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5 Tips to Seal the Deal Before the 19th Hole

You've taken a client or potential client to a very nice golf course. You know the round is all about the deal. The client knows it's all about the deal. It's a Wednesday. What else could it be all about other than the deal?

To create the conditions to get good business done, crude gestures of extreme unctuousness simply won't do. This round of golf — one that could make you a far wealthier (and perhaps happier) human being — requires some deft psychological touches.

Here are five things you might want to ponder while preparing for the big day:

drive the golf cart
To some, this might seem elementary. To others, it might be something that never crosses their mind. They might even believe that it is better for the client to drive, as it makes them feel more in control.

No, no, no. All business people, if they could, would choose to have a chauffeur. It makes them feel more important. It releases just one level of tension from the many they experience daily. It also allows them to text their spouse, lover, or bookie without fear of accident or humiliation. It allows them to take calls to which you can happily listen. It allows them to smoke a cigar, lean back, and believe all is right with the world. And when all is right with the world, they will be more inclined to do business.

Business is about respect. If you start giving putts of any even remotely missable length, the potential client will immediately think one of three things: You think he has the gumption of a three-legged mouse; you think he's susceptible to a suck-up more obvious than a politician clutching a sniveling newborn; or, worst of all, you think he's a terrible golfer. A two-foot putt given is the equivalent of a quarter-percent concession on a $50 million deal. A three-foot putt represents one whole percent. Don't do it. It's bad for your client's self-esteem and therefore bad for business.

This is an area in which you must use your finely tuned judgment. If your client is obviously a terrible golfer, then you'll need to use this ruse a lot. But if he's just a decent golfer having an indecent day, you must choose your moment.

If he's hit his third errant drive of the day into an area wilder than a Courtney Love soiree, make sure you find the most acceptable part of that area. Then, just as Bill Clinton might once have done, slip one of those, say, Titleist Pro VI's down your trouser leg and exclaim: "Bill, here it is! You've actually got a shot from here, you lucky bastard." Of course, you know that he really hit it into the beyond from which there is no return. But businessmen believe in luck. And this apparent stroke of fortune likely will be something that will turn what might have been a bad day into something a little more memorable. And lucrative.

Tiger Woods red shirt
This is not a tip based on morality. It is one based on expedience. Sometimes you can send out the wrong message from the very beginning. One wrong message is: "I'm great and I'm going to beat the crap out of you." This is a message that Woods imparted for years. It is not the message you want to impart at the beginning of your 18-hole business meeting. There are only two possible consequences: You are a great golfer and by wearing the shirt you are rubbing that fact into your client's nostrils; or, you are a mediocre golfer, yet you think that wearing a red shirt will suddenly turn you into a closer. It does, but with the "c" drifting off into space. There's one other problem with the Tiger Woods red shirt: It suggests you think he's going to win again.

The psychological balance of the business golf game is a very treacherous affair. If you are better than your potential client, you should try to maintain a level of modesty. If you are worse than your potential client, taking yourself seriously really doesn't help. In either case, how can it help if you declare that you've, say, taken golf lessons? If you aren't very good, the potential client will immediately think that you're trying to hard to impress. If you are a single-figure handicapper, you are also likely to make your golf partner believe that you're one of those people who will try for any and every advantage to crush your opponent — and that that you're psychologically not strong enough to rely simply on yourself. Everybody respects a self-made businessperson more than one who has been to every snooty college this side of Adelaide. Everybody respects a self-made golfer more too.

Back to the 2011 BNET Guide to Business and Golf >>

(Flickr photo of golf cart courtesy of Abeeeer, CC 2.0; Tiger Woods photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

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