Having a lunch meeting with a client has many advantages over meeting with that client in their office. There is a great article on Inc.com that lists the reasons you should be scheduling more business lunches. These include less distractions from events going on in the office, the neutral setting of the restaurant (neither you or the client are at your "home turf" of the office) and the shared experience of having a nice meal. Also, it doesn't hurt that you are picking up the check.
Now that you know the reasons why you should meet a client over lunch, let's go through how to effectively plan a client lunch meeting.
As with any meeting, have a goal in mind for what needs to be accomplished. For instance, being in the staffing industry, one of my goals going into a meeting may be to learn about a client's next big hiring need and how we can be of assistance in that search. It's also a good idea to meet with a client to simply see how you are doing for them as a partner, and if there are any areas in which you may improve.
Break out your lunch meetings into three steps: The Appetizer (which consists of an icebreaker and some personal talk), The Meat and Potatoes (getting to the business of the meating, er, meeting), and the Dessert (which is a recap and disucssion of next steps).
The Appetizer - 10 Minutes
Start off your meeting with some small talk to engage your client. You could ask them where they are from, how long they have lived in the area, how they found their job, where they worked before this position, and questions about their family and what they do in their spare time. See what you may have in common and expand discussion in those areas. Sure this is a business meeting, but take some time to enjoy your compnay and make a connection.
The Meat and Potatoes - 40 Minutes
With the appetizer out of the way, it's time to dive into the meat and potatoes of the meeting, which is the goal you set up before the meeting. Have your questions prepared so you can get the most out of this time. For instance, when I meet with a potential client about staffing needs, I'll ask a few of the following questions:
- What gives them the most stress?
- What is the headcount at the company?
- How do you typically recruit?
- What needs are coming up?
I advise having a pen and a small pad of paper on hand to take notes. (I stress a small pad of paper because the table might be a little cluttered with more important items, like your cobb salad).
The Dessert - 10 Minutes
With both the business and the meal squared away, take a few minutes to recap your conversation and discuss next steps. Communicate with your client any commitments you have made to them from this meeting and in what time frame you will be delivering on those commitments.
Lunch meetings are a great way to connect with a client and take care of business. With proper planning, you can ensure yourself an effective client lunch meeting.