Seven Ways to Get Ahead at Your 1st Meeting with a Potential ClientDecember 10, 2009
Here’s the situation: you spoke briefly with a potential buyer, someone who may be interested in your services. You followed up and asked for an appointment and they said okay. Now, you have one meeting to start the ball rolling. What do you do to make sure things go in your favor? Here are seven things to keep in mind to ensure you make the best impression at your first meeting:
1. Before you go, do your homework. Give thought to their situation. Study their website. Google their name, their company, their industry. I set up Google alerts to monitor all three.
2. Give thought to their personality style. Are they a hard driver, methodic, systematic? Or do they shoot from the hip? Will they want data or just a demonstration of your ability? Be prepared to custom serve.
3. Begin with a bold statement. You are there to improve their situation. Make your intents unmistakable. As soon as the opening niceties are complete, put your strongest cards on the table. They will be deciding in short order whether or not to work with you. Pique their interest with something provocative.
4. Pay attention to their response. Read them for engagement. If they follow you with interest, be ready to lead the dance. They may change the subject, dart in a different direction, or take your lead and turn it into their own. Whatever they do, your purpose is to join with them and direct them to the value you can offer. To do this you must be nimble.
5. Zero in on their needs. Don’t give them everything you’ve got. Say only what serves their needs in this moment. This is not about you and all you can do. It is about improving their circumstances.
6. Give examples. Don’t talk in abstractions. Provide concise illustrations that demonstrate your expertise and contribute to the conversation.
7. End with a powerful close. Summarize the value you intend to generate and tell them you look forward to it.
I recently met with the CEO of a $100 million organization I had been seeking an appointment with for months. I came in with three strong ideas about how I could help his company. As soon as I shared the first he took off in a completely different direction. Then, just when it seemed like the conversation was a total non sequitur he brought it back to my original suggestion.
I had kicked off by sharing how slow implementation can kill innovation. He ended his monologue by saying he had to get his new products and services out in a manner of months, but the organization was taking years. Too many committees were killing execution speed.
“I can help with that,” I said confidently. I mentioned a time I had helped another organization. He asked a few questions and my illustration turned into a full-fledged story. There was strong interest. We agreed that I would help by accelerating the time it took to get his new program to market. When I left I said, “I look forward to bringing your innovation to market in 2010.” In that situation, it was a strong statement to close on: the raison d’être for my engagement.