When I worked in the corporate world I would often hear talk of casual breakfast or lunch meetings where the deals of the day were negotiated. The cubicle and desk I occupied happened to be located in a spacious area outside my CEO’s office and she had an open policy -literally. There was not much she chose to hid from the office employees, which meant her door was left open most of the time. She took great delight in explaining to her staff how the corporate world works. Apparently, the board room was meant for hashing out details with the staff, not for closing deals with clients.
When I left the company to go into partnership in an Internet marketing firm, my CEO continued to advise me from her position as a member of the Board of Directors. She strongly suggested that my partners and I get involved with the local Chamber of Commerce and other business or service organizations that met for business and social reasons. I gathered some quick statistics from various Fortune 500 companies and learned that 80% of major business deals happen over breakfast, lunch or the golf course. These events are casual and friendly, ending with a handshake to seal the deal. The paperwork is done later at the office.
In my company, arranging business lunches was not easy to do, but we took advantage of the early morning mixers hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. To our surprise, many of our new contracts came about as a direct result of chatting with other business owners over coffee and Danish pastries. We made a point not to be pushy about our products and services, but we discreetly made sure everyone knew what we did.
Not much happened during the first few months as Chamber members, but we showed our faces enough times to become known as the Internet marketers in town. At this point our time investment and membership dues made it very worth our while. Inevitably at these events we would leave with a few requests to follow up with how we could help local companies with their public image, online presence and sales. One or two of these would result in an immediate request for services. To date the contracts have been small, totaling just under $20k. Our annual membership in the Chamber is less than $300, and the early morning events happen once a month, for 2 hours. It’s a small investment for the return we have received.
It goes back to the old adage, “People buy from people they know and trust.” There is a certain intimacy that happens when you share a meal with a person, even someone you don’t know all that well. Yes, doing business over breakfast does work?
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