The following is a parable of a great prospecting idea gone awry for one simple reason: the prospector did not plan his meeting carefully enough.
The prospector in question was none other than I — a financial consultant with a 12 handicap in golf (that's pretty good, for those of you counting at home). The meeting was to take place on a golf course, a place I maintain is one of the best for creating bonds with potential clients — that is, of course, unless you bungle the gambling portion of your program and end up alienating your prospect.
The Day in Question
It was a warm clear day when I met my potential client at a local course. It would be the first time I'd played golf with him, and I was intent on making the day memorable so that I might forge a bond that would lead to my landing his business. For this reason, I intended to spice the round up with a little gambling.
To make the round complete and to enable me to play on my prospect's “team,” I invited two other players to join us, one of whom gambled a lot on the golf course.
As we approached the first tee, I asked my guest who gambled a lot, Tom, to suggest a fun game for us to play. A strange smile came over his face and he said, “Sure, I'd love to.” He then proceeded to outline a game that involved best balls for a nickel a hole and a dime for “sandies, alligators and greenies.” Though I had no idea what these last few terms really meant, I quickly agreed to this game, figuring, “How much could we lose playing for nickels and dimes?” My partner, the prospect, looked confused, but didn't say anything.
Off we went for a wonderful bonding experience.
The first few holes went by fairly even, but I noticed that Tom seemed to intentionally try and hit his ball in the bunker next to every green. He was pretty good because he made two sandies, which also meant he made two greenies (one putt) in the first five holes. On the sixth hole, a par three, he hit his ball into the water, but made a great recovery shot to get up and down in two, which meant he made an alligator and another greenie. The rest of us were just trying not to three-putt.
By the time we made it to the tenth hole Tom took the scorecard and said he would tally up the score to see where we stood. After a couple of minutes he said he had three sandies, one alligator and my partner and I were one up in the match which meant that we each owed him $80 dollars minus $5 for being one up!
What was designed to be a fun bonding experience had quickly turned into a high stress gambling lesson and a loss of $120 dollars per person by the end of the round. Tom was as happy as could be, but my partner — and now former prospect — was so mad that he paid his bill and immediately left. He declined to return any of my calls from that day forward.
Where did I go wrong? Well, let's start with what I did right. Despite that experience, I maintain that golfing and gambling are still great prospecting tools. But, like any tools, they need to be used correctly.
My first mistake was in losing control of the betting format. My second was in letting the game proceed without really understanding it. In business golf, if you are paying for the round you need to control all aspects of the round. The round of golf is not about you, it's about developing a personal bond with your primary guest.
Second, structuring a wager is very important. For starters, betting does not always have to involve money. You can bet for a round of drinks, lunch or any number of other things. However, if betting for money is appropriate, then make sure not to risk amounts that could tick off the loser (or, worse, attract the disapproval of a compliance officer or regulator.)
Finally, it's important to keep your competitive spirit in check. Relax and enjoy the round. Because, in a round of business golf the only thing you really want to win is a personal friendship.
Writer's BIO: Will Rhame is a financial and marketing consultant. His company, milliondollargolf.com, is focused on teaching companies how to use the game of golf as a business tool.