Your business development mission boils down to this: deepen key relationships until they generate new work. And nothing deepens relationships faster than a shared drink. That’s why they serve alcohol at networking mixers. It provides liquid courage for the timid and fast camaraderie for the thirsty.
Apparently I’m not the only one who has researched this phenomenon. A group of graduate students at the University of Pittsburgh recently conducted a study of 720 participants who were divided into subgroups, and instructed to mingle. A subset was served alcoholic beverages. Results showed that alcohol “increased the frequency of ‘true’ smiles”. After the mingle, participants reported “greater social bonding” than non-drinking groups and were “more likely to have all three members stay involved in the discussion.” *
Here’s what you can learn from the University of Pittsburgh: instead of taking your referral source out for breakfast or lunch, suggest a happy hour cocktail. A shared drink is a much better forum for relationship building. You’ll let down your guard more easily (yes, that’s a good thing), you’ll laugh together more often, and you’ll experience better bonding. These are promising precursors to a productive connection.
But take this advice with a pinch of salt (and a bite of lime). It comes with a warning or two:
Be mindful of the inference. “Let’s grab a drink” is also code for “let’s head back to my place afterwards,” so if you’re concerned about sending mixed signals, invite a few other people to join you.
Don’t overdo it. The goal is not to get tipsy, but to meet in a relaxed environment where you can create better business relationships. Besides, no one will refer you once they see you sloshed.
*Ironically, the study was funded by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.