Restaurant.com partnered with New York Times best-selling author Keith Ferrazzi to conduct a research project on fostering relationships of all varieties through dining.

The result was five conversation guides for various dining occasions, including family, friends, significant others, colleagues, and clients. Each week, we will be sharing one of those dining guides on The Dish, along with a real-world example of what the guides can do to improve relationships.

This week’s guide is for clients. If you try the guide with your own clients, let us know how it went in the comments section below.

Clinch a Client Connection

Liam had been thinking for several years about leaving his job to do freelance consulting for organizations. The problem was this: He didn’t know who would hire him. A light bulb went on when he saw Restaurant.com’s invitation to participate in a project about developing personal and professional relationships over a meal. Liam immediately thought of Martin, an acquaintance who ran a small landscape and garden maintenance company. Liam had seen several elements of Martin’s business that could be improved but hadn’t been able to muster the courage or find the context to make suggestions. Liam shot Martin an email saying he’d like to meet sometime for a meal to catch up, and then he opened up the Greenlight Guide for Dining with Clients for advice about striking up conversations that connect.

When Liam and Martin sat down that Saturday for lunch at a new Filipino restaurant downtown, Liam started with the most innocuous question in the guide by asking what Martin liked to do on weekends. It was all the he spark needed. When Martin mentioned his love of museums and his particular passion for Surrealist art, the coincidence was almost too much. Liam shared that he was paying off a recent loan he’d taken out to purchase an early Magritte lithograph.

The conversation flowed after that. As the pair were winding up their meal, Liam remembered his initial purpose, and almost as an afterthought asked Martin if he would ever be interested in talking about his business. Martin’s response was enthusiastic and genuine.

The Greenlight Guide for Dining with Clients—a short list of suggestions on how businesspeople can build trust with clients and prospective clients over a meal out—gets at the core of what it takes to develop relationships that go somewhere. Liam, by making a small gesture of interest in someone else’s life, found not just a potential first client but a fellow art aficionado too. He surprised himself with his ability to connect simply by reaching out with a personal show of interest.

The Greenlight Dining Guides—which cover clients, colleagues, family, friends, and spouses—are a product of a collaboration between Restaurant.com and Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone and chairman of myGreenlight Academy. To make the guides as useful as possible for Restaurant.com’s users, Ferrazzi’s expertise in relationship-building meal-time conversation is bolstered by other specialists in the field of psychology, relationships, and communication, including Veronica Berenstein, PhD; John Gottman, PhD; Mark Goulston, MD; Dave Joseph, LICSW; Ramdas Menon, CHt; and Ziggy Yoediano, MD, MBA. For more advice and guidance on developing fulfilling interpersonal relationships, visit Keith Ferrazzi’s blog.