I’ve often been asked why I’m so good at closing deals, but I’ve never shared my secret until now. My canned answer is “practice, understanding my product and a firm handshake,” but the truth is, I get my potential clients good and lit on the water. We live in the land of flip flops, umbrella drinks, blue water and parrots. We live in the land where every day is waking up in a Jimmy Buffet song, so let me ask you this: Why would you want to screw it all up by having boring traditional business meetings when you have access to the best of the Sunshine State? Sure, every once and a while you may run into someone who insists on a pretentious oak boardroom table, but for the most part I’ve taken up to only accepting meetings in places that are pleasant. Sure, I get the hesitant “Did you say, ‘Bring a bathing suit?’” or, “I don’t know about that. I can’t go back to the office buzzed.” And that’s okay. Getting people to break out of their norm is hard work, but you can do it. I’ve held meetings at all of these places, so I can attest that these are the top five locales to meet with your clients to close a deal. Enjoy the music I selected to put you in the mood à la tropicale.
1) Jungle Gardens — Look. I don’t care who you are or what your constitution is, but if you want to hold the “power position” in a meeting, then grab a bench with a CEO at Jungle Gardens in front of the flamingos. Granted, this campy “classic Florida” is not for everyone, but I love bringing newcomers here for out-of-office meetings. It sounds kooky, right? It’s not. While you are talking about “important business stuff,” your potential client is completely disarmed by wobbly-legged pink birds giving him/her the hairy eyeball. If you really want to watch your CEO squeal, invest 25 cents in a handful of of Flamingo Food. The birds will eat right out of his/her hand, and that CEO will eat right out of yours. If your client does not like the quirkiness of your meeting spot, then it’s probably not a good fit for you anyway and you should break up with them. I’ve closed 100% of my deals conducted here. Try it out.
2) The Bijou Café — I’m not a day drinker, but when I go to Bijou it becomes completely appropriate to have a two-martini lunch. This is the only traditional place I could ever suggest to have a meeting in, and if you are super-interested in staying “in the know” around town, I suggest lunch here at least once a month. From the second you walk in you are bombarded with high-powered Sarasotans chatting about everything from real estate, to which philanthropists are donating to which non-profits, to who’s trying to elect who as City Commissioner. It’s amazing, and I’d argue it’s the best source for discovering “what’s happening in our sunny city” before the general public reads about it. If your clients like suits, take them here. It’s dressy and it’ll impress, plus the martini takes the edge off having to talk business and numbers and all that other boring stuff.
3) Paddleboarding — I’m pretty obsessed with stand-up paddleboarding. About a year ago I started taking CEOs on the water so I could kill two birds with one stone. Closing a deal is easy when you are standing half-naked on the water for a couple of reasons: 1) When you see people mostly naked, it’s bonding and things never go back to normal, and 2) when you are gliding on top of the water it makes you look divine. You’ll want to set out from the Lido Boat Launch at any time of the day. I suggest later in the afternoon because the water is a little calmer, and you will have time to go to my #4 spot. Even if you don’t have a client to take on the water, I highly suggest just trying it out. Here’s a link to a Sarasota MeetUp group for SUPers. If you want to rent some boards, call Island Style Watersports at 941-954-1009.
(Video of Rafe Pascale and me by Starfruit Productions)
4) Lido Beach Resort — A few weeks ago, a potential client called me and requested a 3:30 meeting at their office on a Friday afternoon. Heeellooo, yawnsville! I accepted, but on the condition that they meet me at the Lido Beach Hotel Tiki Bar rather than their office. Although it took a little arm-twisting, I convinced her to join me for an umbrella drink on the beach, which was perfect, because when we were finished with our meeting it was time for happy hour! Well-played, I must say. We stayed until sunset talking about business and life in general, and we even swapped a few secrets — which are good for blackmail if she doesn’t sign the contract (see how this can work?). Granted, we had to do the responsible thing and leave our cars at the beach, but that gave us an excuse to meet there the next day for round two.
5) Bayfront Park — Look, I’ve been sitting at my computer thinking of something funny or witty or profound to say about Bayfront Park, and I can’t. The park is what it is (frickin’ amazing), and it’s easy to disarm someone who’s about to sign a contract when you’re surrounded by beauty (a Southern accent helps, too). The park has plenty of parking and it’s filled to the brim with benches (unlike some of our other parks where citizens are not allowed to sit); there’s a walking trail, too, and Bayfront park even has an a-damn-dorable tiki bar, so it’s a trifecta of possibility. Head there on your lunch break and just walk and enjoy your time. Seriously, it’s a deal-closer for sure.