Is schmoozing dead?

March 15, 2014

Oh, those heady days of the '80s and '90s with 4-hour agency client lunches, exclusive dinners, wild events and extravagant Christmas gifts! Now that we are crawling out the other side of the GFC we see companies frowning on displays of excess, so how can we - as Account Managers - show our clients that extra level of attention? Is schmoozing dead?

In the agency world, there is no denying that schmoozing is still one of the keys to business success. It's how you network, build partnerships and cement lasting relationships, It's how you get deals done, gather support, persuade, sell your ideas and get ahead in your career.

With any business deal, you have to establish a human connection before you get down to the detail, and schmoozing is one way to help establish that connection.

The trick is you need to know how your client ticks in order to know how best to schmooze them. Not all clients like to be taken on a fishing trip for the day. Some would see that as a waste of their business time. Some would see it as being an insincere attempt at extracting their marketing dollar. Some companies forbid their staff receiving gifts such as fishing trips. Some clients LOVE it!

Perhaps we need to redefine 'schmoozing", and figure out how schmoozing can help you develop great client relationships:

  • Make it genuine. Gone are the days of fine wine and BS. This is the 21st Century and clients will easily perceive a greedy lunge for their business if your approach isn't genuine.
  • Tailor the schmooze. Finding out what your client likes will go a long way to schmoozing in the right direction. One client may like to grab a beer after work, while another client may be more the "have a coffee catchup during work hours" type. 
  • Be yourself. You don't have to be the great entertainer. There's nothing more attractive than genuine humanity, humility and humour.
  • Make it all about them. Schmoozing shouldn't be just about you getting more work. Figure out what's in it for the client. Any schmooze occasion should be beneficial to both parties and very obviously beneficial to your client.
  • Don't try too hard, it's not a good look.
  • Crossing the line. The fine line between "gift" and "bribe" is crossed more easily than you may think.
  • Respect your client's time. We are all busy people and long lunches are no longer de rigueur. Plan schmooze time wisely!
  • Be honest. There is certainly no harm in letting your client know why you'd like to have a catch up with them. Saying that you'd like to talk about future business opportunities over a glass of wine is far better than inviting a client to a social event, then cornering them - unawares - with a new business concept.

Schmoozing doesn't need to be fancy or expensive, and it doesn't need to involve gifts. Think of ways, or environments, that would be conducive to developing business relationships. These could include:

  • a wine or beer after work.
  • a corporate event, lecture, trade show or presentation that would be applicable to your client's business.
  • a social activity (such as golf or fishing) where the client can be actively involved.
  • attendance at a corporate box for a sporting event (e.g. rugby, motor racing, tennis).
  • catching up for a coffee.
  • inviting a client to a charity event or auction.
  • inviting a client to one of your own company events (e.g. Christmas party).
  • inviting one client to another client's event, where their products or services could be complimentary or beneficial to each other.
  • a gift at a time other than Christmas.

Maya Angelou once said "people will never forget how you make them feel". If you are genuine and caring, not pushy or arrogant, and if you give the gift of time and attention, your clients will remember the feeling this produces, you will reap the rewards!



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