Lunch Is on You
Buried in work? The mid-day meal may be your
best chance to grow your practice
it or not, lunch is a big part of marketing. Whether youíre trying to woo a
prospect, squeeze referrals out of another lawyer, or keep your hooks firmly
embedded in the mottled flesh of a valued client, lunch is often the time to do
all, you have to eat, right? Right. Thatís why "lack of time" doesnít cut it
when attorneys are dishing up excuses for client development inactivity,
especially after I see them from my car, taking a leisurely lunch hour stroll up
Central Avenue, eating frozen yogurt with one of their colleagues, their
secretary, someone elseís secretary, or another non-source of business.
often than not, the real problem isnít lack of time; itís lack of planning,
will, and confidence in your ability to make productive use of the noon meal
(or, for that matter, breakfast or dinner).
Becoming a lunchtime marketing machine requires that you do three things:
Spontaneity may be a wonderful and exciting thing in some aspects of your life,
but not when it comes to setting up a power lunch. Few people whose lunch
companionship is worth your time and money are going to be available on short
notice, so always think several days ahead.
a list of clients, prospects, attorneys and other referral sources with whom you
want to break bread. Then get on a regular schedule of calling one of them Ė
preferably not the same one over and over Ė far enough in advance that you can
of advance planning is probably the number one cause of non-lunch. By the time
you notice that itís almost noon and you actually have time to eat, itís too
late to do it with anyone who can do you any good. So you succumb to an
invitation from one of the firmís lesser lights to run over to Boston Market for
some meat loaf and an ear full about his big weekend in Albuquerque. Not that
thereís anything wrong with that ... until one day it hits you that your
workloadís getting pretty light and the last place you had a productive lunch
closed six months ago.
If youíre too busy, unfocused,
indifferent or shy to initiate a steady diet of lunches, think about getting
some help from your secretary. Give her your list of potential lunch companions
and ask her to remind you every week or so to call somebody on it. This practice
works just fine ... in Utopia, where attorneys donít automatically blow off
everything their secretaries tell them to do.
making phone calls isnít your thing, make your secretary do it for you. Give her
a list of people who know you well enough that they wonít be put off by having
someone else invite them to eat with you, and ask her to get them on your lunch
calendar. This will normally work with acquaintances (including other lawyers)
and some of your better clients; it will not work particularly well with prospects, clients who hate you, and strangers.
secretaryís ability to tell a white lie may be essential to her effectiveness in
setting up your lunch dates. I know, even the faintest hint of dishonesty cuts
against the grain of most attorneys, but having your secretary say, "Mr.
Mahoney, Mr. Strockenmueller is in court this morning, but before he left he
asked me to call to see if youíre available for lunch next Friday at the
University Club," sounds a heck of a lot better than, "Mr. Strockenmueller
apparently wants to have lunch with you, but youíre evidently not high enough on
his list to warrant a call from the great man himself, so he says to me this
morning, ĎI donít have time to talk to that worthless pile of cow dung Mahoney.
Call him and set up a lunch somewhere thatís cheap and quick and far enough in
advance that I can cancel if anything better comes along,í so what do you say to
Dennyís, say, next spring?"
Know Where to Go
Behaviorists, sales professionals, et al., seem to agree that people eternally
connect you with wherever they were when they first spent time with you. So if
you want a prospective client or referral source to have positive lasting
thoughts about you, I say Alexiís wins out over Schlotzskyís.
Initiating lunch at a nice restaurant may not come naturally to you, especially
if you lean toward places that have "character." Avoid your favorite
neighborhood haunts, including any at which:
the parking lot is unpaved;
the main entrance is through the kitchen (exception: Durantís);
you can sit at the counter;
you can play pinball;
the servers are surly, mute or unwashed, wear lip or tongue jewelry,
occasionally band together to clap hands and sing annoying birthday-related
songs, or sit with you while they take your order;
the majority of vehicles in the parking lot have more or less than four
wheels or display the Stars Ďní Bars or weapons in the back window; or
vermin racing is a pari-mutuel wagering activity.
avoid taking high priority guests to any dining establishment that doesnít take
lunch reservations or credit cards, has too many weird rules printed in the menu
or taped to the cash register, offers an early bird menu or serves its entrees
on a tray or in Styrofoam.
Instead, join a private club and go there all the time. If thatís not in the
budget, find two or three nice, quiet, tastefully decorated restaurants that
have good food and service. Become a regular. Get to know the hosts and
hostesses well enough that they call you by Mr. or Ms.
whatever-your-last-name-is. Call for reservations sufficiently far in advance
that you can get your favorite table. Familiarize yourself with the menu so that
you can make recommendations to your guests, or at least steer them away from
the pork tar tare. And tip generously. (Be subtle, though; making a big show of
peeling off Jacksons for everyone from the parking valet to the bus boy may be
viewed as boorish by your more cultivated guests.)
Know Your Lunch Protocol
Even in these barbaric times, there are a few rules of etiquette and common sense
that govern the lunch process:
When you call to invite someone to lunch, be
ready to suggest a day and place. It saves time and makes you look like
youíve given it some thought.
Offer to pick up your guest. Itís not only a courtesy, but it can also spare
one of you from cooling your heels in the waiting area (or at the wrong
place) while the other made the mistake of taking a call on the way out the
door. If you donít know or canít remember exactly what your lunch guest
looks like, swinging by his or her office helps you avoid the embarrassment
of having to introduce yourself to every stranger in the restaurant before
you find your guest.
you wear a hat ó regardless of style or the direction in which the bill
points ó take it off, and leave it off for the rest of your life.
If you can pull it off without having to deliver a
hip-check, take the seat with the best view. You want your guest to concentrate
on you, not on the other customers.
soon as youíre seated, put your napkin in your lap (preferably after youíve
removed your silverwear) but don't unfold it all the way.
Let your guest order first, and then order something comparable for
yourself. If he or she orders ch‚teaubriand,
youíre going to look silly and cheap asking for a side salad and a glass of
Cocktails may be okay with dinner, but not with lunch (unless you're at
Durant's and you consider lunch an early dinner) or breakfast.
Even if you forget the other rules, remember this one: If you invite someone
to lunch, you pay. When the server brings the check, promptly and smoothly
slide it to your side of the table. If your guest offers to pay, say that
itís your treat. If he insists, tell him he can buy next time (if you want
there to be a next time). If he starts to make a scene, let him buy; few
things are more gauche than fighting over a check. Also be prepared
to go Dutch if your lunch guest is a hyper-ethical government employee or
otherwise prohibited from accepting gifts and favors.
Finally, know when to have your business discussion. Use the pre-ordering phase
to make small talk and get better acquainted. As soon as youíve placed your
order, get down to business. There arenít a bunch of dishes on the table yet,
and you donít have to worry about grossing out anyone by talking with your mouth
full. If youíre going to put the moves on a prospective client, do it now. If
youíre lunching with a potential referral source, now is the time to ask, "What
can we do to generate more work for each other?"
wait until after youíve finished eating to get serious in your discussion. By
that time, your guest may be starting to glance at his watch, already more
focused on what awaits him back at the office than he is on whatever it is you
wanted to talk about.
and don't bring marketing materials to a power lunch unless you absolutely have
to; your business card will suffice. Leaving your brochure at the office gives
you something to send your lunch companion as a follow-up, along with an
appropriately uplifting note.
Do It Now
let your heavy workload cause you to put off lunch engagements and other
marketing activities until you have more spare time. Now is the time to be
talking to people, learning what they need and showing how you can help them.
Donít waste this opportunity.
In Julius Caesar, Shakespeare wrote, "There is a tide in the affairs of men
which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune." The tideís coming back in; ask someone to