Should I entertain my customers?

In these days of e-commerce and Internet communication, is there a place for this age-old practice?

Entertaining clients can be the turning point in the relationship that helps you grow your business and sales. Entertaining a customer allows you to get to know each other better, and, in so doing, became more comfortable. And that makes all the difference.

When your entertaining it isn’t the exchanged business information, cut deals, or anything of that nature. What will happen, every time, was that your customers will get to know you better and differently. You will become friends instead of just buyers and sellers.

People like to do business with people they know. The better they know you, the more likely it is that they’ll do business with you. When they spend time with you out side of the business setting, they come to know you better. It really is that simple.

Building powerful personal relationships makes everything move that much smoother and easier.

In this high-tech world characterized by voice mail, e-commerce and instant messaging, face-to-face relationships are necessary.

Is there, then, a place for entertaining your customers in this high tech sales environment? Absolutely! The question becomes not whether or not you ought to, but how to do it in such a way as to gain the greatest benefit. Here are some thoughts on how to entertain effectively.

The business lunch.

Remember, the purpose is to get to know one another better as people – not as buyer and seller. So, don’t talk business unless your customer brings it up. And no sales pitches, please. When you do that, you harden the buyer/seller roles that each of you play. That’s exactly the opposite of what you want to have happen. Instead, search for personal common ground – things that you have in common with your customer. You are trying to get to know each other as people, not as role-players.

When you are entertaining, remember that you are host and that you should attend to all the details. That means that you make the reservations, you see to the parking and transportation.

While a beer or two is OK, be careful with your use, and provision, of alcohol. Too much alcohol can leave a literal as well as figurative bad taste in your customer’s mouth. Finally, don’t allow the evening to go to extremes in any way. Be gracious and moderate in everything you do.