Here’s how to get the most out of your first client meeting
Whether you’re an accountant, marketer, lawyer, financial planner, IT consultant, or other professional services worker, it’s part of life that you have to have introductory client meetings, writes Kellie Byrnes.
An initial client meeting is usually designed to see if you’ll be the right fit for their needs (and vice versa) and if the relationship is likely to be a positive one.
That means knowing how to impress clients in your first meeting is an essential part of building your business.
To help you rock the first client meeting every time, here are some steps to follow.
Preparation is vital. Never arrive at an initial client meeting without having put together all the information you need to impress them.
This varies according to the services you provide and the type of clients you work with, but can include things like:
- A professional PowerPoint or other presentation, plus props to demonstrate your ideas, where required
- Details on your proposed services and solutions, and how these will help the client achieve their goals
- A timeline of how the suggested work will be rolled out
- Details of who, exactly, will be doing each part of the job, if you have a team
- Possible packages for clients to choose between
- Your fees, both standard costs and for extras
- Research on your client’s industry and specific sector, as well as their competition
- Information on why the client should hire your firm – that is, what you offer that competitors don’t
Research the client
Find out as much as you can about the actual customer, too, or the representatives of a business you’ll meet.
This research will help you tailor your presentation, comments, and answers to questions to the specific needs and values of the people involved.
By taking the time to learn what you can, you’ll better understand what they’re looking for in a brief, and be more likely to land the job.
Similarly, by learning some of their likes and dislikes, familial status, educational and work background, and more (through company websites, social media sites, etc.), you’ll get an idea of who they are as people.
In turn, you’ll know how to connect with them and develop a positive relationship from the get-go.
People want to hire those they feel comfortable with, and who they like and respect and think they’ll be able to work and communicate well with.
By doing your due diligence, you’ll make it clear that you could fit the bill.
Leave a good first impression
Most people make up their minds about someone in the first 30 seconds after meeting them.
After that time, it can be very challenging to change someone’s mind about you.
It’s necessary, therefore, to do whatever you can to make a good first impression.
Start by being early, or at the very least on time.
Dress appropriately, have good breath and body odour, and convey confident (but not cocky) body language.
Make eye contact with people, shake their hand, and smile often.
By exuding a positive, happy state of mind, clients will get a better impression and think you’re an optimistic person who won’t get thrown off course by challenges.
Play it a little cool
Don’t be so keen on the job that you come across as pushy or desperate.
It’s off-putting when people seem to need a job, and it often makes clients think that those pushing hard for the work mustn’t be successful enough to make ends meet.
Plus, be wary of pushing the client to decide on the spot to hire you.
It’s good to be proactive and show you want the work, but there is a line that you shouldn’t cross.
Let the client speak
Lots of professional service people get so nervous about client meetings that they end up rambling throughout.
If you know this is something you tend to do, find a way to reign yourself in.
Constantly talking turns people off, increases the chances you’ll accidentally say something offensive, and costs you the chance to really hear from the client about what they want.
Answer questions and give your pitch as needed, but then be quiet.
Let the potential customer talk about their business and what they need, and ask them questions, so you learn more when they respond.
You’d be amazed how many people go after a client’s business but then never bother to follow up after that first meeting.
You might be shy and worried about hassling the client, but it’s important to follow them up at least once or twice, after some time has passed, to see where they’re at.
Send the key contact a short email or give them a quick call to see if they require any further information.
By taking this step, people will see you’re interested in the work, are a proactive person who can get things done, and will stay on the ball throughout the length of the project.
You don’t want to bombard the client with calls or emails, but a couple of follow-ups will convey the appropriate signals.