Joice Bass is a Las Vegas lawyer I coached. One of her niche markets is the wine industry. She shared with me a relationship building activity she did that was challenging, rewarding and fun.

In follow up to our recent coaching call, I wanted to share with you a few “relationship development” things that I’ve done recently that were a lot of fun.

One of my larger clients is a national wine/spirits distributor. In the course of working on a case for this client, I’ve gotten to know some management level employees pretty well, including the head Master Sommelier.

Recently, my client held an in-house introductory course for the Master Sommelier program for its employees, free of charge. Normally, these 2-day classes cost in excess of $500 and getting in is usually quite difficult. By expressing my interest in learning more about my client’s business, my general interest in wines, and my particular interest in the course, I was able to “swing” an invitation to attend the client’s class.

It was an impressive two days! Several heads of the Court of Master Sommeliers taught portions of the class in conjunction with the client’s three in-house Master Sommes. We tasted wines from all over the world, learning how to appreciate the differences among each variety, and we covered more geography than I’ve been exposed to since high school! At the end of the program, there was an exam (which I passed, thank goodness), and I received a certificate and a pin designating my membership into the Court.

It was an awesome and worthwhile experience, albeit hard work. I definitely believe that the client was impressed with the level of my interest; they understood that it was non-billable time, that I was taking timeout of my own schedule and that I really was doing all the related “homework.” I feel like my relationship with this client has reached another level now.

To thank the Master Somme who invited me to the class, I picked up a gift certificate for him to Aureole, a Las Vegas restaurant with one of the best wine cellars in town. I have no doubt that he appreciated that. And while I was at the client’s facility during those two days, I also picked up a baby girl t-shirt from the Mama Mia show to give to another executive who recently had a baby girl named Mia, which is also my daughter’s name. I also dropped off a CD version of “meditations for busy people” for another manager, who had recently been in the hospital for stress-induced high blood pressure. We chatted about different ways to reduce stress after he got out.

I received very nice feedback for all three gifts. Most importantly, participating in the course and doing these small things made me feel really good about my relationship with this client (which is a hard feeling to come by when you’re a litigator and litigation isn’t really considered a value-added business activity!).

I think Joice has made a deeper connection with her client. Just consider the value of spending two days learning about wine from your client who is a national distributor. Is there something like this you can do with your client?