Doing Business on the Golf Course
You have spent time and energy building a relationship with a prospect/client. It’s going well and you feel like inviting them out to play a round of golf with you will take your relationship to a new level. This presents a huge opportunity to connect with a decision maker outside their office! Yes! What can possibly go wrong?
You now have a 4 – 6 hour window to really get to know this person! The time spent, for better or worse, will reveal your character! At this point, a simple game of golf can make or break your case. You better be sure you can move the needle. This is an integral step in relationship building, which you are staking your reputation on!
First off, this is not a regular weekend game with your buddies; so don’t treat it like one. Continue to be professional. There will be plenty of opportunities during the round, to show your sense of humour and personality. This is not the day you pound beers to relax, so don’t. I don’t care if my guest imbibes, I will definitely let them lead the way on this and as long as they don’t do damage or endanger anyone’s health, then they are the ones who have to live with what happens.
This time together also reveals their character and you get to decide whether or not you want to continue to pursue this relationship any further, it’s a two-way street.
I like to play golf with new people. Life is a time-space continuum and people’s lives change all the time. There is no telling where your paths will cross again, should things not work out for you in this moment. That’s not to say it won’t, just that circumstances always move the goalposts!
Now, my advice. . . just play golf! Do not lead with business. In fact, don’t do any business! This is NOT Glengarry Glen Ross! NO A – Always, B – Be, C – Closing! This is GOLF! A golf course is not the place where you become the salesperson in a clothing store and follow your prospect around the store offering up verbal diarrhea until they walk out without even picking up a tie! Put yourself in your guest’s shoes. Would you want someone always bringing the subject around to business and taking flow and enjoyment away from what should be a pleasurable time? If your guest initiates, follow their lead, but show patience as one of your character traits. If you play your cards correctly, there will be a couple of opportunities to close for the next order of business, either after the round, over a meal and refreshments or as a follow up the next work day. You might even be asked about why you didn’t bring it up, which will give you the perfect opportunity to explain yourself and respond that you would like them as your customer forever and there is plenty of time to do business while you develop your relationship.
With the Trump age coming to an end, this last 5 years has been an abysmal time in North America. The illumination of systemic racism and the rise of White Supremacy has truly divided the United States, but Canada too. If you haven’t done your homework on your playing partners, then shame on you. It is your fault if you choose to do business with someone who’s values don’t match your own.
Acknowledge we are in the #metoo era! What it really means to men is that we need to show respect to everyone and everything! For me, this includes the opportunity to play golf on Coast Salish Territory, this beautiful land which we occupy rather dubiously. We also need to accept responsibility for our actions. We men need to think before we speak, think before we act and offer up the respect necessary to be respected in return. Just because you can say or do anything, doesn’t mean you should. My rule of thumb is, if I can’t add anything positive to the commentary, I will remain silent. If my actions can not be viewed positively, I will not move. Be patient, let impulses pass, treat others the way you wish to be treated!
Don’t “let the customer win”! I am fortunate to have played this game at a high level for a long time. I have never played golf without trying to shoot the best score possible, whether I brought my A-game or not. My ability to shoot in the 70’s has drawn more respect from superiors, peers, customers and prospects, than disdain. Play your game, and play it to the best of your ability that day!
If the course you have chosen to play has a dress code, know it and apprise your guest. There is nothing worse than having someone show up in jeans and a t-shirt. Your expense account likely doesn’t have room on it for your client’s new golf outfit!
Don’t talk politics. Should you go down this road, be cognizant
of the very divergent political positions these days. The polarizing and passionate views of today’s rhetoric could negate all your set up work with this prospect/client. It could also set you up for a moral/ethical decision. If your prospect/client is diametrically opposed to your position, like, truly believes in something that you can’t or won’t stand for, you need to decide whether your relationship with this individual is worth it. I can be as hypocritical as anyone, but I have left employment and ceased relationships based on opposing points of view. You need to decide which battles to join and which ones to walk away from. Again, this all boils down to character. You are the one that needs to be able to sleep at night. Some deals and relationships aren’t worth just the $$ or the backlash. Your moral compass may make your journey longer but will also make it less stressful.
Don’t be homophobic.
Advocate for those who get discriminated against.
Making comments that demean and marginalize have no place on the golf course. You miss a putt and exclaim, “that’s so gay”, has no place in our world! I know members of the LGBTQ community who play the game better than you and I do!
Don’t be misogynistic.
Again, advocate for sexual equality.
I know some women who play a better game than most of us and it is plain offensive to make derogatory and inflammatory comments.
Don’t talk religion.
Should you have opposing views, this could create some unnecessary tension between you.
Don’t cheat. Cheating reveals so much about your character. If you cheat at golf, what else will you cut corners on?
Know the rules. One of the rules of golf is to know the rules of golf. Sounds kind of weird, but if you don’t know the rules, you are probably cheating! Also, there are new rules added almost every year, 2019 in particular. Now you have the ability to leave the flagstick in while putting, the ability to repair marks (other than ball marks) on your putting line and dropping your ball from knee height (rather than shoulder height). These are put in place to make the game faster and fairer. There are more new rules in 2019, can you list them off?
Don’t bet. What happens if one of you completely routs the other? Awkward. How do you build a relationship on that?
Follow golf etiquette. I like to set up one ground rule before I tee up. I try to play “ready” golf! If my guest is “away” but not “ready” yet I am, I will play so as to keep the pace of play moving!
That includes teeing off on subsequent holes.
Also, be cognizant if you are one of the slow groups on the course. It is your job to keep things moving, whether that is by assisting with bag positions or just keeping everyone focused on moving. If you are the one who is guilty of slow play, not too many people will accept a second invite, so get the hint.
If you “need” to have your cell phone with you, please put it on vibrate mode or simply turn it off. You should have time at the end of 9 and 18, or if you are waiting behind a slow group, to check in. Remember that your guest is the most important part of your day and if you haven’t been able to clear your schedule it will reflect on your ability to stay focused. Think about your guest. If they are on their phone, it takes away from relationship building time you are fortunate to get in the first place.
Some courses have a NO CELL PHONE policy. Be aware.
If your guest has been drinking and is inebriated, for everyone’s benefit, arrange transportation home. There are organizations who will drive vehicles home for clients. Make sure you don’t allow your guest to get behind the wheel! Be the adult and take responsibility for the situation.
What could go wrong? Plenty, but keeping things light, talking about golf, family, hobbies and interests, should allow for good relationship building.
Hopefully your day plays out without issue and you are able to advance to the next stage of business, whatever that may be.
Have FUN! Remember CHARACTER. Showcase yours; it will be well worth the effort!
15 Jan 2021