If you think golf is merely a 'leisure sport' then think again! If you are in business and play golf, you will probably have seen at least a deal or two closed over a game of golf over the years. In fact, many people describe playing golf as the ultimate infusion of sales and leisure.
Essentially, golf is a form of networking. Whilst networking isn't difficult, many people get it wrong because the basics of networking aren't correctly mastered.
In this post, we offer up some tips and tricks to help you improve your networking skills as it applies to golf. This will allow you to more effectively take advantage of the game of golf in order to build your business and win over new clients.
When it comes to your golfing partner, assess your partner's ability to make decisions in his or her organisation. Don't assess a golf partner solely on his or her ability to play golf. Remember, you are trying to win new business, not win the Ryder Cup!
Sandbagging is the practice of inflating your handicap in order to give you the upper hand. You may wish to win in order to impress prospective clients or business partners. However, sandbagging is easily detectable and it may lead your prospective client to believe you are untrustworthy. Instead, use the handicap system in the way it's supposed to be used. This will result in a fair and more enjoyable game of golf that's more likely to translate into new business.
If you cheat and your cheating is discovered, you will almost certainly sour any relationship you had built with this person during or before the game of golf in question.
This means you must not partake in "tanking". This is when you purposefully allow your opponent to win. If your opponent realises you've tanked, you may be written off as a brown-noser. This is harly the impression you wish to convey to prospective clients or sources of referral business.
Remember, the objective is to have a game of golf that your partner will enjoy. We recommend you choose a golf course that suits your partner's handicap level. If your partner has a high handicap, stay away from courses that are too long, too tight, or tree-lined. Remember, you wish for your partner to have fun, not experience frustration. You wish your partner to associate you with pleasure and positive emotions, not frustration and negative emotions.
When playing golf with a prospective customer, don't discuss golf until you reach the 5th hole. Bringing up business too early will make you seem desperate. In fact, certain people will refuse to do or refer business to you until you've gotten to know them on a personal level first.
Remember, quality relationships that translate into business often take weeks, months or even years to forge. Don't sour relationships too early by being overly hungry to land new business. Some seasoned business golfers even advise that golf is a way to develop lasting relationships where business is incidental to that relationship.
If your partner is serious about his or her golf, talking business on the golf course could cause this person to become distracted or annoyed, so be careful when you bring up the issue of business.
Above all, remember that people buy people. You should use your golf as a way of selling yourself, not your services. This means you must demonstrate likable qualities such as competence, trustworthiness and reliability.
When you play 18 holes, you spend enough time with your partner to learn about his or her business. This doesn't mean 'selling' your partner on your services. However, this does buy you enough time to learn about issues your partner is facing in his or her business. Rather than offering up your own expertise, consider referring your partner to another expert other than yourself. This warms the relationship up before you go for the kill at a later time.
This means behaving in a way that matches the way your partner behaves. If your partner is a serious type, ensure your behaviour is suitably serious. If your partner is relaxed and entertaining, mirror his or her behaviour yourself. Mirroring your partner's behaviour is likely to result in rapport.
As a general rule, when you play golf with a prospect, be on your best behaviour. And above all, remember you are on the course with clients or prospective clients, not your friends!
Remember that you are playing golf with people you want to do business with, not your friends. If you drink alcohol, you will lose control of your behaviour. This will result in the loss of rapport and potentially means your prospect will even rule out the possibility of doing business with you in the future.
Although we urge you to forge genuine relationships with prospects, you must not forget that you are ultimately spending time with these people to win over new business. We thus recommend you write down your goals to ensure you are simply not wasting your time. If you are meeting these goals then great. But if you are not meeting these goals, consider altering your approach until you do start to meet your goals.
If you schedule a post-game lunch, you get to learn even more about your partner and the business he or she operates in. You get more time to discuss business, life, your family and the opportunities and threats you face in your respective businesses.
Once the game's complete, send your partner a thank-you note or email. This ensures your appreciation is communicated. This could also get you back on your prospect's radar and result in the acquisition of additional business.
Be sure to exchange business cards and connect with this person on LinkedIn. Also, have some golf balls made up with your company logo embedded upon them, and then offer a sleeve of these balls to your partner.
Travel Caddy is a golf hire company offering golf hire in Malaga and the wider Costa del Sol region of Spain.