Good friends, stimulating conversation and excellent food. It’s going to be a fun evening. The experience is one that can’t be rushed nor should it be. It’s a process that by its nature, takes time. [click here to listen to the podcast version of this post]
You start out with a hot cup of soup and finish with a very special dessert. Each course builds upon the last. There’s a good reason why you don’t start with the last course first.
Closing a deal is a very similar experience. Go about things the right way and the negotiation will flow naturally and the deal will be one to remember. Skip a course or two and the other person just might get up and leave the communication table before the evening is over.
Start with the setting
You don’t serve a 5 course dinner on the lids of garbage cans in an alley behind the restaurant. Along those same lines, don’t try to negotiate an important deal over day old coffee in the parking lot of Wal-Mart while wearing a stained t-shirt.
Make sure that you’ve thought things through and have properly set your communication table—the place you’ll be serving your verbal meal– in a suitable fashion and location. Have your ducks in a row and remember to place your napkin in your lap, serve from the left, and clear from the right. Do what needs to be done to help ensure your surroundings are conducive to a meaningful discussion and presentation.
Now for the first course…
Start with something memorable. Tonight, we’ll be starting with essence of butternut squash, presented with a seared sea scallop, chive oil and young seedlings. Is your mouth starting to water? Mine is!
After a bit of small talk and building rapport, get immediate focus and attention by raising the problem or issue during the first course. What is the need of the person you’re making your pitch to? Get this crystal clear in your mind before you walk in to the room and sit down at the communication table. Put the problem up on the table and push it across directly in front of your guest.
Tip- Talk about the problem.
The second course
For your second course, we’ll be serving pan seared lump crab cake, presented with fire roasted corn and cilantro relish smoked chipotle aioli and butter poached leeks. While you enjoy this course and start to get in the mood for the main entre, spend some quality time talking in more detail about it the problem or issue. Discuss what bad things will happen if changes are not made. What are the short and long-term consequences of action or inaction? What will happen if things don’t get resolved and continue to drag on day after day and even year after year?
Tip- Discuss the short and long-term impact of the problem.
The third course
What better than to follow the crab cakes with a dish of roasted beet carpaccio, presented with seared goat cheese, beet syrup, aged balsamic reduction and mache greens. Do this correctly and your guest is already interested in what the next course will be.
You’ve got his attention. He knows why he’s sitting at the table and understands that action is needed or things will just get worse. Now is the time to show your guest how your idea will solve his problems. Working your way from the outside in, your utensils should include specific examples, metaphors and stories.
If you make a mistake or skip a beat, no big deal. Use the napkin on your lap to wipe your mouth and continue. Sometimes food will drip from your spoon or fall off your fork. That’s life and it’s OK. The secret is to clean things up and always move forward to the next course.
Tip- For the first time, reveal your specific solution to the specific problem of your guest.
The fourth course
Now that you’ve shared your solutions in the third course, knock your guest right off his chair with a fourth course consisting of something a bit more substantial. Let’s go with grilled fillet of beef, presented with caramelized shallot/red wine reduction, crisp truffle scented potato rosti, white asparagus and morel mushrooms. It might also be time to order another bottle of wine.
This course is all about substance and value. Show the other person exactly how your suggested solution will benefit him. Understanding that facts tell but stories sell, use the right utensils (words, pictures, testimonials, videos…) to continue showing your dinner guest how your product, service or idea will benefit and help him. Communicating and share major value and specific benefits, through stories and examples, are what the fourth course is all about.
Tip- Communicate the major benefits of your solution to your dinner guest.
The fifth and most important course
You’ve just spent the last 2-3 hours enjoying 4 wonderful and succulent courses. Now it’s time to wrap things up. What should you serve and how should you serve it?
Before I share our last dish, let me ask you a question. How many time have you gone out for a nice dinner only to have the evening end on an awkward note because the waiter just dropped off the tab and you’re not sure who should pick it up? There’s a moment of silence and what happens next can, for many different reasons, can make or break the evening.
You need to avoid this blunder. So to help us do so, we’re going to wrap up the evening with a vanilla bean infused panna cotta Nova Scotia ice wine marinated berries and chocolate lattice. Sounds tasty doesn’t it?
Just like we finished up our 5 course meal with a very special dessert, in negotiation and sales, you also need to make sure you have a clear end game. Understand exactly how you want and need to have the meeting end.
You do this by always making sure you close. You need to ask for the deal or get the contract signed. Just as important as making arrangements before the meal to have the check delivered to you and not your guest, at the communication table, you need to plan ahead and do the same thing. You need to do what needs to be done allowing you to get up and walk away with the deal signed and sealed in your back pocket. Close the deal and get the contract signed or your customer may be the dinner guest of someone else tomorrow evening.
By taking your time and serving one course after another, you’ve created the perfect 5 course dinner. Not only will you leave the table happy and content, you’ll also walk away with more than a few after dinner mints in your pocket. You’ll also have a new customer and signed deal.