My resume shows that a stage of my professional career was in sales. My focus on customer service relied on relationship building. Sales happen when trust exists that was built on common experiences and understanding. Golf is a great way to spend quality time getting to know your customers and showing them your character. Through my travels, I played in countless charity tournaments and took scores of customers out for rounds of golf. Here is what I learned and would like to share with you to help you use golf as a professional networking tool.
Customer Golf Tip #1: Be honest with your customer
If you cheat at golf, your customer will conjecture that you cheat in life and will likely cheat them. Follow USGA rules (all of them) if you score your round. If you don’t want to keep score, say so on the first tee. Your golf game will reveal your character to your customer. This is your chance to show them that you deserve their business.
Customer Golf Tip #2: Take a lesson or two each spring
Find a local pro and set up a few lessons to review and knock rust off. Tell the pro what you are looking to do and how little you will invest in golf, in money and time. A good pro will know to keep it simple and not to overload you with needless tricks or set expectations on continued practice and play.
Customer Golf Tip #3: Determine if your clubs are still good
Are you clubs buried under piles of other forgotten hobbies in the garage? Did you inherit your clubs from another family member? It might be time to head out and get a new set. You don’t need to spend top dollar for the latest line new clubs with new space age polymer shafts. Investing in a set of clubs from last season is a good way to improve your game and save a few bucks. Spend the extra $20 to get your local store computer to look at your swing to make sure you get the correct shaft flex. Get a set that includes all the woods and irons you will need.
Customer Golf Tip #4: Take it easy on the sales pitch
No one wants to be trapped in a five hour commercial for your company and its products/services. Take the time to get to know your customer. Thee is the obvious connection of golf to use as a launch pad for conversations. Here are some topics to use to get your customer to open up:
- Where do you usually play?
- Does anyone else in your family play?
- What course is on your bucket list?
Learn about your customer as a person and not as a stat in your CRM.
Customer Golf Tip #5: Have fun
The PGA is not looking for the next pro golfer at these events. Scramble tournaments are designed so everyone can have a good time and bad shots are quickly forgotten. If your swing goes to crap by the 8th hole, shake it off and slow your swing down. Killing the ball just shoots it further out of bounds.
Bonus Tip: Take it easy on the drink cart
This goes without saying so I mention is as a bonus tip. Treat your customer to a beverage or two but don’t go overboard yourself. If you get drunk and fall in a sand trap, everyone will laugh at you. The last person laughing will be your competition when they steal away your customer because you were a jackass.
For more reason to play golf for professional development check out the Economist article on the topic: Why Golfers Get Ahead.
Golf is a great sport for business relationship building. Treat it like any sales meeting. Come prepared, learn as much as your can about your customer, and set a follow up to close the deal.