The Business Dinner: How to Close the Deal

The Business Dinner: How to Close the Deal

by David Fine

Posted on March 11, 2013 at 11:30 AM

Business Dinner

Nothing is more important to a client than how you behave at dinner. I’ve heard countless stories of salespeople having the deal all but inked only to lose it on account of a poor dinner performance.

Here’s a list of dos and don’ts to follow when meeting with a client over dinner. Print it out and put a copy of it in your jacket pocket if you need to. These simple yet critical pointers will help you close more deals and, most important, earn the respect of your peers.


Pregame: You want to approach a business dinner like you would a rock concert. You never know how slow the service will be, so put down a couple tall boys on your way to the restaurant.

Show the client who’s boss when it comes to meal size: If the client orders a steak, you order surf ‘n turf. If the client beats you to the surf ‘n turf, order the surf ‘n turf but with some chicken on top. If the client tries to match you by adding some chicken to his meal too, send the chef for some buffalo.

Pretend it’s your birthday: Not only will your client be touched that you made time for them on such an important night, but the waitstaff will serenade you and give you a free piece of cake!

Have interns text you throughout the meal: If you’ve already pulled the birthday trick, have your interns text you repeatedly so you appear to be in high demand. After all, you don’t want the client to think you’ve got nothing better to do with your time. Just be careful not to let the client see your phone.

Regale the client with comical stories of how you lost accounts: The high rollers love a salesperson with a sense of humor.

Give the client ample time to grab the bill: After you showed them up by ordering the biggest dish on the menu (and then some), it’s time to let them show you up by paying for the dinner. Clients can be a bit bashful about reaching for the check – they don’t want to show off – so give them 15 minutes … an hour … as long as it takes.  I once had a client who took six and half hours to wrest the bill from the center of the table. So hang in there. They’ll respect you for it.


Ask the restaurant to play the rap song Cash Rules Everything Around Me (C.R.E.A.M) by the Wu-Tang Clan: I still don’t fully understand why this is a Don’t, but I can assure you it is. I thought it was a clever, multicultural way to demonstrate to the client that I’m all about the Benjamins, but the whole thing blew up in my face.

Let women do any of the ordering: Do the classy thing and order for any women at the table, whether on your team or the client’s. If they try to fight you on this, explain that chivalry is alive and well.

Ask for a bottle of wine from Southern Florida: You’ll look like an idiot! Just trust me on this one.

Use the restroom: This is a sign of weakness. Hold it in, no matter what the costs.

Ask the client to share a hotel room with you for the night: Unless the client offers to pay for that too.

Follow these guidelines and you’ll go straight to the top. You might even want to start thinking about how you’ll decorate your new office, wink wink. Maybe there’ll even be room for a pot of begonias or two.

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About the Author

David Fine