As summer fast approaches, so to do the opportunities to spend time on the golf course with clients, prospects or with businesspeople who could become either one!
Whether you are a 2 handicap or ‘duffer’, golf presents a fantastic networking opportunity that can be enjoyed regardless of the level of your play.
That is of course if you take care to follow some of the basic rules of etiquette such as not taking 20 minutes to look for a lost ball, always replacing divots, raking sand traps according to club rules and more.
From Forbes, these are the ’19 Tips For Closing A Deal On The Golf Course’:
- Show up at the course by yourself and you’ll end up in a foursome with people you don’t know. When golfing 18 holes, you will have plenty of time to engage in conversations that will allow you to really get to know the other golfers in a way that LinkedIn and email will never provide.
- Start the conversations with innocuous topics. Avoid diving into business talk right away. As the rounds progress, you can dig deeper by asking questions that invite the other parties to share information about themselves and their work. Listen carefully to gain a perspective of the problems and bottlenecks they face. Think of how you could help. You could offer an introduction to a contact, or steer them to helpful industry information. More often than not, people will return the favor and help you out down the road.
- Come to the course with a few business cards to exchange before the end of the round. Follow up by scheduling a lunch, or at the very least, be sure to connect on LinkedIn. (source: Dave Handmaker, Next Day Flyers CEO)
- Never cheat. “If a person cheats at golf, I don’t think I could trust them as a source I’d refer my clients to,” says John B. Palley, Attorney at Law. “I remember one partner in particular. He went through a dozen balls without ever taking a penalty stroke on that day. On one hole, he clearly lost his ball deep in the rough but all of a sudden he ‘found’ it right on the edge of the fairway. I walked 20 feet and pointed to his original ball (with his company logo on it). He said, ‘Ohhhh, that must be the one I lost the last time I played.’ I am an estate planning attorney and could have referred business to that guy, but I never did.”
- Be on time! If you’ve invited clients to join you, please give yourself an adequate window of time to arrive at the club before your guests get there.
- Don’t be too competitive. The emphasis in a business golf setting should be on building rapport and trust with your playing partners.
- Should you or shouldn’t you have a friendly wager? Wagering is integral to golf, and is a good way to build camaraderie. Accept and embrace it. Keep it the wager friendly and the stakes low. The most common side bets include the Nassaus (3 bets for the round—the low score on the front 9, on the back 9 and on the full 18 at $2 each). Make sure you settle your bets at the end of the round.
- Don’t make excuses for your game. It’s important for you to know the etiquette of the game. If you are a new player and are with more experienced golfers, please say, “I’m new to the game and I welcome any tips you have to help me move along more quickly.” (source: Pam Swensen, the CEO of the EWGA)
- Control your anger (don’t curse, throw clubs, etc.)
- Remember to compliment your prospective client on good shots and putts.
- If you have logo golf balls from your company, be sure to offer a sleeve or a box to your client before teeing off.
- Assuming you know the course, be sure to offer pointers on the areas to avoid on each hole. (source: Tom Balcom, Founder of 1650 Wealth Management)
- Structure the outing so you have time for lunch or a happy hour visit after the game. This time affords a better opportunity to discuss business, life, or changes at work. If the prospective client is a genuinely nice and generous person, it will be apparent. And if they are not? That will become apparent as well.
- Be on your best behavior. One expert notes that he has played with people he regarded highly until they played golf. And, conversely, he’s played golf with people he didn’t care for but gained a high regard for when they played. “Golf is the most revealing activity,” he said. “Your true personality is going to come out. Are you a cheater? Or an honest, generous person? Do you curse and throw your clubs?” The behavior you can get away with among friends is not going to fly when you’re on the course with clients.
- Take it easy on the alcohol. When I speak at business lunches or dinners, the subject of alcohol invariably comes up. The key is to take it easy–you always want to remain in control. When it’s hot and you’re drinking alcohol, it’s surprisingly easy to get drunk very quickly. When you are drunk, it’s easy to say or do the wrong thing. You should be a great host and offer your client a beverage when the bar cart comes around. But be sure you alternate between water and alcohol if you are both drinking. Furthermore, if your client is not having beer or alcohol, don’t drink! If you’ve ever been sober around people who are drinking, you’ve seen firsthand how sloppy drinkers can become. Your policy should be “follow the leader” where drinking is concerned. (source: Robin Jay, Writer/Producer: “The Keeper of the Keys”)
- Treat everyone you come in contact with like gold. Even if someone really upsets you, you can address the situation with a smile and without getting loud. When clients see how you handle yourself under pressure, it will go a long way. Treating the employees at the course well will be an indication of your favorable character as well. (source :RJ Muto, Russell Insurance Group.)
- Pick a course you will both enjoy, but do your homework. Has the course just aerated the greens? Not a good choice. The same goes for major construction on the clubhouse or facilities. You don’t have to find a course on the level of the Atlanta Athletic Club or Pebble Beach, but you should avoid any course that is in poor condition and under repair.
- Let your client choose which tees to play from. The experience should be about providing your guests with an enjoyable time and challenge; not about looking out for yourself. You should be prepared to play to the comfort level of your companions and guests.
- Respect the etiquette of the game by repairing divots on the course, ball marks on the greens, and raking bunkers, if needed. These are the small details that clients will notice because they demonstrate respect for both the course and the golfers behind you. Stand away from fellow players and out of their sight lines when they are playing a shot. A moving shadow during a swing can be an unwelcome distraction. And by all means, be quiet during the swings of others. (source: Dr. William Jankel Dean of Strayer University)
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