Meeting contacts face-to-face is a great way to strengthen your professional network, and with hectic schedules, one of the best ways to do this is over a business lunch. While the point of talking over a leisurely meal is to relax and enjoy yourself, remember that you are still working: Business etiquette applies just as much as table manners. When you send or receive a lunch invitation, take the following steps to ensure that the meeting is both productive and enjoyable for all parties.
Choose your restaurant wisely
Choose a restaurant in a central location which is easy for both of you to reach. Aim for high-end restaurants that have been getting critical acclaim in the food and wine press. This can be particularly important for real estate agents; after all, potential clients could question your taste and judgement if you took them to a poor quality establishment. When you call the venue to make a reservation, ask for a quiet table as far from the bar as possible. You want to be able to have a conversation with each other, so a loud atmosphere is out of the question.
Let your contact order first
If you or your company are paying for lunch you don’t want your guest to feel restricted. Allow them to order first: This way if they want an appetiser or a glass of wine, they won’t feel uncomfortable ordering one. If your guest orders a starter feel free to join them so that they’re not left dining alone, however, say no to the wine. Keeping a clear head will help you to focus on the goals of the meeting.
Ease the conversation gently onto work
Launching into your pitch immediately might sound like a good way to save time, but it can quickly take the fun out of the meeting and make your contact feel uncomfortable. A good rule of thumb is to wait until you have both ordered your meal, and until the waiter has poured your drinks. This way you have time to deliberate over the menu, indulge in a little small talk, and relax in each other’s company. The time between ordering and waiting for your food to arrive is the ideal moment to start the conversation.
Give them your full attention
Order food which is easy to eat and avoid dishes such as spaghetti or grilled lobster; battling with your main course can be very distracting, making it hard to listen to what your companion is saying. Maintain eye contact with them as you pay the bill, and most importantly leave your mobile phone in the office. Texting and answering calls at the dinner table is rude at the best of times, and can quickly ruin an otherwise successful business lunch.
The ability to network effectively is a key skill for real estate agents, and at Engel & Völkers we’re always searching for talented new professionals to join our team. If you’re confident about starting a career in real estate, our recruitment experts would be delighted to hear from you.