When Elisette Carlson -- founder of SMACK! Media, a marketing and PR firm focused on innovative and authentic brands in sports, health and fitness -- authored a post for my blog about working out with business associates instead of meeting for food or drinks, it got me thinking: Now that the weather is getting warmer, I am considering new ways to connect with clients.
Carlson is a big advocate of what she calls sweat-working with clients. She says that going on a hike or a conversational run instead of a coffee date is a great way to build relationships. You connect with someone on a much deeper level because getting out of work mode allows personal sides and passions to show through.
With this in mind, I reached out to Carlson for guidance on the best way to get started with sweat-working with your clients.
1. Make time to workout.
Prioritize your workouts. Ask colleagues or clients to meet for a walk or run or at a new gym to try the latest barre class. Lunchtime is a good time to get out, be it for a walk, a group yoga class or a boot camp event.
2. Approaching a client to workout.
Paint a mental picture of the sweat-working session. Talk about how it is a great way to break up a day of nonstop work and sitting at a desk. Make a suggestion to meet for a morning run instead of breakfast or a power yoga class instead of getting a drink after work. The worst response you can get is, “No, thank you.”
3. Figure out the best workouts.
Use good judgment about whom you ask and what you ask them to do. Consider workouts that encourage social interaction and light to moderate aerobic activity such as walking, hiking at a scenic spot, cycling, running or basketball. If your client is excited about a stronger fitness challenge, boot camps or CrossFit workouts are an option.
If your client is of a different gender, group workouts are probably a good idea. Invite some other colleagues from both companies and make it more interactive. A larger group hike or an introductory boot camp class together would offer benefits, not only to your specific relationship with that client, but it’s also a terrific team-building opportunity for each company.
4. Practice workout etiquette.
Make the workout convenient and appealing to the client. Suggest a place near their home or office and offer them options. Don't force a run onto someone who might only be able to handle a good power walk. Don't ask a client to drive 30 minutes to meet you at your favorite mountain bike trail.
Be perceptive about how the workout is going. If the client is out of breath, slow down a bit and keep it social. It is poor etiquette to sprint up a big hill and leave your client in the dust if you know that he or she is just starting to run. However, there is no need to let the client win simply because they are a client.
Carlson is on to something when she says, “In the end, some of your greatest friends will become those you sweat with, and in business, the best partnerships are the ones where people enjoy one another’s company and respect each other.”
I've become good friends with business associates who've spent time working out with me either in a hot yoga or spin class. It truly is a great way to level the playing field for a few hours and create a long-lasting business relationship.