Is “wining and dining” a part of your marketing strategy? If so, there are a number of things you can do to stretch an entertainment budget, starting with choosing moderately-priced restaurants instead of expensive ones. We’re not suggesting that you do all of your entertaining at Burger King, but we would point out that you can put a lot of food on the table at a good Chinese or Mexican restaurant for a lot less money than you can at a fancy steakhouse.
Another thought is to entertain earlier in the day, rather than later. It’s almost certain to cost less to take a customer out to breakfast than out to lunch, or to lunch rather than dinner. (And as a side-benefit, don’t you love the idea of having your salespeople out on the street early enough to be taking people to breakfast?)
It’s also likely to cost less to bring food in instead of taking people out. The strategy of bringing donuts or bagels in on an early-morning call has become very popular—from both the sales side and the customer’s side!—and there are variations on that theme that work well at any time of the day.
We should point out, though, that there is a danger of falling victim to false economies in that particular strategy. You should consider that in some cases, the most important value of entertaining is to get a customer or prospect out of the office, either to establish a neutral ground or to ensure a long enough period of uninterrupted attention to get your business done. Keeping expenses down is not always the most important issue. Getting the business is! So you should probably be willing to spend a little more when it will give you greater results!