As the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.
So in a first meeting with a new client, you want to put your best foot forward from the very beginning. Besides dressing for success, making eye contact, and giving a firm handshake, there are other ways to present yourself to impress.
Here are a few tips to ensure you have an impactful meeting with your new client.
Do your research.
“There’s no question that client relationships can effectively make or break a business,” says Eden Cheng, co-founder of PeopleFinderFree, a search platform that can help you look up professional information about clients. That’s why it’s important to “have a complete understanding of the client’s stance in the industry as well as any successes and struggles that they have faced.”
That could mean looking at the company’s communications, doing competitive research, or reviewing analyst reports or trade publications to keep on top of industry trends. “One of the biggest challenges that many businesses struggle with is being able to convince a client why their product or service is the solution they need,” Cheng says. Without sufficient background information,“it’s as they say, fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”
Learn to listen.
Understanding — not impressing — your client should be your first and main concern, according to Cheng. “You need to be able to sit back and listen, then pick up on what matters most to them and what they would like your role to be,” she says. “So, instead of diving into a long pitch about who you are and what you do, get them to talk about themselves and their business. Find out as much as you can about their problems, strategic goals, and why they are in the room with you in the first place. The idea is to coax out vital information that will aid you in creating the best solution for them while also demonstrating your keen communication and listening skills.”
Taking the time to find ways to connect outside of work could be the first step to creating a rapport. “At the beginning of the meeting, I suggest establishing a baseline friendship if one isn’t present already,” says Albert Ho, author of Checkmate: How To Win The Sales Game in Healthcare. “Pre-COVID I would treat the client to lunch or dinner.”
Ho suggests getting to know clients as people: what they do outside of work, what their hobbies and interests are, and what their family life is like. Engaging on a personal level can help establish the building blocks for a lasting relationship and foster loyalty. And once those blocks are in place, you’re better equipped to handle any tricky conversations down the road.
Use supporting materials.
Once you’ve narrowed down your clients’ goals, it helps to make use of past case studies to prove that you’ve successfully solved a similar problem, notes Cheng. “You can use facts, stats, graphs, images, and even videos where necessary, as nothing beats good tangible evidence of your success.” These materials will give the client the confidence that you’ve understood and anticipated their needs and are in a position to fulfill them.