How to Get Through Your Next Business Meal

BY Jessica Helinski

Lunch is a popular time to “do business” for sales reps, but is your etiquette up to par? Even if you have excellent sales skills, your table manners can help or hinder your sales efforts. Diane Gottsman, owner of The Protocol School of Texas, has some basic tips for mastering the business lunch. In an article for Inc​.com, she writes, “A real pro will walk away from the table leaving others with a favorable impression, setting the stage for the next steps in the relationship."

So the next time you have a power meal, consider using one of her tips, three of which are below:

  • First and foremost, remember you are working. It’s easy to lose sight of the goal when enjoying a good meal. Don't treat the engagement like a happy hour. Be relaxed enough to make your companion(s) at ease but don’t let loose and forget that you are selling.
  • On a similar note, keep in mind it’s not about the food. Eat something before the meeting so you’re not famished. This helps you avoid focusing on what you’re eating instead of who you are meeting. Avoid ordering anything messy or complicated that may be distracting. Unsure what to do about the cost? “If you want your guest to feel comfortable ordering at any price point, get something near the top of the price range,” Gottsman advises. “If you're the guest and aren't getting cues from your host, order something in the middle range to avoid looking like you're taking advantage of a free meal.”
  • Stay aware of your body language. Mind your manners, and avoid chewing with your mouth open, talking with a full mouth, putting elbows on the table, etc. Do a quick refresher of basic table manners before to jog your memory.

Check out all of Gottsman’s tips before scheduling your next business meal. Polished etiquette can help you make a great impression and give insight into your professionalism.