It's a common business practice to take your prospects out to dinner or do favors for them. Now that social distancing and other dynamics have put the kibosh on client entertaining, many salespeople accustomed to selling over a meal are feeling somewhat lost. But is wining and dining prospects really necessary? In my experience that has never been required.
You may think this is crazy, but I would be hard pressed to think of a time when I’ve taken a prospect to a restaurant as part of my sales process. When this was discussed during one of our monthly Mastermind Group Coaching Calls, I said, “I know! I must sound like a cheapskate!” But the truth is you don’t have to wine and dine your clients to be successful. I’ve never had to use this tactic throughout my several decades of sales experience.
There are many firms and manufacturers that give out free sports tickets, take their customers on hunting and fishing tips or arrange luxurious dinners and cocktail parties. It’s considered a prize for top salespeople to accompany their customers to these events.
Personally, the idea of rewarding people who have already done business with each other has never made sense to me. Providing value should be your bottom line, not distracting customers with flashy rewards or developing psychic debt because you took them on a cruise or sent them a flat screen TV.
There needs to be a balance and some sort of exchange that sustains both parties. I don’t believe in customer giveaways. That said, I’ve participated in several road shows when people are invited to a nice location and we offer education to attendees. I suppose that might seem like a vacation for some because the sponsor covers 60-90% of their tuition, their meals, and maybe even the cost of something extracurricular like an off-campus event for social networking. Years ago, I remember being invited to networking events in private suites during baseball games. Even though there was a baseball game going on, the main focus was making introductions and building rapport.
No offense to baseball fans, but networking at a baseball game wouldn’t be my first choice of how to spend my time and money. My first choice is giving people value and guidance that can help them make better decisions. If money is no object, I suppose you could choose to spread the wealth a little bit; however, I wouldn't make it your flagship sales strategy.