Guest Post by Gary Pines
(The golf course is among the most common venues for networking, and it’s golf season. Surely, it’s time for a post on golfing and networking. Not a golfer, myself, I have asked my colleague, Gary Pines, to write the post. Golf is a factor in 25 percent of the business he wins. Ford Harding)
You don’t have to be a scratch golfer to network on the golf course. I’m living proof of that. I have been playing for over twenty years in countless rounds with guests, who include clients, connectors, and prospective clients. My score can range from 105 to 85. I have many bad shots in every round. I do it because I very much enjoy the experience . . . and because I build closer relationships.
I believe that people who worry about their score and how they look, don’t spend enough time on making sure their guests enjoy a special experience. And they miss most of the fun. Your job is to make sure your guests leave the golf course saying that was a “special day with a special person,” rather than leaving frustrated about the way they played and their high score.
Golf is a game of embarrassment. If you can embarrass yourself in front of others for 18 holes and survive, then you can work with those same people, make mistakes and still help them attain their goals.
So, here are ten thoughts for building better relationships on the golf course:
- It is not about me … no complaining about my shots and trying to explain why I hit the shot incorrectly.
- It is not about me … no asking for extra shots. Instead, offer your guests extra shots and mulligans.
- It is all about them … offer information about the golf course and information about their next shot, and so make it easier for them to do well. For example, when driving the ball off the tee, offer what direction it would be best to hit the ball, such as “hit it toward the left side of the fairway” or “hit it toward the far sand trap.”
- It is all about them … always help with putting information. For example, putting is a key part of the game and one’s score. I always try to help them to understand how their putt may roll to the hole with suggestions like “hit it harder uphill” or “hit it to the left of the cup because it will move to the right as it is rolling.”
- It isn’t really a competition. Don’t keep score unless they want to. Rather, ask them if they want to keep score and follow their desires. I have had several golf rounds where we only counted the “good shots” on the scorecard. It quickly removed the feeling of intimidation from the round.
- It’s about giving attention to everyone. Change riding partners on carts every six holes. Help everyone look for their lost golf ball.
- It’s about minimizing their discomfort. Let your guests pick the order of hitting the tee shot. I find most do not want to hit last, so that is what I do. Try to understand if a guest has an injury and provide mental and playing relief for him or her, if possible.
- It’s being considerate of their time. The pace of the round. Make certain the group moves in a timely fashion, because you do not want to play 18 holes in over 4 hours and 30 minutes. Your guests may have other things to do, after the game, but be too polite to urge speed.
- It’s not about business. Do not talk business, unless a guest brings it up. Save those discussions for the 19th hole or when connecting for a follow-up meeting.
- It’s about having fun … because if you do, the chances go up that your guests will, too.
Follow these guidelines and business will come. For example, my conversation with one guest over lunch after 18 holes in the morning was much more open and frank than in prior discussions. By asking questions, I helped him see the value in utilizing my services. He commented that I should connect with him next week and send him a short proposal in the interim. In another case, I have enjoyed playing golf with a “connector” three or four times a year. Last year without my having to ask, he urged a prospective client to utilize my services, which they did.
Make your golf game enjoyable and business profitable by determining how you will make it a special experience for your guests. Review the ten thoughts prior to every round.
And remember: No one will hire you because of your high golf score, but will use experiences of a shared round to decide what you would be like to work with.
Gary Pines can be reached at gpines@HardingCo.com.