How much bonding can you do during a PowerPoint presentation with all the bells and whistles? How stimulating is it for a prospect or client to sit through that 17-minute Customer Market Profile or closing presentation? Yes, you can add sizzle to the presentation, but are you really getting to know the client? I once had "Mr. Schmooze" on my staff, and he was constantly teased by the other members of the sales team for wearing hip-waders (because the manure around him was pretty deep). He was, however, one of my top
billers, having mastered the art of relationship- building outside the confines of the sales call.
How far are you willing to go for a client? A round of golf is nice - it's a chance to get close to the client. Going to lunch or dinner is good, too, but can you really blow the client away over a plate of lamb chops? Treating clients to unusual experiences opens up all kinds of revenue visas, so the next time a client thinks of signing that annual contract for major dollars, he'll think of you.
With this in mind, is it really necessary to schmooze every client all the time? Of course not - but it doesn't hurt to protect your dollars. I have been on many client trips and they have been great bonding experiences, but nothing compares to taking your client on a dune buggy ride through the hills at 70-80 miles an hour. Networking with A-list clients is not what it used to be. Today, companies provide adventure.
Here are some of the hot/trends for entertaining clients:
- Baja Racing
- Nascar Racing
- Rock Climbing
- Shark Diving
- Cave Exploring
- Whitewater Rafting
- Aerobatic Flights
One hot trend is becoming trainee fighter pilots 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 your client doesn't want to become the next WWII Ace? No problem - how about taking them to swim with the sharks, or in a sailplane without an engine?
Extreme networking "is a huge trend," says Colin Reid, managing director of Great American Days in Atlanta. The company 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 to $40,000.
"We'll put you in a plane and take you to the edge of space - about 27 kilometers up at about Mach 3.2," Reid says. "Companies are realizing that there are new and quite innovative ways to excite their customers and bring in new ones."
Of course, you probably will have to do an ROI worksheet to justify investing in some of these experiences, but remember: People don't care how much you know about them, as long as they know how much you care about them. These might seem like big-market schemes for big money, and to some degree they are - but I have seen sales managers in some of the smallest radio markets come up with some pretty creative ways to schmooze or network with clients. Try dropping them in a cage with great white sharks around; if that doesn't get their blood rushing and thinking of you the next time you put that contract in front of them, nothing will. Just make sure they don't get eaten in the process.