Your first meeting with a new client is the most important. Make a winning impression, and you’ve laid the groundwork for a priceless relationship that can add value to your business for years to come. Here’s how to make your first meeting count.
- Study your client
The first step to a successful meeting is to research your client.
Read the company website and check their vision statement for hints about company culture. As not all companies keep their website up to date, running a Google News search should uncover recent developments.
You should also make use of social media. A company's Facebook page can reveal pain points with customers, while LinkedIn and Twitter can give you insights into the career history and opinions of prospects you're meeting with.
- Set an agenda
Once you know your client inside and out, set an agenda for the meeting.
This should establish the main aims for the meeting. Don’t make it unnecessarily detailed: bullet points listing discussion topics will suffice.
Email the agenda to everyone attending a few days before the meeting. But don’t forget that your primary goal should be listening to your potential client. Be flexible to discuss what they wish, rather than rigidly sticking to the agenda.
- Make a professional impression
When you finally meet your client, you need to make a positive impression.
Beyond wearing professional attire, career coach Barbara Pachter advises sitting appropriately during the meeting and standing up when you’re introduced to someone.
It’s easy for others to ignore you if you don’t stand, she warns in a Business Insider Australia article, 15 meeting etiquette rules every professional needs to know.
- Adapt your approach
Tailor your approach to build rapport with your client.
Judge the situation, the people you're talking to and match their style. If they clearly dislike small talk, get down to business.
- Be diligent about time
Show your client that you understand time is money.
Prior to the meeting, send calendar invitations and set reminders to ensure nobody forgets to come.
Take care to arrive on time, if not a few minutes early. It also pays to show respect for your client’s time by re-establishing the time frame for the meeting before it kicks off.
- Follow up
To get the most out of your meeting, you need to follow up.
A fail-safe approach is to send an email with a meeting summary covering the purpose of the meeting, what was discussed, what was decided and what will happen as a result.
If appropriate, include action items and identify the person responsible for each task.
- Offer genuine value
The most effective follow-up will offer genuine value to your client that advances your relationship.
Reflect on what you know about your client and how you can offer value. Think beyond your own products and services. Referring a client to a relevant contact in your network, for instance, can help to establish trust in your relationship. An effective contact database management solution such as Sansan can make this process easy to follow and can be smoothly integrated for use in day-to-day routines.
You can also use templates to ensure your follow-up emails deliver consistent success.
Investing time into first-time client meetings is key for small business owners looking to get ahead. A few simple changes to your approach can ensure you have every chance of converting prospects into long-term valued customers. Remember: To set the groundwork for a successful relationship, you need to study your client, deliver a professional impression and follow up by offering genuine value.