If you are an SME (Small to Medium Enterprise) and you sell a business service, it’s quite likely that a key way you win new clients is by going through a three step process.
1. First you undertake some kind of marketing activity to find and contact your potential clients.
2. Then you’ll get in touch with them to talk through the possibilities.
3. Thirdly you’ll book a first meeting with them.
OK, so you’re in the car park or walking up to the reception, you’ve done your homework about the person you’re about to meet (and the organisation they work for) and both parties know what this meeting could achieve.
Here then, we share a few tips to help you handle your first client meeting.
Double check the details
Take a moment before your meeting and at the end of your journey to double check all the details about the organisation and the person you’re meeting, and the desired outcome.
Check also that you’ve got all the business cards and brochures you want to leave behind (oh, and turn your phone off too!).
Mirror, signal, manoeuvre
Check your clothing and appearance one last time; even if it’s just in an office window or the car mirror.
Walk in with confidence
Walk in adopting a good posture and with relaxed confidence.
Smile and remember to leave your right hand free and ready for a warm handshake (just in case your client is there waiting for you).
Remember also, that whilst you will automatically fall into the role of ‘business professional’ it is important to be yourself too!
Pre-meeting small talk has a purpose
That small talk before you begin your meeting may feel a little false but it’s there for an important reason.
It can cover any embarrassing silences, especially during the walk from the reception area into the office.
An easy way to help small talk along is to show interest.
Begin therefore, by asking a simple question such as, “How long have you guys been based here?”
Once you’re sat down comfortably (and you’ve both got all the information you need in front of you) can then move on from the small talk and into the meeting.
Confirm expectation as you begin
It’s always a good idea at the beginning to check how long you both think the meeting will last and also, what you expect to achieve.
Simply asking, “OK, may I just ask before we start, what you’d like to get out of the meeting and how long you’ve got today,” is a polite and informal way of doing this.
Two ears and one mouth
Yes, you’ve heard the adage, ‘we all have two ears and one mouth.’
Remember then, that you are here to help them and you won’t be able to do this until you have a clear idea as to the help they need.
Begin therefore by listening and taking in all the information they give you and by asking searching questions, rather that diving in to tell them all about you.
When it does come to the point when it’s appropriate to talk about you, a good question to ask here is, “Would you like me to tell you a little bit about what we do and how we help?”
The answer is always going to be a ‘yes.’
As you do this however, refer back as much as possible to any points they made earlier, citing the difference you’ve already delivered for other clients and showing how you can add value.
Give yourself time to take notes
Taking notes in a meeting shows you are taking the content seriously and that you will be keen to follow up afterwards.
It is perfectly admissible therefore, to say, “Yes, that’s a good point. May I capture that?” and then feedback on what you’ve just written down or typed in.
Take care however, to not take too long over this.
Check their urgency for the work
A simple question such as, “When are you planning to make a start?” or “How soon do you need this project completed?” should be sufficient.
Ask about budget
At end of the day, it all comes down to the money so do not shy away from this critically important part of the discussion.
Keep an eye on the time
The last thing you want (especially if things are going well) is to run out of time.
Avoid however, nervous glances down at your watch and instead, say something like, “OK, so this feels like we could work quite well together here. I understand however, that you need to finish at the top of the hour, so how are we doing for time?” You can then check your watch.
This not only indicates that you value your client’s time more than your own; it can also help both parties move on to a decision.
Once you’ve agreed and secured your next stage activity, it’s time to wrap up the meeting.
At the end remember to confirm next actions for both parties, and also make sure they’ve got ‘everything they need from you at this stage.’
Finally, when leaving, thank them for their time and for seeing you.
Afterwards, take time to follow-through (on the same day) with at least a ‘simple thank you for your time today’ email.
This also gives you an opportunity to add additional value and confirm in writing, your next stage actions.