Dan Weedin’s Best Practices for Winning the Business of Golf

If you’re anything like me, you love to mix work with pleasure. Especially, if it’s on the golf course. The links offers a great opportunity to tee it up with clients and prospects. Even if you don’t play a lot, charity golf tournaments make it easy for even the novice to take advantage of the opportunity to build business relationships.

But, it’s just as big an opportunity for embarrassment and I’m not talking about your game. You can find yourself in the worst bunker of all – out of a job or losing business. And in this game, there are no mulligans! So regardless of whether you’re playing a round with your boss, a client, a prospect, or some other VIP, make sure you know the rules of play.

Just like a golf course has 18 holes, I have 18 best practices that you can use to avoid the hazards and build better business relationships through the grand old game of golf.

Front Nine

  1. Never ever sell on the course. This is an opportunity to build a relationship and trust.  Nothing will turn off a prospective client more than hearing a sales pitch right before he lines up his birdie putt.
  2. Never try to schedule a meeting on the course. You can do this while you’re having a beer after.  If they can’t stick around, simply ask if you can call them the next business day to schedule an appointment.  Make sure you get their approval and their business card.
  3. Keep your temper in check. Never swear, mope, throw your club, or complain (even if your prospect/client/boss does).  They need to understand that you don’t take yourself too seriously and that you’re not a maniac.
  4. Make sure you know golf etiquette. If the game is fairly new to you, brush up online for tips on how to behave on the course.  Your client will have an expectation that you can carry yourself well in any situation, including the links.
  5. Do not over consume alcohol on the course. This should be a no-brainer but I’ve seen it.
  6. Offer to buy refreshments as the snack cart drives around. Make sure you have plenty of five’s and one’s available and don’t scrimp on the tip. They will notice!
  7. Be conservative in your dress. I know seasoned golfers have seen John Daly’s latest outrageous wear. This isn’t the place to show off your multi-colored pants. I’m not saying be a prude. Just be smart.
  8. Don’t play slow. I don’t mean that you have to be a good golfer. I mean don’t take seven practice swings before each shot or check every angle when lining up a putt. Keep the pace going.
  9. You don’t have to let the boss/client win. Really. Golf is a gentleman’s game, not a brown-noser’s. If you’re keeping score, as long as you are gracious either way, you will be a winner.

Back Nine

  1. Pick up lunch at the turn. The “turn” is going from the front nine to the back nine and always offers the opportunity to eat.
  2. Be willing to accept reciprocation. They may offer to buy you food or drink. Don’t embarrass them by refusing and forcing the issue that you buy. You might be at their club, or you might be their guest. Be willing to graciously accept.
  3. Don’t Crash the Cart. I’ve seen it. Really. Most charity golf events require a cart, as do many of the newer courses. This may go hand in hand in avoiding overconsumption of alcohol. Putting your boss in the hospital doesn’t lend itself to a stable long-term relationship!
  4. Play for par, hope for birdie. Here’s what I mean. Don’t try to do the spectacular like fishing out the client’s golf ball from the lake when you can’t reach it easily. You may end up all wet in the drink (seen this too). Looking for his or her ball in poison ivy – that’s a double-bogey! Be smart when making decisions that could impact the remaining part of your game.
  5. Ask Questions. This is your opportunity to learn a little something about your playing partner. Find out about family, hobbies, and even about their work. Be sincerely interested and listen.
  6. If they ask, go for it! I know I told you not to sell or schedule appointments earlier. But, if your prospect starts the conversation down that line, play on. It’s their prerogative to talk business, so if they want to, by all means take advantage. But remember to stop when they do.
  7. Shake their hand. At the end of the round, shake their hand as well as every other playing partner. I’ve always liked how Tiger Woods doffs his cap while shaking hands. I never seem to get the holding on to the putter and ball while shaking. Helps to have a caddy, I guess!
  8. Offer to eat after the round. The 19th hole is a great place to enjoy a burger and beer (moderately). If they can’t stay, don’t make them feel bad. It’s the right thing to offer.
  9. Have fun! This is the most important item. Don’t psyche yourself out, try to be perfect, or worry about business. People can tell. Enjoy the day, the company, and the game.

You will learn a lot about a person over 18 holes. Your client/prospect/boss will learn a lot about you.  Make sure you are giving the best impression you can.  This is a golden opportunity to build relationships and show that you are worthy of their trust. People do business with those they trust and like. Make sure they walk off the course with a “birdie” feeling about you.

© 2009 Dan Weedin – All Rights Reserved

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