I am constantly invited to client events or ballgames after work and on weekends. How do I gracefully decline these event invites? – Tara in Denver, CO
Building rapport with clients requires time, attention, and genuine interest. Receiving an invitation from a customer is a compliment, and it speaks to the relationship you have fostered. It’s important to view these interactions as an opportunity rather than an obligation. In addition, a certain amount of socializing is part of our job as sales professionals.
Frame and Focus
Making a real connection with clients is paramount to establishing and expanding business. Successful sales people nurture relationships, and settings that offer the ability to deepen those ties are crucial to the process. Socializing outside of work is a great way to get to know people. We can focus on them as individuals, learning more about their interests and what really matters to them.
When we frame our attitude in positivity, curiosity, and enthusiasm, we can make the most of the opportunity. It’s our choice to be excited about discovering more about our clients. I have learned more about what drives my customers from a single off-site business lunch than dozens of office meetings. And social events that are not as time constrained as lunch are exponentially more valuable to strengthening relationships.
Pick Your Spot
Going out to an event or a ballgame with your client provides you with the most precious commodity: time. Time to build your relational capital and truly connect on a personal level without the usual distractions. With that said, it’s important to pick your spot. We all need balance, and while there is work-life integration in sales, it is absolutely okay to gracefully decline invitations.
Go and Grow
One of the most surprising things I discovered when I said “yes” to client invitations was that I had fun. Often, I went to events or participated in activities I would never have done on my own. One such experience was taking a private tour of Fenway Park with a client. I’m not a baseball fan, and would never have gone to Fenway. Yet I found it fascinating, and it’s a special memory I share with my client.
When you need to decline a client invitation, be authentic and genuine. Show your appreciation by sincerely thanking them for the attention and kind invitation. Then kindly decline. Remember, you do not need to give a reason. Whatever you do, don’t make up a white lie as an excuse. Trust, me, at some point it comes back and bites you when they ask, “How was xyz?” and you can’t recall what they are referring to. You just wiped out years of credibility by a stupid and unnecessary evasion.
Instead, try this: “Tara, you are so thoughtful to include me. I truly appreciate the invitation. It would be a pleasure to spend time with you. Unfortunately, I have existing plans and will not be able to make this event.”
Client events are a terrific opportunity for you to connect on a personal level with your customer. Activities out of the office allow you to get to know your clients better and create shared memories. Strong relationships are a cornerstone of successful sales. Take advantage of some of these offers. You’ll strengthen your bond and enjoy the experience.
Lynn Whitbeck is the co-founder and President of Petite2Queen. She is focused on identifying and evaluating opportunities for women at work, helping them define their personal roadmap. She dedicates herself to delivering tools and insights, embracing visualization of the big picture, and identifying and implementing the minutiae of detail. Lynn aims to share lessons learned along her journey and enable positive uplift for women.