Be careful when networking moves to the bar but let’s face it; a lot of business has been conducted over drinks. Sitting at the bar at an after-hours networking event, entertaining customers with dinner and drinks, or having a tall one on the golf course are part of the American business culture. It’s also a place where you can get in too deep, lose a customer, your position, or more.
Adding an adult beverage to business conducted away from the office promotes a relaxed atmosphere—one open to honest conversation. Customers are more likely to see you as a human being, not only a representative of your organization, and in so doing share their true opinions, needs, and problems. Many a long-term business relationship began over cocktails. So much so that a few years ago Forbes posted The Best Bars for Business Networking. It’s big business.
What Not to Do When Networking Moves to the Bar
Personally, I have a one drink limit. I don’t want Instagram photos of me wearing the proverbial lampshade on my head, but it’s more than that. If I drink too much, even if I don’t embarrass myself, I won’t be on top of my game. I may miss opportunities, and I’m certainly not sending a message of confidence inspiring personal responsibility to my client, am I? Overindulging could and has led to the loss of a valued customer, termination, DUI’s, and worse. Don’t overdo it. And for you rookies, stay away from the open bar—it’s a trap.
Don’t Get Too Personal
Just because the environment is relaxed doesn’t give you the freedom to ask personal non-work related questions. Engaging in conversations initiated by the client about their hobbies, interests, and family—you bet. That’s good business. Discussing religion, politics, or your customers sex life— business suicide, not such a good idea.
Don’t Be a Taker
Your customer—your tab. It may not always be so simple. Some customers demand to pay and may be insulted if you don’t accept their offer. Even so, you can get the first round, share the bill, or pay the tip.
Keep Your Head on Straight
Networking and cocktails are part of the American way. Combining the two can be the perfect opportunity to take your business relationship with a customer to the next level. Remember though, it’s a business relationship; treat it as such. Don’t overdo it, and you’ll be fine.
Not Everyone Drinks
Alcoholism is not a choice. It’s a disease. We should always respect those who do not drink and never attempt to use peer pressure to cajole them. If you do you’re embarrassing yourself — not a good networking plan.
Are You a Good Networker?
I’d always considered myself an effective networker. I’m friendly, easy to talk to, and I’ve never met a stranger. However, none of that makes me a good networker – it makes me outgoing. If I wanted to be the most effective networker I could be I needed a plan. That’s how my networking workbook, Help Networking started.
My plan probably won’t be your plan. That’s why throughout the book there are worksheets, checklists, and simple CTA’s. Use these to create a networking plan that fits your needs.
If you enjoyed this you might like, Do We Really Need One More “How to Write an Elevator Pitch?” Article.