Fostering a business relationship, closing a deal, or establishing rapport with current clients sounds much better outside in the fresh air amidst rolling greens than in the boardroom, right? There’s no doubt that the golf course can serve as an extension of your business and can be incredibly beneficial both for your personal sanity and garnering or nurturing business prospects.
Golfing with prospective or current business partners affords you the opportunity to build camaraderie and trust, a winning combination in business. The game showcases character, integrity, concentration, sportsmanship, and a competitive spirit. And, the outdoor setting has a physiological benefit: it releases endorphins making your fellow golfing partner more at ease than an indoor work environment.
We know that golf can be beneficial to business, but only if done right. Here are some tips to on mixing golf and business, taken from personal experiences:
1. Don’t be overly complimentary: Whether a golfer is a scratch or an 18 handicap, they know when they hit a good shot and when they didn’t. Settle into the level of play and point out the positives, but don’t sound unnaturally complimentary.
2. Keep your phone on silent: The days of “turn your phone off’ are long gone. It’s acceptable to check your phone, just don’t let it ring or vibrate in someone’s backswing… and don’t be glued to it.
3. Be helpful: Help find lost golf balls, watch each shot, grab the flag, repair a pitch mark, and follow simple rules of golf etiquette. In doing these things, you will a level of sportsmanship, politeness, and respect.
4. Know your client or prospect’s level of play and put together the appropriate group and venue: If you have a 5 handicap prospect and they are going to potentially spend millions of dollars with you, don’t take them to the mini-golf course with the clown mouth 18th hole. You have to spend money to make money so find the right course and make it special. Also, bring the right player(s) to join the group. If your client is a 20 handicap, bring your co-worker that shoots in the 90s.
5. Be on time and – above all else – don’t play slow: Punctuality is important in any business setting as it shows reliability. Also, keep the pace of the game up. There’s simply nothing worse in golf than playing slow.
6. Take your golf partners’ cue: You’re on the golf course to build rapport. If the client wants to talk business then by all means get into it, but let them bring it up. Save the details for the follow up and prioritize on growing the relationship.
7. Don’t excessively drink: Save the beer-slamming contest for weekend outings or bachelor parties. Though you are out of your office, keep in mind that you’re still conducting business.
8. Let your client select the tees: Provide your golf partner with an equally enjoyable time and challenge. Your prerogative should not be making yourself “look good”. Be prepared to play to the comfort level of your guest/s.
9. Follow the client’s lead: Working on dealings on the golf course is very much like trying to close deals in regular business. It’s a feeling out process. If they’re a talker, you gab it up. If they’re a grinder, you grind. Let the client or prospect lead the way and be a good partner. It’s not about who’s a better golfer, it’s about being a good person.
10. If you have branded golf balls from your company, use them: The extra brand recognition can go a long way. Seeing your business’ logo helps put the pieces together and your potential client may be more inclined to remember you later down the road.
Jay Swansson is Co-CEO and Co-Founder at iAcquire, a NYC and Phoenix-based digital marketing firm. Jay recently won the Scottsdale Open amateur tournament and is an avid golfer both in personal and professional settings.