8 Cardinal Rules when drinking with clients

For any savvy negotiator, the battle inside the boardroom doesn’t end once you walk out of the office. Lifelong partnerships, company relations and even closing deals are intertwined with how things go in your next arena – the cocktail bar.


Plus it’s not uncommon for businesses to take clients for drinks to show appreciation for their loyalty. However, it can be daunting if they’re new in town or you’re unsure how to act. This goes double if you’re hoping to close a deal or your boss expects icing on the cake after contract negotiations.

And while drinking with clients depends on culture, it’s always important to maintain an air of suave and elegance for lasting impressions at the end of the night.

Lucky for you (and them!) we’re here to help you seal the deal with 8 cardinal drinking rules while taking your clients out in Vancity.

Rule 1: Make sure they know they’ll be drinking!

Many losses can happen even before the first drink happens at the restaurant or lounge. For starters, make sure client (or clients) know you are taking them to a lounge or nearby drinking establishment to continue talks or celebrate a deal.

And for good measure, ALWAYS SHOW UP EARLY

Rule 2: Choose the appropriate atmosphere


Many people opt for the new cafe or restaurant that opened down the street. While this may seem like a good decision, be aware that you’re playing with luck.

It’s best to choose a place that’s familiar, where you’ll know the staff and have a relationship with management. This way you know the menu, drink options and what to recommend.

Be sure your location’s atmosphere caters to comfort, relaxation and communication. Here, discussions are less formal but you still have to pay attention and relate.

Rule 3: Two at the Bar


Along with atmosphere, make sure you NEVER sit at the bar if there’s more than 1 guest. Three at the bar makes conversations awkward, not to mention the piggy in the middle feels like she’s watching a ping pong match.

Sitting in a line makes a trio unnatural for discussions, so be sure you each have an equal spot at an available table away from distracting noise.

Rule 4: Avoid certain drinks

Jagerbombs bro?!

Jagerbombs bro?!

Seriously though, avoid looking like a clown by ordering shots for the table. First, let your guests select their own drinks first then try and match their order.

Another example, is if by chance you’re sitting with a whiskey connoisseur. Please don’t order anything ending with -tini unless it begins with Mar. If you don’t get the message, colourful drinks are best avoided while taking your client out.

Again, try and follow their lead after they order. This is a subtle way to maintain fluidity and common ground.

Rule 5: Pace yourself


Sadly, we all can’t be solemn-faced Japanese men we drink. Remember to keep a glass of water nearby and don’t be afraid to order an appetizer that you both can share.

Drink within your limits as you get through the small talk that preludes business details. Probably the second worst thing you can do (more on the first later) is to get shi*t faced in front of potential business.

Calm yourself and stay focused.

Rule 6: Drink Slowly cowboy

The worst thing I’ve seen in a bar was watching a potential supplier spill his drink all over himself. It was 5 PM and we had just ordered beers after discussing a future business relationship.


The blunder was thanks to the enormous mug that he’d ordered and perhaps a certain amount of over-eagerness on his end.

Suffice to say, the deal didn’t last.

If beer is a must, then don’t be afraid to drink from the bottle and take it slow.

Rule 7: Make sure you cover the tab discreetly

A funny dynamic happens in Canada the moment that bill hits the table. The brief silence before the awkward “How much is it” sequence of thought.

Your time with the client must remain carefree during the discussions. Sporadic fiddling with your pockets or cramping receipts into your tattered excuse of a wallet just won’t do.

Avoid all of this by excusing yourself to the bathroom and grabbing the tab without your client noticing. If you aren’t comfortable leaving your client at the table, call the restaurant before you arrive and arrange for prepay with the server or owner.

Don’t be afraid to guarantee a healthy tip percentage with the waitress for excellent service.

If done smoothly, it’s an easy way to show elegance and grace without trying too hard in front of your guest.

Rule 8: Follow Up

As with all good sales, always make sure to follow up the next day. A short email suffices and shows manners without the hassle of fruit baskets or thank-you cards.

Address any inquiries that were made with solutions and mention that you enjoyed doing business with them and look forward to the future.

Bonus Tip: Avoid the “I’ll order the same” mentality

You don’t look sly, or confident when you say something like this.

Remember, you took them out, you should have a sense of direction the second you walked into the establishment.

The moment these words are uttered out of your mouth is the moment you gave your client the ball and told them to run with it. Working with your client means doing what you do best, and this is translated in your vibe and in your words.

So stop slouching, square up those shoulders, and let the fun begin.

Anything we miss? Comment below and tell us your rules when taking clients out!