It’s just lunch…or is it? As more and more business interactions happen over the phone or through email and text messages, in-person meetings are more important than ever for building relationships and cementing partnerships. Observe business lunch rules and make the most of that one-to-one time with a colleague, manager or prospect.
Consider a business lunch a test. Your lunch companion may know your skills and expertise but some roles require more than simply performing well in formal environments. If your boss plans to assign you opportunities to mingle with VIPs or corporate clients, s/he will want to evaluate your soft skills, knowledge of social etiquette and all around good manners away from your desk. You’d be surprised by how much can be inferred from the way you conduct yourself during a meal.
The impressions you make on your business lunch companion[s] start when you first arrive at the restaurant.
• Your punctuality [organization]
• Your ability to build rapport [social acumen]
• Your comfort level [self-confidence]
• Your table manners [refinement]
• Your interactions with your lunch companion and restaurant staff [interpersonal skills/respect]
• Your knowledge of market needs and expectations [business acumen]
Denis Cornell says, “Managers of some top companies have blackballed job candidates who automatically season their food without first checking to see whether it’s already adequately seasoned.” He says these sodium pre-gamers are seen as showing a lack of independent judgment or a blind devotion to routine; these are traits innovative and creative companies shy away from.
The familiar saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know” may not be completely accurate, but having a network of well-placed contacts and sound relationships can propel you forward along your career path!
That’s why it’s important to ‘do lunch’ well. If you’re inviting someone you don’t know well, suggest coffee instead – the same rules apply.
• When inviting someone to lunch, ask in person; email can too easily convey the wrong tone.
• Choose an appropriate time to make the invitation, ideally when things are less hectic at work.
• Find out what your guest[s] like or dislike and research a few restaurants before setting a date.
• Consider these factors about the restaurant: location, reputation, cleanliness, clientele, noise level and whether they take lunch reservations.
• Select a location you frequent so you know what to expect.
• Choose within your price range as the host is expected to pay the bill.
A business meal is a great (and perhaps rare) opportunity to have your guest’s undivided attention so prepare for the event. And remember, your guest may be using this opportunity to evaluate your “promote-ability”.
• Dress the part with appropriate business attire
• Have a mental agenda of what you want to cover during your meeting
• Prepare your questions and/or pitch and practice them before the meeting
• Present a “win-win” scenario
• Use this meeting as an “opening volley” not a “slam dunk” – at your first lunch, you’re still building a business relationship
• Be prepared to answer and ask questions
• Follow up with a “thank you” regardless of how the meeting plays out
Most people underestimate the value of their “likeability”, but it’s a great asset in the business world. Remember this as you use business meals to learn more about the people you’re dining with, share your experiences and ideas and focus on building a stronger connection. Many relationships are cemented over a business meal. Perhaps yours will be too!
Your Employee and Family Assistance Program can help with career advice. Please call 1.866.833.7690 or visit workhealthlife.com to get started.
By Mark Pundzius. Mark has over 15 years’ experience in career counseling, specializing in assisting workers with career management, advancement, and transition challenges. His previous incarnations as an Administrative Clerk, On-Board Service Rail Agent, Retail Manager, Antique Restorer, and Bed & Breakfast Owner/Operator have broadened his perspective on labour market realities and circuitous career paths. A graduate of the Career & Work Counsellor program at George Brown College (Toronto, Ontario), he is passionate about the changing world of work. Mark is currently the Supervisor of the Career Counselling Services team at Shepell.