Entrepreneur

Do Business Lunches Actually Help In Closing Client Deals? We Ask M'sian Entrepreneurs.

  • We spoke to a few entrepreneurs to get their take on how effective business lunches can be in clinching client deals.

Nowadays, most people we know have schedules packed so full that they sometimes struggle to even squeeze regular meals into their daily routine. Whether it’s meetings, paperwork, or even menial tasks around the office, we can all agree that time is scarce.

A workaround usually employed by many is to have business meetings over lunch, usually in a quiet area that allows for decent conversation and a proper exchange of information or ideas.

But then again, how effective are these business lunches—a great way to utilise limited time in a busy day, or an excuse to grab an all-expense paid lunch? We spoke to Malaysian entrepreneurs for their thoughts on the issue.

Finding Time And Building Relationships

Say what you want about effectiveness, but business lunches are often a necessity for some. According to Jason Low, the Digital Transformation Director of Thunder Match Technology (TMT), the underlying reason behind many business lunches is (a lack of) time.

However, the upside of this is that relationships are then built up in a more personal way—something Jason utilises in his work. Ultimately, people buy from people, and a good personal relationship with prospective clients/partners is vital to help build trust.

Image Credit: Jason Low

This is perhaps best summed up by Epnox Technologies CEO, Sze Jun King: “If customer no like you, they no buy from you.”

A main factor in the supposed effectiveness of business lunches is also the fact that breaking bread with somebody pre-supposes trust. Josh Lim, who has experience in social media campaigns tells us, “From a purely evolutionary standpoint, we eat with people that are unlikely to poison us.”

Of course, a business lunch in itself isn’t the only thing to take into account when closing a client deal.

According to Syed Muzani, entrepreneurs may consider it a chore. Business lunches can even be taken as an indirect bribe, with Syed revealing that people might find it difficult to turn down someone who has built up a friendly relationship with them.

Three-Pronged Approach

Deciding if a client/deal is worth the business lunch isn’t as black and white as it would seem.

Image Credit: Richard Moh

According to Richard Moh from CatJira, there are 3 things to consider:

1) Stage of sales
It all depends on which stage of the negotiations you’re at. If you’re just making introductions, Richard explains that lunch would be a waste of time. Instead, a regular meeting in a more suitable setting might be a better choice for now.

On the other hand, if you’ve already got (or think you’ve got) a certain deal in the bag, business lunches could be the best time for you to upsell or even cross-sell.

2) Cost of acquisition
One lunch isn’t usually enough to close a deal, but an important thing to consider is whether the product you’re selling is you (services), or something else. As Richard states, lunch meetings may be more suitable if you’re selling your services, while you’ll have to find that balance when gauging if you’re going to close a deal or not.

3) Sales don’t happen during lunches
Instead, the main aim of business lunches should be to build relationships. If the meeting is taking place outside the office, clients shouldn’t be treated as mere bags of cash. Richard explains, “There’s only one lunch per person per day. It’s their chance to be off work. Selling to them during lunch hours is akin to robbing them”.

But Don’t Overdo It

You know how they say too much of a good thing is a bad thing? Perhaps Syed Muzani’s anecdote best illustrates the dangers of overdoing it for business lunches.

Having arrived at the pre-agreed meeting point, Syed was initially keen on the product the salesperson had to offer. However, after an awkward lunch of small talk, “rapport-building”, and political discussion, his interest in buying anything that day had waned.

Of course, it didn’t help that the salesperson had arrived late. Couple that with the fact that the meeting ran late, Syed walked away.

“Very often I want to buy something, but the salesperson (ironically) convinces me not to.”
– Syed

Location Is Everything

Let’s say you’ve decided on a day and time for your lunch meeting. Arguably, the most important decision to make now is the location of the meeting. Your choice of environment very much depends on the type of meeting you’re organising, as Brand Strategist, Klieo Lee tells us.

“I prefer a more formal, focused setting when it comes to closing deals.”

The setting of the lunch meeting can very often be the catalyst to closing business deals. For example, a focused environment makes it easier to get to the point, and for clients to stay in the conversation better.

However, Klieo further explains that she prefers this formal setting for corporate clients, while meetings over coffee/tea work better for smaller clients.

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Image Credit: Sunway

Everyone has a different opinion or strategy when it comes to closing deals, or client meetings. However, the underlying message with most of the entrepreneurs we spoke to is that the location and environment you choose for your meeting is vital to succeeding.

Finding a location where you can have a variety of food and a conducive environment for meetings can be difficult. After all, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. Depending on the situation, hotels can offer a balance of the aforementioned elements when it comes to business lunches.

If you’re located in Penang, the Sunway Hotel Seberang Jaya might just be the ideal place to have one of these business lunches—they offer a variety of cuisines within their lunch and dinner packages. A 30-minute drive from the Penang International Airport, the hotel is designed specifically with corporate executive clients in mind, while they also cater to a wide range of travellers.

Image Credit: Sunway

The next time you’re organising a business lunch, keep in mind that the environment of your lunch is arguably the most important factor to the success of your meeting. And a hotel might just be the most balanced option around.

  • To find out more about the packages available at Sunway Hotel Seberang Jaya, click here.
  • You can book meeting rooms here.

This article is written in collaboration with Sunway.

Feature Image Credit: Chevanon / Freepik

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