Lunch: Your Secret Weapon

Business lunch
Top salespeople have often used lunch as a way to help bond with a customer and close a deal. Getting the customer out of the office allows for relaxed conversation and freedom from ringing phones and similar interruptions. Going beyond those obvious benefits, though, there’s research that shows messages are more persuasive when accompanied by food.

Decades ago, Yale researchers had subjects read a “persuasive communication” while eating food; two other groups read the material with no food in one case, and no communication in the other. The subjects were told that the provider of the food was not the source of the communication and did not endorse it. The researchers found that opinions changed most when the subjects ate food while reading the material.

This simple experiment is just one of many that show that association with a favorable stimulus can change attitudes. Deliver good news, and you’ll be liked more. Accompany a client to an enjoyable activity, and some of that positive feeling will rub off on you (and your message).

Triple Play

So, taking a client to lunch delivers in at least three ways. As shown by the association experiment I just described, a good meal will make your pitch more persuasive. In addition, lunch offers the opportunity to socialize. In It Really DOES Pay to Schmooze, we saw that negotiation outcomes were much more successful for both parties when they had a chance to socialize first. Finally, to score a neuromarketing trifecta, treating a customer to a nice lunch may also invoke reciprocity, a feeling that one favor should be returned with another.

Do lunch the brainy way!

These various findings can be turned into a simple lunch plan. First, start by socializing – talk about families, golf, or whatever common interests you have. Relating to each other as people sets the stage for a deal. During the meal, introduce your most persuasive elements for working together. This will require a deft touch – nobody wants a good meal ruined by a sales pitch. Don’t overdo this phase, just work those key points into the conversation. If you can pull that off, by the end of the meal you’ll be much closer to a successful deal than when you started.

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This post was written by:

— who has written 985 posts on Neuromarketing.

Roger Dooley writes and speaks about marketing, and in particular the use of neuroscience and behavioral research to make advertising, marketing, and products better. He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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12 responses to "Lunch: Your Secret Weapon" — Your Turn

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Aman Basanti | Age of Marketing 25. October 2011 at 5:42 pm

Enjoyable post. It really is amazing how the association principle plays out in our lives – more often than not without us conciously recognizing it. Thanks for sharing.

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Denise 26. October 2011 at 12:43 am

What about for those of us who have long distance clients? Any way to take advantage of the association principle?

Are there any ways to use creative prospecting techniques to create the same positive associations?

Curious minds want to know :)).

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Roger Dooley
Twitter: rogerdooley
26. October 2011 at 7:12 am

That’s a really good question, Denise. It’s always tough to translate in-person research to the various ways we interact digitally. I think “schmoozing” can take place (and be effective) in various media, particularly with full-motion video tools like Skype, Webex, etc. Working on association is tougher – you need your client to have the pleasurable experience at the same time that you communicate your message.

It may sound a little goofy, but one approach might be a “virtual business lunch.” Tell your client you’d love to take them to lunch, but since you are in a different city you’ll do it virtually. Schedule a lunch meeting that will use a web conferencing tool, and have food delivered to your client’s office (and yours). Then, schmooze a little, enjoy lunch, and squeeze in your message.

Let me know if you try this, Denise!

Roger

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Denise 2. November 2011 at 12:41 am

Thanks for the great suggestion. I actually do plan to try a virtual prospecting lunch :)).

Denise

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Mandy Lehto
Twitter: mandylehto
26. October 2011 at 5:50 am

This research muscles up something that we know and do instinctively. I just read something similar about how simple water cooler niceties can give us a career boost. It’s based on visibility and the feel-good factor. So perhaps it’s not only limited to clients. That cup of Earl Grey, and a few shared moments with colleagues, can also be good for one’s career. Thanks Roger. Great post.

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Roger Dooley
Twitter: rogerdooley
26. October 2011 at 7:17 am

I agree completely, Mandy. The same association principle can apply to bosses, subordinates, and co-workers. There’s some common sense, too – if you are taking the time to socialize and interact with others, even without the association factor you are already ahead of the game. Too often, we get so wrapped up in getting business done we neglect the human factor.

Roger

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Mandy Lehto
Twitter: mandylehto
26. October 2011 at 7:21 am

Forgot to post that link – it’s worth a read: link

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Roger Dooley
Twitter: rogerdooley
26. October 2011 at 7:28 am

Very relevant content, Mandy. I like the quote, “If people know you, and have a positive impression of you, then you will have a distinct advantage over others who are less well known… Set up a lunch date or grab a coffee if you want to discuss something important.”

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angie 26. October 2011 at 8:07 am

Thanks for sharing! It really is amazing how the association principle plays out in our lives – more often than not without us conciously recognizing it…I really enjoy reading your post..

Reply

Roger Dooley
Twitter: rogerdooley
27. October 2011 at 1:14 pm

Quite true, Angie, the association factor is just about totally outside conscious awareness.

Roger

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Deb Kolaras 27. October 2011 at 1:04 pm

So much better than a sterile ole meeting! I like your ideas and while we do “coffee” with people quite often, the thought of having a meal, then talking shop, while so simple, is also a very human interaction; we love breaking bread with others, and at the same time, it breaks the ice :)

Reply

Roger Dooley
Twitter: rogerdooley
27. October 2011 at 1:13 pm

I agree, Deb, that’s the “schmooze” factor which has also been proven effective in reaching a successful conclusion.

Roger

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