You always knew why you were asking someone "out," or why you accepted an invitation, when you were a kid. The reasons changed over the years but without fail, it always had something to do with wanting to spend at least an hour or two with the other person, for one reason or another. Not so in business.
Business lunches are a real gamble. The inviter has a reason to ask for the date. That reason involves an opportunity for him, in a "captive" environment, to push his agenda. In the best scenario for the invitee, the agenda involves helping the guest to more than a good meal and a few hours "away from the office." In that case the "host" (let's call him a "Seller") believes the social setting will allow him the time to make the "guest" (let's call him a "Buyer") comfortable with the notion that he is genuinely interested in helping him further his interests with the product or service that the Seller represents.
An hour or more at a restaurant provides all the time in the world for the Buyer to determine if he's ordered the "Wheat" by accepting the invitation, or gotten the Chaff. It's only Tuesday and I'm one for two.
The differences between the two engagements were somewhat predictable. The tasty lunch was with a professional acquaintance I've known for quite some time, done some business with over the years, and never had the occasion to look back after a transaction and question his intelligence, veracity, motives or ethics. I trust him; if not with my children, certainly with my parakeet. We spent the time at lunch with him posing questions and me responding; about my needs, about my business, about my conclusions about my business, in answer to his "yes, but what about?" challenges to my conclusions. In short, the meeting was about me. The conversation was provocative and helpful.
It was a delicious meal. I'm looking forward to the next. No---my host never got around to his agenda unless it was to use this date to mine for information to form one for a later meeting. I'll hear from him again, if that's the case, but chances are that I will call him before he gets back to me. He can be helpful.
The other host was also very smart and gregarious. I learned alot about his life and career path, he learned little about me and I didn't need the service he offered, nonetheless.
Wanna have lunch?
Serve Don't Sell
Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly