If you’re meeting with a client for the first time, it’s important to make a good first impression. Those initial few seconds will have significant impact; both on their perception of you as a professional, and whether they should work with you or not.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you hold your first meeting to ensure you’re taken seriously by clients.
Making the right impression and winning the job
- Adopt a professional approach (right from the start). You need to come across as professional and trustworthy, before you even set foot in the meeting room. Any correspondence beforehand; whether it’s email, Skype or phone, should be polite, business-like and approachable. Establish what you’ll cover in the meeting, so your client knows what to expect.
- Make sure your knowledge is up-to-date. As an expert in your industry, you should display knowledge of current developments and relevant technologies. If in doubt, browse the industry publications online beforehand. Your client wants to know that you have in-depth understanding of their needs.
- Get technological. It’s likely that your client will judge you based on the technology you use. A battered old phone and an ancient laptop are unlikely to go down well. Instead, you should show that you’re comfortable using technology, and that you’re happy to invest in it for the sake of your company.
- Research their business. To win over the client, you’ll want to demonstrate that you have understanding of their company and that you can match their needs. Ideally, before you set up the meeting, you should establish exactly what they’re looking for, and how you can deliver it. Browse their website to get a feel for their ethos and values too; this will help you to tailor your pitch.
- Brush up on your entrepreneurial skills. Now is the time to get inspired. Before you attend the meeting, read up about leading entrepreneurs; particularly those that operate in your industry. Absorb any tips they might have for achieving success. It’ll help you to get in the right mind-set before you enter the meeting.
- Keep it truthful. If you’re just starting out, it’s tempting to try to make your business sound bigger and more successful than it really is. It’s advisable to stay as truthful as possible; it’s far too easy to get caught out with lying, and this will seriously damage your credibility.
- Choose a location you’re comfortable in (if possible). It really helps if you can hold the meeting in a place you feel more relaxed in. If you’ve got a suitable room in your premises, this is obviously perfect. If you haven’t; think carefully about where you’ll meet. A café might sound like a good option, until you get there and realise that it’s too noisy to hear one another properly.
- Present yourself well. It goes without saying that you should dress appropriately; though the exact nature of your attire will depend on your industry. Creative companies sometimes dress down, but it’s still vital to look professional and authoritative. Give some consideration to the details too. For example, you’ll be judged on how you smell – something people often forget! A site like Copycat Fragrances have some good options for business situations.
- Make it about them, not you. This meeting is to assess their needs, not yours. Although you’ll need to share some information about yourself, your focus should mostly be on their business, what they need to achieve, and how you can help them. Ask plenty of questions – this will help you to gain better understanding of their vision.
- Put together a presentation. If there are any aspects of your company that are hard to understand, consider putting together a visual presentation for your client. This can be shown at the start of the meeting, to give them a quick, clear idea of exactly what you do. You could include other things in this presentation too, such as testimonials, images, videos or even prices.
- Anticipate questions / issues. Sometimes, the client might not be convinced by the end of the meeting. It’s your job to anticipate any problems or obstacles, and to address them accordingly. Try to predict what they might object to before you enter the meeting, then prepare a suitable answer to encourage them to change their mind.
The full package
Your client will be judging you right from when they initially encounter your business (perhaps via an online search), through to the moment you shake hands to say goodbye at the meeting. As such, it’s imperative to maintain a professional approach at all times, even if the meeting doesn’t quite go the way you’d anticipated.
Prepare for the meeting carefully before you go. Identify what you’ll say, what you’ll wear, and exactly how you’ll encourage them to work with you. This greatly increases your chances of success.