a game at a nice course nearby. Are they thrill seekers? Take them to the latest karting track or zipline park.

DON’T talk shop unless the client brings it up first.

Obviously, you’re not looking for a best friend, just a better client.

But there’s a difference between closing and entertaining. You’re trying to build a relationship here, and that takes time. Entertaining clients is all about fostering that relationship, not closing a deal. Get to know your clients, let them get to know you, and the rest should come.

When your client does want to talk shop – and chances are, they will — be ready to discuss it clearly and passionately. Don’t turn down an occasion to make your pitch!

DO keep all your receipts.

This seems like a silly reminder, but too many entertaining expenses go un-reimbursed because of a missing receipt.

Here’s a tip: clean out a space in your wallet and keep them all in the same place. Then, keep every scrap of paper from your time with your client. Later on, you can figure out if it’s relevant, and reimbursable.

DON’T spend all your time on the phone.

Leave your phone in the car. Socializing takes two, and you can’t hold up your end if you’re constantly texting other clients or checking in at the office. You’re investing real time and money into this activity, not to mention the future revenue of an important client.

DO listen carefully.

Another thing we do less and less in this constantly noisy world is to actually listen when others talk. You can’t get a better understanding of what your client is really like if you’re talking and texting the whole time.

DON’T overindulge.

Remember, you’re doing business here, not out with your buddies or on vacation. It’s ok to have a drink (as long as it’s ok with your client). Just remember what all the beer ads say: “Drink responsibly.” Sip slowly. Eat plenty of food.

On the flip side, you can also make your guest feel uncomfortable by vowing to stay stone sober, while they’re relaxing with some drinks. Keep pace, but maybe stay one drink behind, and always be responsible and in control.

DO plan something original.

Golf is fine. A ballgame can be fun. But don’t be afraid to think outside the lines and plan something your client may have never been invited to by another business partner.

Organize happy hour on a boat. Take clients on an overnight ski trip. Invite them to an entertainment venue that has a little something for everyone. Supercharged Entertainment, for example, just opened on Route 1 in Wrentham. Besides the world’s largest multi-level indoor go kart track, we a Ninja obstacle course, Trampoline Zone, gaming lounge, and, of course, a fully stocked bar and restaurant.

DON’T sit down before your client does.

This is an easy one, right? Your client is your guest. Much like having guests for dinner at your home, you should never sit down before your clients. Think of it as a sign of personal respect.

DO be on time. Or better yet, early.

Your clients arrive 15 minutes before you at the event you planned. Guess what they’re thinking and feeling for those 15 minutes. Hint: It’s not good.

Punctuality is not just good business, it’s good etiquette. It’s another way we show respect. Leave plenty of time for unknowns like traffic jams. In fact, it’s better to be a bit ahead than unfashionably late.

DON’T over eat at the table.

If your client outing includes food – and what event doesn’t? – make sure you savor the food as much as your time with the client. Eat slowly. Pace yourself. Make time to “chew the fat” with clients, so they feel like they’re the centers of attention. Because they are!

If you think you might be very hungry by the time you sit down at the table, eat a snack beforehand.

DO tip generously.

You want to be rewarded for serving your clients well, right? That is, after all, why you’re entertaining them in the first place. Make sure you do the same for the servers and workers who are trying to make your outing a success.

DON’T pay in front of the client.

You don’t leave price tags on birthday gifts, do you? Same goes for client entertaining. While your client is enjoying his or her last drink, dessert, zipline ride or karting heat, head to the register and take care of the check. Even if the restaurant has POS machines to pay at the table, don’t.