Meeting potential new clients for the first time can be nerve racking. Wondering if they will be a good fit for your business and services. Wondering if they will like you. Wondering what you should say.
Let me give you some straight talking tips on how to make your first client meeting a success.
(1) Do your home work.
Before you meet with your prospect make sure you know why you are meeting, and what the [client or]company does. You should be walking into the meeting with a pretty clear idea of what you can do for them, or which type of service may be suitable for them.
I'm not saying you will always know. But in most cases you should have a good idea. If you don't, you are attending the meeting without any objective. It's guesswork.
By doing your homework you can be armed with insightful questions. Plus it means you spend less time talking over the basics, and can get stuck into how you can really help them.
You can do this home work (or pre-work) by asking initial questions over the phone; or asking them to answer some questions in writing; or by checking their website; or by reading up on their industry.
(2) Make a good first impression.
Simple things make a big difference. Make sure you are dressed well. Not too fancy. Not too casual. Aim to be a notch above the standard you expect your prospect to be dressing at.
- Turn up on time, or 5 minutes early.
- Don't park right out the front in their customer carpark.
- Get the name correct for the person you are meeting.
- Be nice and polite to the receptionist and anyone else you may meet.
- Greet your prospect with a firm handshake and smile, saying Good to meet you.
- Wait and follow the lead of your prospect as to where to go and when to sit down.
(3) Find out WHY.
This sounds simple, but can often be tricky to identify. By asking suitable questions you need to clearly understand:
- Why are they looking for help now, at this time?
- Why are they considering your type of services?
- Why have they contacted you in particular?
See how we have drilled down to obtain very specific reasons in the three questions above. The answers to these questions will give you valuable insights into the potential this prospect offers you.
(4) Confirm their time frame.
Probe and confirm their expectations of timing.
- When will they be making a decision?
- When do they want to start?
- When do they expect completion?
- When do they expect your input?
(5) Specify outcomes they are seeking.
Don't beat around the bush when it comes to finding out what they are trying to achieve. Ask them how they think your services (or, this project) will help them. What will they achieve? How will they know when they have done that?
Sometimes clients are not clear on these factors themselves. By you asking them to explain it, they will often appreciate your help in helping then clarify what they want to do. After all, you are the expert in their eyes.
(6) Clarify what comes next.
Make sure you have stated, or paraphrased their words, about what will happen next after this meeting. Don't leave it in limbo. Don't be scared to make it plain.
Demonstrate self-respect by ensuring clarity regarding the next step. Let them know you don't expect your time talking with them to have been wasted. You expect some action.
(7) Follow up. Always. And Soon.
No matter what the time frame, or what the service being offered, always follow up promptly. Send a brief email to say, Thanks, we'll be in touch soon. Or send a few bullet points or summary of key items discussed. Or send your official contract, engagement letter, or proposal.
By following these 7 steps you will be streets ahead of your competitors... and you will win more business more easily.
By Stuart Ayling
Photography by Leloft
Stuart Ayling runs Marketing Nous, an Australasian marketing consultancy that specialises in marketing for service businesses. He helps clients to improve their marketing tactics, attract more clients, and increase revenue. For additional marketing resources, including Stuart's popular monthly newsletter, visit his web site at http://www.marketingnous.com.au.