Your first meeting with a potential new client is important. You don’t know them, they don’t know you and you want to make a good first impression to ‘seal the deal.’
Most often the first meeting is a free session, a sample of your product or service or a get-to-know-you so they feel comfortable and inspired to become your client. This is where you get to understand their problem, and show them how you can solve it.
That’s a good thing, neither of you want to be charging in too soon. It’s smart for you to get to know each other, establish common goals and see if there is a good fit. Your potential client will appreciate the respect you show for them making the right purchase, and you will ensure you get things moving in a positive direction for your business brand.
Covered below are five effective ways to impress your client in the first meeting that will give you business meeting etiquette tools. These steps are important to complete in every meeting you run. Making a good first impression is actually setting the standard for the way the rest of your business is conducted so be consistent from start to finish. Your client will remember your first meeting and your last, so make everything you do from start to finish great by having consistent standards and checklists to follow. The model below is set out for both one on one client meetings as well as group meetings.
STEP 1 Before the meeting decide the following:
1. How many face-to-face meetings do you need over the duration of your business together? Have as few regularly scheduled meetings as possible and be ready to communicate when, where and how frequently in the first the meeting with your client so they know where you both stand.
2. Could you handle this by email or phone? Is there a need for interaction? People are busy, face to face meetings are great for establishing familiarity and trust so use it when you need to and be courteous when you don’t. Dragging your client from one end of the city to the other will eat a big part of their day. Of course set meetings and spend time face to face, however, know that there are other alternatives you can utilise just as effectively.
3. Determine the outcome: What do you want as a result of this meeting as well as a result of your business alignment?
Your outcome should be:
a. Stated positively (what you WANT, rather than what you don’t want)
b. Sensory-specific – include what you want to see, how you want to feel and what you want to hear.
c. Evidential through a process (well-laid steps that will each lead towards the overall outcomes, usually you will use these steps to outline your agenda).
d. Ecological – ensure that there is no harm, especially long term, to either yourself or your client emotionally, physically, financially or mentally. Your goal is for positive outcomes, if there is any chance that there will be a negative impact, discuss this openly with your client or find a new goal or level of interaction.
e. Beneficial for both short and long-term gains.
4. What will you accept as evidence? This can be in the ease of contribution and input from your client, their reactions, their commitment, their excitement. Ask yourself: ‘How will I know when I have reached my goal?’
5. What is your product/service, cost to deliver, timeframes and flexibility? You need to know your worth before you go in. If you let the other party dictate this you open yourself to all sorts of financial, emotional and professional pain. Know your worth and respect it, your client will respect you for it too.
6. What are your other options? Ask yourself ‘What will happen if…?’ and have something up your sleeve just in case things don’t go the way you planned in your head. Staying calm and providing information will be important in demonstrating your ability for calm leadership within the business, i.e being able to provide evidence against objections smoothly and easily.
7. Your membership and agenda. Do you have everyone you need and no one you don’t? If you have any ring-ins ask; who they are, why they need to be present and decide for yourself if their attendance is warranted. Also, write up your agenda for how you wish the meeting to flow.
8. Meeting place. Choose a meeting place where only business takes place. Make sure you can hear and see everything easily and your equipment works.
9. Sensory check.
a. As people come in, make a sensory check. Check their body language and determine their mood.
b. Get them engaged ‘Feeling responsive and alert here today? I am.’
Step 2 In the meeting
1. Establish rapport. Maintain respect for each other at all times. Rapport is the unconscious state of mutual trust.
2. State the outcome and evidence procedure you will be following. Be an open book, you have nothing to hide. This will further establish trust, accountability and reliability.
3. Get agreement on the outcomes and evidence above. Smoke out hidden agendas and address these up front. You need everyone on the same page to move forward effectively.
4. Unless you assign people something to do, they will find something, so make sure everyone has a role and responsibility!
Step 3 Discussion
If any items come up that are not on the agenda you will need to challenge the relevancy.
“How does (statement) relate to the outcome agreed upon for this meeting”
Use relevancy challenges to defend need to know/need not to know information and prevent meetings from getting side-tracked.
Make the agenda overt, either on a screen or printed copy so meeting participants can become self-monitoring. Your client will then be welcome to take notes or jot down questions so they feel included as part of the discussion while allowing you to be seen as the authority figure. When your client looks to your business services they will be employing you as their leader in this particular area so establish that leadership as gently and as frequently as possible, especially in that first meeting with your client.
Write up the agenda and just glance at it. You know what you are doing and what you wish to say. The agenda is so the outcome process is seen and understood as well as professional and considerate.
One unchallenged irrelevancy will take at least 20 minutes to get back on track so keep the meeting on task and relevant to your desired (and the client’s desired) outcome. That question will be key to keeping you on track so get comfortable using it.
Step 4 Get to the details
When you start your meeting and outline your intentions you are creating a big picture, a place of agreement. What you will be doing in stages throughout the meeting is getting more and more specific in the details, the how-to’s, and establishing a future pathway that will get you and your client to a mutually beneficial outcome.
Asking questions like, ‘What would happen if?’ will open a doorway to new information which would otherwise be unavailable if you stayed in the restrictions of current state. Changing state and getting into details will get your client thinking, stimulated, curious and actively aware of possibilities. Brainstorming together will continue to open new creative pathways, opportunities and flexibility.
At the same time, you will be gaining new resources for what your client needs and how best to get those needs met. Remember, the more win-wins you present in the first meeting you have with your client, the bigger the positive impression, not only for your current business relations but in opening up long-term partnerships as well.
Other conditional phrases you can use:
‘If I (X) then will you (Y)?’
‘If I could (x), would you?’
Step 5 Closing the meeting
Gain their full attention by alerting them: ‘In a few minutes I would like to ask you to backtrack.’
To close your meeting, summarise the outcome(s). By backtracking frame by frame you can show the development of the information, solutions and outcomes established.
Give your client a conditional close at the end, structured in this way shown in the above point. Make sure you are using the predetermined worth of your service/product. Eg. ‘If I could get this to you on Thursday would you be happy to pay for this service today?’
Meetings can be fun! By using meetings as a way to meet new people, uncover their problem, and find a way your service can solve their problem, you will make new connections that take your business to the next level. Remember to go in knowing your outcome, and knowing your worth!
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