I was in Vegas years ago speaking at an event and one of my clients happened to be in town.
“Let’s meet for lunch,” he said. “I know the perfect spot.”
I arrived and the place was packed. “I screwed up, I didn’t make a reservation and the wait is over an hour.”
“Let me see what I can do,” I said as I headed to the hostess desk.
I was gone maybe two minutes.
“They said they will see what they can do,” I said assuredly to my client. “I say we wait.”
Before we could make it to the bar to get some drinks, the hostess stopped us. “Mr. West, I’m glad I caught you. It’s been a while since we’ve seen you. We’re preparing your table right now.”
My client looked at me with a look of “What in the hell did you just pull?!?!”
A few minutes later, the owner arrived, greeted me by name, introduced himself to my client and personally escorted us to his private table.
Upon sitting down, my client just shook his head in disbelief, “Who DON’T you know?!?!?!”
Truth be told, I didn’t know the hostess or the owner. I had never eaten at that restaurant before, nor had I ever stepped foot in that casino until that day.
So how did I pull this off? I’m going to tell you…
Let’s first lay the foundation: If you take clients in your business, the best advice you should heed to is to be selective.
Be very selective.
Customers who want your product or service are better than those who need your product or service. Companies who want your product need little marketing and convincing to get their business. Customers who need your service but don’t want it, need to be convinced. That takes a lot longer, more money and a lot more effort, and it may not even work.
As in the movie Jerry McGwire, if you take clients, take on fewer clients. To be most effective, the number of clients or projects a person can manage should be counted on with one hand.
Spoiler alert: That’s five maximum.
You don’t want thirty small, work-intensive, low-budget clients. There may be less red tape at smaller companies, but there is also more e-mail, more problems, more work, and a less impressive resume.
Fish where the big fish are.
Larger companies have no problem writing a $10,000, $20,000 or $30,000 check to you every month if you can deliver. It takes several or a dozen small companies to bring in what one large company will. Make each client a high-class client, so you can work on one client per day, giving them excellent service and something no one else can give them. They will then pass that on.
People love to talk about their business. If you land a large company, it could land press coverage because they will launch a press release and post on their website who they are working with and the results they are obtaining. Then other companies will follow suit.
The way to land big fish is to show them what you can do, how you can do it, and the confidence you have in your ability. In order to set up the right atmosphere, I prefer to meet clients in restaurants as they are neutral territory. Never go to their offices, that gives them the “home field advantage” and the temptation is too large to make you wait in the lobby for a half hour and sometimes more.
Clients rarely, if ever, cancel or are late to a business lunch. There’s food and drink involved … plus, it gives them an excuse to go “off-campus.”
How do you make the experience one of a kind?
Two approaches: First, contact a local restaurant in person and ask for a brief meeting with the manager. Explain you will be conducting business, and you want to be able to have a great table, the best server, and you will compensate the hostess with $100 tip and the same to the server.
No manager is going to say no to this arrangement.
Second is the “envelope approach.” This is to be used at restaurants that you don’t have an arrangement with. Because of this, you should always keep a handwritten note in an envelope with you which states the following:
“I need your help. I am entertaining a high-level prospect today for lunch. I need this deal. May I have your best table, the best wait staff and a table that is quiet so we will be uninterrupted. Please seat my client with his back toward any particular view (golf course, marina, etc.) so his attention is on me, not the surroundings.”
As a gesture of “thanks” I paper clip my business card and a brand new, crisp $100.00 bill to the back of the envelope so they will be in plain view. I used to put them both INSIDE the envelope, but there were a few occasions when the note was ignored for some time.
A $100 bill to a hostess is much like a FedEx package on the CEOs desk. It gets opened first.
One more tip: Never seal the envelope. You want it to be an easy open.
When you arrive at the restaurant, just as it happened in Vegas, there will most likely be a crowd in the waiting area with wait times from twenty minutes to an hour. Politely ask your prospect to wait in the waiting area while you check on a table. I walk up to the host/hostess, smile and hand them the note, saying, “Good afternoon, my name is Jerry West. I need your help. I am here for a business lunch with a prospect. May I make a specific request?” Wait for him or her to answer. Then state, “I have written down my needs specifically in this note. If you can give this prompt attention, I’ve taken care of you for the trouble.”
In the dozens of time I have done this I have never received a negative response. Once they agree, walk back to your prospect. The host/hostess will read your note, pocket the tip, keep your business card to give to the owner later and come over to you and say, “Mr. West, it is wonderful to have you again. Who might this be with you?” You then introduce your prospect. The hostess will continue, “If you please wait a short two or three minutes, we will have your usual table ready. Would that be okay?”
In two or three minutes the hostess will take you back to the best table, just as you requested. Make sure you are directly following the hostess so you can take the best seat (in case the hostess overlooks this part, which often happens the first time). Look for possible distractions, such as art, fish tanks, window views, etc. You must make sure that you get the best view so your prospect has ZERO distractions. This is vital in the art of closing deals.
After you close the deal, pay the bill with your American Express card and tip the waiter or waitress the same as you did the hostess: a crisp $100.00 bill.
Just imagine what will go through your client’s mind. You came with him to a busy restaurant, were then escorted personally to the best table and received particular attention throughout the meal. The treatment you receive at this restaurant will set you apart from other vendors vying for the customer’s business.
This never fails, even when you are out of town at a restaurant you’ve never been to before.
This is how you land the big fish. You give them an experience they have never had—ever. I had a client tell me once. “I come to this restaurant often. I even come with other vendors. I have never been treated better at this restaurant when I’m with you, and I would like to keep coming here with you.”
If you have followed all of the steps, including your business card and the waiter’s “Ben Franklin” tip, you will be the buzz of the entire restaurant staff. When the owner hears of the story, he will ask the hostess about you. The hostess will then give the owner your business card. Shortly after your lunch meeting, you will get a call from the owner asking, “How might we better serve you so we can have your business again?”
On your next visit to that restaurant, the owner will come up personally to greet you, will take you back to your table and will check in during the meal to make sure everything is perfect, just as the owner did for me in Vegas. Owners of great restaurants are this way instinctively, they take care of those who take care of their staff.
Having such a meal with a vendor at any restaurant will make a huge impact on them. It really sets the stage for conducting good business. Whether you are taking them out or they are taking you out, use the envelope approach and take the best seat. You should always be in charge of the meeting and make an impression.
During these lunch meetings, you need to keep one thing in mind: you are not there to eat lunch. Don’t sit and peruse the menu. Don’t waste time with finicky orders or health concerns. Order something simple. Even better, eat lunch before you go to your meeting. When you do order, order some soup. When it comes, push the bowl away from you, open your business journal and start taking notes.
When your client is talking, don’t eat, listen to them, ask great questions and take notes. Don’t talk with food in your mouth. Have good manners, be polite and keep eye contact. This shows your client you are listening to them. You are not there to eat lunch, you are there to conduct business and close the deal. Never lose sight of your objective.
Many people have told me that lunch meetings where you are dumping $200.00 in tips and $150.00 on the meal is excessive. Really? Excessive? How much do you spend in PPC trying to get more business? What is your ROI? This is a $350.00 investment to get a five-figure monthly contract. I would say that is a very healthy ROI.