Tips for closing a business deal on the golf course
By Jordan Fuller
Think of closing deals and having business meetings and it’s likely your mind goes straight to the conference room. But the golf course is well-known for being like an outdoor boardroom, where business deals in all industries are discussed and made.
If you aren’t a golfer, learning how to play can give you a bit of a leg-up. Many business people would prefer to spend a few hours on the course, swinging their club and casually chatting rather than sitting in a stuffy boardroom going through paperwork.
Here are some tips for closing a business deal on the golf course. Although it’s a less pressured environment, there’s still a right and a wrong way of going about it.
Pick Your Course Carefully
Before you invite a client to play a round of golf, do your homework on the client’s skill level and the surrounding golf courses. These two factors are significant in choosing an appropriate course to play.
Compare the different golf courses in the area and choose one that would suit both your skill level and your clients. It’s a good idea to contact the golf course to find out what the course conditions are. Ask if there’s course maintenance taking place, such as aerating the greens or repairs to the course that could make the experience less pleasant.
This will help you to pick a course that you’d both enjoy playing and that would provide a memorable and hopefully fruitful day out.
Arrive Before Your Client
Nothing says “unprofessional” like being late. Being on time is also a great indicator to your client that you’re responsible and reliable.
Aim to arrive at the course before your client does so that when they arrive, they don’t have to wait before hitting the course. It’s advisable to give yourself a good half-hour ahead of the agreed-upon time, in case your client is also early.
Remember to factor in travel time so you know exactly when to leave your home. If you’re golfing with your client for the first time, this is an excellent opportunity to create a favorable first impression.
Don’t Talk Business Immediately
While there will always be the subtle undercurrent of business, avoid the temptation to leap straight into a business conversation.
Being on the golf course is quite different than being in the boardroom. As such, you’ll interact a little differently with your client on the golf course than you would in the office or in a conference room.
The conversation should be light and breezy on the golf course, at least in the beginning. Discuss everyday topics like family, golfing news and world news, before going into business.
When you do bring it around to business, be subtle. Don’t barge straight into the deal you want to make. Listen more than you talk and make sure they know how your deal is solving a problem for them.
Don’t Be Too Competitive
As competitive as you may be on the golf course when you’re with your friends, golfing with a potential client is not the time for a competition.
While being competitive can be seen as a good trait in business, it can also be off-putting for a client who may be using this opportunity to get to know you.
Getting competitive with your potential client may come across as being pushy or simply inappropriate.
Keep things light and enjoyable and there’s nothing wrong with complimenting a great shot. But don’t turn it into a “who can do it better” kind of experience.
Also, as much as you’re playing with someone else, golf is truly a game against yourself.
Be a Decent Sport
While being in a boardroom is safe and predictable, being with a potential client on a golf course is a less predictable situation.
How you respond when faced with unexpected setbacks, annoyances or even victories will say a lot about you and you can be sure your client is watching.
Keep calm and never throw your clubs or curse. Not only is it highly unprofessional but your client is immediately going to think they don’t want someone so volatile working on their business.
More importantly, never cheat. Once you lose the trust of a potential client, it’s virtually impossible to gain it back.
Remember, in this situation, it’s not about winning – it’s about having a leisurely experience with your potential client that can lead to a favorable business outcome.
Maintain Great Golfing Etiquette
Treat the course you’re playing on with care. Repair your divots and stick to the paths when you’re driving your golf cart.
Maintaining a great golfing etiquette shows that you’re respectful and professional. It also gives the client a good indication of your level of care, and attention to detail, which flows over into the way you do business.
Keep in mind that your client will most likely be watching you closely to ascertain whether or not you’d be a good partner for the deal you’re negotiating.
Take extra care with the small things like divots and your client will notice.
Leave Time for Lunch/Coffee After Your Round
It’s a great idea to organize your round at a time that gives you a lunch or coffee opportunity right afterward.
This is the ideal time to bring the conversation around to that serious business topic or close the deal on which you’ve been working.
It’s relaxed, informal and if you’ve had a great round of golf together and you haven’t been pushy about business, the client is much more likely to be receptive to business talk at this point.
If there is alcohol involved, be extra careful here. Overindulging can give your client a bad impression and may be seen as highly unprofessional.
Follow these tips for closing a business deal on the golf course and you may just find that you’re making more deals, and bigger deals, than ever before!
The course is a great leveler. Instead of being stuck in a closed-in office space where hierarchy wins the day, being out in the open space and natural beauty of the golf course can make for a much calmer, more natural discussion.
If you don’t play golf yet, it might be worth learning. Although not every one of your potential clients is going to be a golfer, it’s truly the ideal spot to get to know them and to show them the kind of person you are. Build that relationship and you can expect bigger, better, deals coming your way.
Jordan Fuller is an experienced golfer who’s made some of his biggest business deals on the course. These days when he’s swinging not his clubs, he’s writing articles for his website, Golf Influence.