In crowded industries and niches with lots of direct competition, it’s often the business with the deepest relationships that’s able to win clients and hold on to them for years and years. If you want to be competitive, you must learn how to wine and dine with the best of them.
By Jenna Cyprus
The Benefits of Wining and Dining
At the end of the day, building a successful business, generating clients, and consistently selling products and services to these clients doesn’t require a Ph.D. in molecular biology. All you need is a fundamental understanding of human relationships.
You don’t need to be highly persuasive or magnetic to be a successful salesperson. While these qualities are helpful, the tipping point of the sales process isn’t actually built on these elements. It comes down to something much more foundational: trust.
If you want to consistently convert prospects into clients – and continue to sell to these clients over many months and years – trust must be an integral part of the equation. There’s no other way around it.
Trust can be established via a multitude of methods and factors, but nothing beats personal, face-to-face interaction. And this is where wining and dining – or entertaining – comes into play. When you entertain clients, you earn the opportunity to engage with prospects in a unique setting where guards are taken down and conversation is more likely to flow with grace and ease. It makes clients feel special and shows them your commitment. When executed well, entertaining becomes catalytic to the sales process.
4 VIP Entertainment Options
Most businesses are aware of the need to entertain VIP prospects and clients, yet few know where to start. In light of this, here’s a list of some powerful options to consider:
1. Exclusive Restaurants
Taking a client out to dinner is a staple entertainment option. But if you really want to make an impression, you need to take clients out to exclusive restaurants and ensure they’re treated like VIPs.
Ironically enough, before you can take clients to these restaurants, you actually have to build relationships with the staff at the restaurant – including servers, chefs, and the Maitre d’. Entrepreneur Tim Ferriss has some good suggestions on how you can do this.
When you have positive relationships with the people at these restaurants, you can always be assured that you’ll have a table – and that you’ll get attentive service the entire time you’re there. Your clients will notice and they’ll feel important.
2. Yachting Trips
Nothing says VIP quite like a yacht. Yachts are exclusive and most people will never have the experience of cutting through the sea in one of these powerful and compelling vessels. If you can deliver this experience to your clients, they’ll never forget you.
Chartering a yacht with a crew isn’t cheap, but it yields the potential for massive ROI. Yachts are often big enough to bring along a dozen or more clients and give you the opportunity to build camaraderie around shared experiences. These experiences will leave an unforgettable mark that will be referenced over and over again when additional business opportunities arise in the future.
3. Sporting Events
Corporate hospitality has evolved into a major part of the sports business. And while it’s highly profitable for sports teams and venues to sell hospitality packages, it’s equally beneficial to businesses like your own.
Sporting events are great places to entertain because they offer up a shared experience. They also serve as excellent icebreakers. (If you’re entertaining a new client, it’s easier to build rapport when you’re watching Tom Brady throw touchdown passes from a corporate suite, than it is to carry a cold conversation in a corner booth at a café.) And on top of these benefits, sporting events are memorable.
In addition to classic sporting events like baseball, football, or basketball games, try to think outside the box. A professional golf tournament, race, or extreme sports competition may be viewed in a more exclusive light.
4. Weekend Getaways
Sometimes you need to get a client or prospect out of their comfort zone in order to really speak to them at a meaningful level. A weekend getaway is the perfect solution. It allows you to pull the client away from the normal distractions of everyday life and expose them to fresh environments and new ideas.
When planning a weekend getaway, the key is to make it relaxing and productive. Plan an itinerary, but don’t over-plan. Take time to discuss business, but don’t make it all about business. Spend time together, but don’t feel like you have to be with your client every minute of every day. Balance is the operative word here.
Put Relationships First
Nothing matters more than the relationships you have with your clients. If the relationship is shallow and strained, potential is severely limited. If the relationship is rich and empowered, trust will yield tangible results.
As you wine and dine your prospects and VIP clients, make sure you’re emphasizing the power of trust to propel your relationships forward!
Jenna Cyprus is a freelance writer from Renton, WA who is particularly interested in travel, nature, and parenting. Follow her on Twitter.