I once had Mr. Schmooze on my staff. He was constantly teased by the other members of the sales team for wearing hip-waders because the manure surrounding him was pretty deep. However, he was one of my top billers having mastered the fine art of relationship-building outside the confines of a sales call.
How far should a rep be willing to go for a client? A round of golf is nice. It is a chance to get close to the client. Going to lunch or dinner is good, but can a client be blown away over a plate of lamb chops? Treating clients to unusual experiences opens up all kinds of revenue options. The result being the next time a client thinks of signing that annual agreement for major dollars, he will be thinking of you!
With this in mind, it is necessary to schmooze clients all the time? Of course not, but it does help to protect those advertising dollars. I have been on many client trips. Many of those outings have been great bonding experiences, but nothing compares to taking a client on a dune buggy ride through the hills at 70-80 miles per hour. Networking with A-list clients is not what it used to be. Entertaining clients today is more than an outing. It is an adventure!
Here are some of the hot trends for entertaining clients:
One popular trend is becoming a trainee fighter pilot (See Red Tails at your local movie theatre) in air-to-air combat. There is nothing like taking a client up several thousand feet and doing 4 to 5 Gs in aerobatic maneuvers, rolls, loops, and flying upside down.
What if the client does not want to become the next WWII Flying Ace? No problem Why not take them to swim with the sharks or in a sailplane without an engine?
Extreme networking is a huge trend. Great American Days in Atlanta is a company that puts people in hot air balloons, bi-planes, fighter jets, weightless chambers, NASCAR vehicles, kayaks, shark cages, and other stimulating, adrenaline-summoning devices. People can rodeo, climb rocks, explore caves, undergo special-forces training, or travel to top golf courses at prices ranging from $50.00 to $40,000.00.
Colin Reid, the managing director and CEO of Great American Days says, well put you in a plane and take you to the edge of space about 27 kilometers up at about Mach 3.2. Companies are realizing that there are new and quite innovative ways to excite their customers and bring in new ones.
Of course, there is probably not an ROI worksheet to justify investing in some of these experiences. Remember: People dont care how much you know about them, as long as they know how much you care about them. These ideas might seem like big-market schemes for big time customers. To some degree they are for the larger market, but I have seen sales managers in some of the smallest markets come up with some very creative ways to schmooze or network with clients. Try dropping them in a cage with great white sharks around. If that experience does not get their blood rushing and thinking of you the next time that new agreement is in front of them, then nothing will. Just make sure they dont get eaten in the process!
Sean Luce is the Head National Instructor for the Luce Performance Group and can be reached at email@example.com.