- How you want to open the meeting
- What areas you aim to explore and
- How you want to phrase some of the key question you would like to ask
Make your meeting objective that of starting to build a relationship with the client, not trying to sell something. As a result, you’ll find you are more likely to engage the client’s interest. You might want to consider taking a colleague. Two minds are often better than one in this situation to absorb all the issues the client relates.
Start your meeting with a positive greeting, a firm handshake and double-check the time that the client has allocated to this discussion. Ideally you want an hour in order to develop a good understanding of the issues and opportunities they are facing and to give some insight into your firm. If they have allotted less than 30 minutes, you might want to consider rescheduling the meeting for when they are less busy.
Now offer a brief positioning of you and your firm. This should be short and designed to make the client want to engage with you. It should not be an overview of your firm’s history or a list of its services. Ideally, you should convey examples of how your firm adds value to its clients and your areas of specialisation (especially in relation to this client).
It might sound strange, but you should aim for the client to talk for 70-80 per cent of the meeting time. Your ability to ask powerful open questions, which enable them to discuss what is ‘front of mind’ are best. Do not try and build credibility by relaying your recent projects at this stage. It is better to ask some searching open questions about opportunities and issues in the client’s world. This will demonstrate your knowledge of the client’s environment and allows them to talk. It will also prevent you from jumping in prematurely and offering solutions that are not appropriate.
Keep to the time allocated and demonstrate you have listened by offering a powerful summary and suggesting another opportunity to talk further. A well-handled meeting often uncovers potential areas for further discussion. You should aim to meet again rather than offer a proposal. It is unlikely that you will have enough information at this stage to come up with a solution that totally fits the opportunity.
Follow up your meeting with a brief summary letter and perhaps send something of value relating to your discussion. Prepare the next discussion to bring you closer to finding the right solution to the client’s requirements (this may be several meetings hence). In doing so, you will need to consider how you are going to present your solution, so they are motivated to buy from you and your firm.
You will have, however, from your first meeting created a positive impact and started to build a position of credibility, competence and (hopefully) compatibility in the client’s mind.
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