Closing the Deal in Unconventional Ways | NAWBO


Closing the Deal in Unconventional Ways



By J. Lenora Bresler, J.D., SPHR, ASC

A report from Go for the Greens Conference September 19-20, 2013


A panel of procurement representatives from major US companies gave common sense advice at the recent NAWBO-sponsored Go for the Greens convention. They were speaking about interactions between a female business owner and a client or potential client that occur outside the traditional office environment. 

Although the panelists had subjective differences in their comfort level with such interactions with clients of the opposite sex, there did seem to be a general consensus that a woman needs to be careful to set the correct tone from the start of a relationship.  Therefore, lunch meetings one on one in a public place are to be preferred to evening events such as private dinners or one on one social or recreational events.  It is generally not a good idea to invite a client’s spouse to join you for an event at which business will be discussed (such as a dinner meeting); however, depending on the event, you could invite a spouse to a social gathering such as a play or concert.  A better idea might be to tell the client to feel free to invite someone else “from work” to come to the social evening; thereby clearly showing that you view this as primarily work-related (although fun).  The right tone should be set by the clothing the woman wears and avoidance of any slang or colloquialism that could imply the woman business owner likes off-color jokes or risqué suggestions.  

Attendees were urged to think “outside the box” of sporting events. Not everyone (men or women) like football or baseball.  Similarly, offering to take clients to concerts obviously involves musical tastes.  The representative from UPS said that they deliberately try to create unusual events such as taking a group to a play at the historic Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.  Another panel member related that a vendor brought three of its team and invited three members of the company’s teams to join them for a “teambuilding luncheon” where the six people cooked their lunch together at a local culinary institute. One member of the panel, who loves golf, did say that golf is still a potential good idea because a) people can play at their own pace and skill level, b) it allows for discussion and does not require 100% focus on the game, c) it is played in the daytime, and d) it lacks the potential romantic overtones of other activities, especially those held at night.

One panelist said that where appropriate, women may have an asset they are not using – and that is their homes.  She related a story of how she knew a potential client loved barbecue and so she invited him and another client to her home to sample her husband’s wonderful barbecue.  Here, again, events at one’s home can be very enjoyable and appeal to many women’s desire to show hospitality, but it needs to be set up appropriately.  In this example, the owner’s husband was an ever-present and featured part of the event.

Attendees related stories of clients’ asking for things to be provided which were inappropriate, including expensive equipment and even tickets to a strip club.  Panelists said that you have to say right then: “The policy of my company will not allow me to make such an offer.”  You can say this even if your company is only you.  You can add laughter and make it funny if you want, but you still have to get it said that this is not acceptable.

Attendees also asked about companies’ increasingly strict policies against gifts.  Panelists indicated that careful consideration needs to be given to this because there are sometimes ways to give value without breaking the policy.  One idea was invite customers to a meal that does cost more than the deminimus $25 amount but have a bowl on the table where customers can pay for their meal (or for a portion of it) if they wish.  Also, not paying for someone’s ticket but providing the opportunity for the customer to purchase a ticket themselves to a special event for which they would not have access may be allowable under the companies’ policy.