With the official first day of spring less than three weeks away, many of us are eager to dust off our clubs and get back onto the course. Spring marks the unofficial start of the business golf season, a time when many executives hit the links to build relationships and pursue new business opportunities. But business golf is much different than a weekend round with your buddies. Much like golf, the art of closing a deal on the course requires much time and practice. Follow these tips below to ensure your next outing is a hole-in-one.
- Practice. Let’s face it. Golf is nothing like riding a bike. Many of us haven’t touched our clubs since the end of summer and we could use a little practice. Before your first round, make sure to take a couple trips to the driving range. For those who rarely play, it may be a good idea to take a few lessons. The goal is to have everyone enjoy themselves but you don’t want to be the one in the group to slow the game down.
- Ease into the business conversation. Begin the round by asking light-hearted questions that will allow you to get to know your client. This will allow you to understand their business and the challenges they face. With this information, you can shape the conversation and explain to them how your business can solve their problems. If you jump into business on the first hole and things go south, the next 17 holes could feel a little awkward.
- Play by the rules. We have all played with that person who sunk 4 balls in the water and took a birdie on the hole. Don’t be that person. Your weekend golf group may be ok with you taking 6 mulligans, but when golfing with a client, it’s probably a good idea to leave your foot wedge in the car. When golfing with clients, you want to show them you take the game seriously and hold yourself to the highest ethical standards.
- To bet or not to bet, that is the question. A little wager can go a long way in building rapport, but keep it light and friendly. If the stakes become too high, people may become too competitive and the result can be unpleasant. Besides, the point of the round is to get to know your playing partners, not qualify for the US Open. The relationship may take a toll if your client has to write you a check at the end of the round.
- Allow for enough time. So you’re finishing up on the 18th hole and the conversation has gone well. Your playing partners ask you to join them in the clubhouse for lunch but you can’t because you have another meeting you have to attend in a half hour. When golfing with potential clients, it’s always a good idea to plan for extra time as the conversation may continue well past the 18th hole. If your client doesn’t beat you to it, invite them to continue the conversation over lunch or dinner after the round.