Over a 20+ year business career, I have a few small tricks that just seem to work every time. Here is one of my favorites.

When you have a business meeting that takes place during the course of a meal in a restaurant, when is the right time to start talking business? If you get it right, the meeting goes smoothly, and the business discussion is seen as a natural part of the flow of conversation. In this case, if you are the salesperson, or the one with something to ask for, the meeting is perceived as professional, and so are you. Before I tell you the right time, let’s look at some wrong times.

If you start talking business as soon as you see your colleague, you run the risk of interruptions. First the waiter comes over to offer menus. If you are in the middle of talking business, then you will need to decide when to stop and look at the menu. If it is right away, the conversation has an interruption. If the menus are set aside, a lot of time can go by before you look, which can become uncomfortable. It will take time for the food to be prepared, served, and eaten. If the process of getting this started is delayed, the meeting can wind up taking longer than expected. This does not strike anyone as professional.

Then there is the waiter. Until you place your order, the waiter will come by every few minutes to see if you are ready. More interruptions, more discomfort. So this is not OK.

On the other hand, if you wait too long, it can be hard to bridge the conversation over to business. If you have ordered and continue talking small talk, how and when do you get to business? Now the transition to business may seem awkward. Once the food comes, you have mouth-related interruptions that make getting started difficult to do.

After dessert just doesn’t leave enough time.

So when? The right answer is just after the waiter takes your order. This is a natural break that you can move on from in any direction. Say something like “Well, now that the hard work of choosing lunch is over, let’s talk about XYZ”. This allows you to control the meeting flow, get started on business early but not too early, and to have a few minutes while the food is prepared to get business started, so that when the meal does come, you are well enough into the business conversation that the serving of the meal is not an interruption.

This is a long blog post on what may seem a pretty subtle point, but if you have ever done this wrong, you know that it is important. Always target the exit of the waiter with your order as the right time, and you will almost always have a smooth transition.

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Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!

-David