Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Junior Prom

A courageous young attorney called the other today to ask what he unfairly termed “a stupid question.” He wanted to book a lunch with a trade association exec to pick his brain about an industry issue, but he was struggling in making the call and wanted some advice on how to word his invitation. I assured him that attorney angst over inviting people to lunch was not uncommon. For male attorneys, it could in fact be a “guy thing.” My theory: Most men never fully recover from the high school trauma of asking a girl to the junior prom; it haunts them throughout their adult years, and the residual emotional scarring forces them, on most days, to dine alone at Blimpie.

I suggested that, when he makes the call, he briefly explain to his prospect why he wants to meet. I further suggested that, taking a page from How to Win Friends and Influence People, he tell his prospect, “This is a complicated issue, but if anyone can help me with it, it’s you.” Finally, in his invitation he should specify the restaurant (a nice one) and a choice of dates, as in, “I’m thinking about the Capital Grille, either next Thursday or the following Tuesday, at 1:00. Which of those dates works better for you?” (In suggesting a power lunch, 1:00 is a key time. The restaurants are quieter, you don’t have to wait for a table, and the other person will be in awe that you are not bound by the lunch-hour yoke of a nine-to-fiver.)

Such an invitation fits under the heading of “assuming the sale” - not a question of will he have lunch with you, but merely when. It brings posture and confidence to the otherwise nerve-racking act of asking someone to lunch, and it will give you a better batting average than the typical high school guy.

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