Being based in a co-working space I see many a first client meeting taking place. These got me thinking of all my experience of client meetings and what advice I would give to a ‘first meeting’ virgin trying to secure a deal. Rather than keeping it all in my head I thought it may make an interesting or useful post. Firstly lets just lay down the scenario, this is a client meeting where you haven’t yet done a proposal or pitch presentation. This is the first face to face meeting between yourselves and a potential client interested in you or your business. So here is my guide to creating a winning first client meeting.
Set The Agenda
Potential clients, whether they admit it or not, want to see you in control as that’s what they will be paying for. I recommend you email them before the meeting takes place with an agenda of what main points you want to cover encouraging them to add to it. This will not only impress them it will also help give structure to the meeting making it run smoothly and not waste hours of your costly time.
I realise having a meeting about a meeting sounds like something right out of a Dilbert comic. Well, that’s because it is. That said, I have found that having a quick get together a few hours before or the day before a first client meeting can really help get everyone involved onto the same page and iron out any concerns.
Fifteen’s A Crowd
Remember that first meetings can go on for an eternity (or maybe that’s just those where I jibber). Don’t have half or all of the office sat in unnecessarily. Choose a range of people that can handle curve ball questions about everything from account management to technical questions. In a pitch or regular client meeting you may consider having team members enter and leave the room during the meeting. I would recommend this approach during a first client meeting as you don’t know what kind of questions or topics may arise so better to be prepared.
Keep It Informal
I’m not suggesting you turn up unshaven in your pyjamas and slouch into your chair. First meetings are all about personalities and fit. They (the client) are trying to figure out if you are the right people for them. Trying to imagine themselves on the phone to and in future meetings with you. When I say keep it informal I mean set the mood from the very beginning. Let the client know that they can chip in with questions at any time and that you want this to be a discussion not a lecture. This will put them at ease and make them more likely to raise any worries or questions.
This is your chance to get to know your potential client before they sign on the dotted line and turn into a nightmare. Let them do the talking! Prepare questions that help you gauge what kind of people and business they are. After all you can have the website or business with the best potential but if the people don’t fit with your personalities or your account managers then it wont work. If you are to have a true collaboration with the client then getting under the skin of their business is also important. Dont be afraid to ask prying questions. The worst you will get is a “no idea” or “we cant discuss that until you sign an NDA”. When running first meetings you’re trying to ensure that, when those clients leave, the basic questions have been answered: Why – Why are we doing this project in the first place? Why do we want to work with them? Why should they want to work with us? What – What business need does it satisfy? What’s the solution? What are we going to do? How – How are we going to work together to make the project happen? How does this project meet a consumer need? Here are some more specific example questions that can pry out crucial information about the potential client:
- What exactly does your business do?
- How does your business make money?
- What is the staff structure in the business?
- How much is your average customer worth to you?
- What’s your budget?
- What’s your biggest sales channel/revenue stream?
- How does your business define success?
- What is the role of the website/application in achieving that success?
- What is your growth plan for the next few years?
- Why do you have a website?
- What other online media do you use (social etc)?
- What do you want to achieve by hiring me/us?
- Why do you think you need *Insert Service*?
- Why do you deserve to dominate the search engines?
- Could you achieve your objectives without *Insert Service*? If so, how?
Position Your Services
Listen to their problems and answers from the questions above and be ready to position your services or solutions to match them. This reactive / proactive method is sure to impress them and help convince them that you are the right team or person for the job. Wait till the pitch or post proposal meeting before you wow them with a presentation etc. This is the chance to start to understand that there is indeed something you can offer and defining it can come later on.
The M Word
Try and avoid overly discussing Money and budgets at this early stage. Frame the conversation around their problems and your solutions. If the client asks about your charges simply say that ‘they are completely individual to each client so we will be unfair to give at the proposal stage’. You can carry out a full audit of their site or current offering and then establish costs in time for the next pitch or meeting. If they push and push the topic of money at this stage then perhaps they aren’t the client for you?
Is That The Time?…
Knowing what to say and when to say it is key to wrapping up a first (and hopefully successful) client meeting. Once you have clarified next steps, one of the following lines/cues should help you in that awkward moment as the meeting draws naturally to a close:
- It was great to meet you and your team…
- We really learned a lot about the project and have received plenty of details…
- I will drop you over an e-mail summarizing what we spoke about…
- *Start packing away my laptop and samples.*
- I will give you a ring / email / meet to discuss moving this forward.
- Thanks for your time, we hope to see you soon…
I would love to hear your tips or comments for the perfect client meeting. Drop them in the comments section below: