8 Steps To Crush Your Initial Client Meeting

August 28th, 2018 by Steff Green 14 minute read

A new client has expressed interest in speaking to you about their project.

Congratulations 🎉

There’s always a wonderful thrill when you first encounter a new client. You’ve got the chance to show them what you can do and wow them with your skills and professionalism.

There’s a lot riding on that initial client meeting. As humans, we make huge, important decisions based on first impressions. You only get this one chance to sell yourself and your company, and there’s a lot of pressure not to mess things up.

Client Meeting Comic

Luckily, we’ve put together this guide to help you crush that first client meeting. Here’s what you do:

1. Analyze your meetings

It’s always useful to have a bit of empirical data, especially when you’re overhauling a vital part of your sales process.

Before you start changing up your initial client meetings, analyse your current system and look at what’s working / not working. If possible, record a selection of meetings – with both closed and unclosed clients – and note down the questions asked, the techniques employed, and anything else that plays in to the success or failure of the meeting.

For example, you might notice the following things impacting the success of client meetings:

  • Certain types of questions
  • Different sized groups.
  • Choice of venue – your office vs their office vs over Skype vs a coffee shop.
  • Certain presentation styles.
  • Meeting duration.

If possible, you can survey current and past clients and non-converting leads to find out what they believed worked and didn’t work in their initial meetings.

2. Research the client beforehand

Enter your initial meeting armed with information about the client. You can research them by:

  • Checking their website and social media pages.
  • Reading any recent press articles about them or their industry.
  • Checking their records on the business register.
  • Asking friends or acquaintances about their impressions and dealings.

This information will help you to:

  1. Qualify them as a good fit for your services. (If you rank clients, this will also help you identify them as an A, B, or C client.)
  2. Identify the types of services they’re most likely interested in.
  3. Identify and allocate the most appropriate account manager or salesperson.
  4. Calm your nerves and enter the meeting feeling prepared.

3. Create a welcome / onboarding package

Create a simple brochure or guide – a few pages about your company, services, testimonials, general procedures, payment guidelines, and an agenda/checklist for the meeting or onboarding process. You can send this document to the client ahead of the meeting so they have time to read over it and formulate questions.

This welcome pack serves two purposes:

  1. It helps ensure you cover everything you need to cover in the initial meeting.
  2. It demonstrates the value you place on clear communication and transparency

After your meeting you can attach the brochure to your proposal with Practice Ignition. It gives you another opportunity to make the sale post-meeting.

4. Offer something of value for free

This is a unique idea that works wonders, courtesy of the team at Creative Boom. They recommend during the initial meeting you offer the clients something small they can do themselves for free to help their business.

This might be a simple piece of advice as you go through their materials, or it might be a free piece of content you email them before or following the meeting. This is a clever way to build rapport and trust, while demonstrating your confidence and expertise.

5. Listen more than you speak

Instead of launching into a pitch about who you are and what you do, get the client talking about their company. Find out as much as you can about what makes them unique, their position in the market, their strategic goals, their problems or pain points, and the reason they’ve ended up sitting across from you.

During this time, you can take notes and ask questions to dig deeper into the client’s world. You are coaxing out vital information to help you create the best solution for this client, and you’re also demonstrating your communication and listening skills.

6. Address their specific pain points

Now that you know exactly what’s keeping the client up at night, you can directly address how your company can help solve those pain points.

At this stage it’s really useful if you can use a case study to demonstrate how you’ve eliminated a similar problem for another client. Feel free to include a case study in the Practice Ignition proposal as well.

Use facts, statistics, graphs, images, and videos where possible – clients love to see the tangible results of your work.

7. Anticipate common questions

If you did the initial work to analyse your current meetings, you probably have a good list of the most common questions clients ask during initial meetings. You can incorporate answers to these into your typical meeting format, or address them in your welcome pack. This gives the client the feeling that you’ve anticipated all their needs.

Common questions might include:

  • Your day rates, or other package pricing.
  • How you handle certain restrictions, market shifts, or industry issues – such as Facebook visibility for social media agencies. (This is especially important to address if these issues have recently been in the media).
  • Examples of specific types of work.
  • Whether you have any experience in their industry.

8. Dress to impress, but be yourself

You should always present clients with a friendly, professional image whenever they walk in the door. This extends to your clothes and personal grooming. You want your client to leave the meeting feeling they made the right decision hiring you and that their project is in capable hands.

For this reason, it’s equally important to wear clothes that make your feel comfortable and confident. When you feel good in your own skin, you exude self-assurance and your clients respond to that. Don’t wear a suit if you aren’t comfortable in one. Learn more about the science behind making a lasting first impression on Science of People.

Simple client meeting success tips

Here are a few tips from psychology to help you master any meeting:

  • Think back on previous meetings where you absolutely killed it. Ask yourself what went well. Picture yourself experiencing the same success before every meeting.
  • Prime the meeting with good vibes from the onset by speaking about a positive experience or event in the client’s company or personal life, or about a recent win in their industry.
  • Ask advice from the client on their expertise topic – this is a great way to put them at ease and make them feel valued. It also gets them talking so you can gain insight about their philosophy/vision.
  • Give honest compliments. Not too many, and they must be honest. No insincere flattery. An honest compliment makes the other person feel that you’re passionate and enjoyable to work with. (Here’s a hint – only use compliments when one-on-one. Research shows they fail in a group setting as they are perceived by others with envy).
  • Smile and relax. Even if a meeting isn’t going well, try to view it as a learning experience and a chance to meet a colourful character.
  • Use their first name. Robert C Lee said, “The sweetest sound to anyone’s ears is the sound of their own name.” Remember and use the other person’s name to build trust and rapport.
  • Pretend you’ve already won the work. An unorthodox tip from Creative Boom, but it’s effective. This creates a closeness with the client that makes them feel as though you’re already working together.
Get more tips on using psychology to run successful meetings on Psychology Compass.

Mistakes to avoid when meeting your clients for the first time

Andrew Grant famously said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Your initial client meeting is your chance to demonstrate your skills and value, so you don’t want to blow it.

Your clients are used to people trying to sell them things they don’t want/need. They have a pretty well-honed bullshit meter and can spot a disingenuous salesperson a mile off. If you want to avoid triggering their DO NOT ENGAGE function, then skip the following:

  • Trying too hard to make friends. This isn’t the school playground. It’s business. There’s an old sales belief that we buy from people we like and trust. This is true enough, but it doesn’t mean you need to become best friends or delve into life stories within the first five minutes. Be friendly, sure. But treat the meeting like the business event it is and impress with your ideas and professionalism instead.
  • Opening with a pitch. The clients aren’t interested in your company or what it does. They care about getting their problem solved. Plus, science shows us how much people love to talk about themselves – 60% of any conversation will be spent talking about yourself – and the figure rises to 80% on social media. You’re much more likely to get a good conversation going if you open up the meeting with, “tell us about your company?”
  • Being! Excited! About! Everything! High energy is great. Approaching a client’s brief in a collaborative way is an excellent technique. Demonstrating how your company can fix any kind of problem is a win. Being a manic person who shouts and exclaims and thinks every idea is OMG AWESOME – not so much. Too much enthusiasm makes you seem a little… at the best, like a teenager on social media instead of a grown up in a business discussion. At the worst, you come across as completely unhinged. Slow down, take calming breaths, and let the client do most of the talking. Focus on being genuine instead of impassioned.
  • Use aggressive or passive body language. Many people aren’t aware of how their body language can set the tone of an entire relationship. Standing too close to a person, touching a person without invitation, pursed lips, and finger pointing can come across as aggressive. On the flipside, hunching shoulders, fidgeting, and staring at the floor while speaking (instead of making eye contact) make you seem passive or unresponsive. The client will leave wondering if you’re the expert you claim to be. Be aware of the tone you set with your body laungage, and make an effort to adjust. It can help to roleplay with other colleagues and adjust based on feedback. (Learn more about body language in a business context from Body Language Trainer).
  • Not asking the right questions. As you evaluate the success and failure of your client meetings, you begin to notice that certain questions lead to better conversations and more clients signing on. The ‘right’ questions will differ depending on your industry, but they will be the questions that encourage clients to open up, think about their business in a new way, and uncover the meaning behind their challenges.

After the initial client meeting: the follow-up

Congrats, you’ve made it through a client meeting and it went well! You deserve a nice piece of chocolate.

Just a piece, mind. Don’t take the whole block. Your work isn’t finished yet. You still need to follow-up with the client.

The first thing to note is to be aware of your behaviour immediately after the initial meeting closes, especially if it’s on the client’s premises. Push your chair in, tidy your cup away, make some small talk (complimenting the office space or location is usually a great start), and collect all your things. Stay off your phone until you’re back in your vehicle.

How you approach follow-ups will depend on your industry and client expectations. It’s always a good idea to send through an email which includes your welcome pack/brochure included in a Practice Ignition proposal. You may also like to send a calendar invite for a follow-up meeting or call. This sets the expectation that you’ll be talking again and shows the client how much you value clear communication.

If you don’t hear from the client after 1-2 weeks, you can follow-up again with an email or phone call. If possible, make a call – you get a better shot at a conversation if you can catch someone on the phone.

The rules for following up are the same for the initial meeting – be genuine, professional, and establish rapport.

In your initial meeting, you set expectations in the client’s mind that remain throughout your entire engagement. If you establish the right expectations from the onset, you set yourself up to become an indispensable resource.

What tips and techniques are you using to rock your client meetings?

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