Sometimes, especially for a new designer, being contacted by a prospective client who has expressed an interest in speaking to you regarding taking on their project can be a nerve racking experience. In this article we share Steps to Follow to Crush Initial Client Meetings.
But first of all, before we get into the nitty-gritty of this article, if this is you, then a big congratulations is in order, give yourself a pat on the back, you earned it!
It’s such a great feeling even when you have been in the industry for 20 years it’s still a great feeling when you get an email from a prospective client saying something along the lines of
“I love your work, and I would like to speak with you regarding a project I hope you would like to undertake”
From this point on you have a good chance of winning this client project and impressing them with your skills and professionalism.
But for some at this stage the nerves will start to kick in and you will get yourself overwhelmed with the feeling of
“I need to impress this potential client and win the project otherwise if I don’t I will have let myself down.”
It’s natural to feel this way we are all human, but try not to be hard on yourself. You are already in the clients good graces as they like your work, they know what you are capable of!
Now we just need to seal the deal!
There is no sugar coating the fact that there is a lot at stake in that first initial client meeting, there I said it its out in the open now let’s move on to win that project.
As human beings, we make our decisions based on our first impressions and gut feelings.
You only get one chance to make an impression and sell yourself to the client, there is a lot of pressure on you to make sure you don’t mess it up and blow your chances.
But at the end of the day when you get in there, you do your best and it’s eventually up to the client whether they hire you or not.
Why panic! If you’re fully prepared, and you know the drill, you have done everything you can.
To quote a buddy of mine “JUST GO WITH IT!”
Prepare, show up, do your thing the best you can and what happens after that is out of your control.
Life is tough, we are constantly pushing ourselves to get our slice of the pie every single day we push harder and harder until we start seeing results but even then we don’t stop we smile and realise our hard work is paying off so we push ourselves even harder for a bigger slice.
It’s a never ending fight to climb the ladder without slipping down this client meeting is just a tiny part of something we have to achieve so let’s push forward and crush it!
In this article I have put together a guide that will help you in your client meetings.
The article includes some tips to follow to help prepare yourself, things you should not do during the meeting and the all-important follow up after the meeting.
Let’s start by getting ourselves ready and fully prepared for the client meeting ahead.
I must stress never go into anything unprepared as your setting yourself up for failure.
We as creative need to learn as much as we can about the client in order to create the best solutions for their needs.
We need to have a clear plan going into the meeting so preparation is key at this stage.
Another piece of advice is to never go into a meeting with a script thinking it’s going to go the way you planned, as it never does and being in that type of mind set will throw you off guard making you stumble at the first jump.
It’s always a good idea to be open minded and expect anything to happen as we don’t know how the meeting will pan out.
The main thing here is that we have a plan and we are prepared and all that’s left to do is “Just go with it!”
Let’s now take a look at some steps we need to take before the client meeting:
1. Analyse Past Meetings
A useful tactic is to go back and analyse your past client meetings, compile information form the meetings that were successful and the ones that were not so good.
Always look to improve things including your client meetings. This information will help us to determine what works and what does not work so well.
It’s part of our sales process so this information is vital, and we can then use this information to improve our client meetings and in-turn help us win clients and secure projects.
Don’t be hasty and jump in changing this up on a whim without fully understanding why you are making the change.
Start by looking at the type of questions you’re asking, and the answers you are receiving, do you notice a familiar pattern of answers that clients are giving you?
Do these answers benefit you at all? Or are they obverse answers that provide no real benefit to you?
Look at the technique you are using and anything else that contributes and determines a meeting’s success or failure.
For example you may notice that certain areas used greatly impact a meeting’s success such as:
- A certain type of question asked
- The overall size of the group involved in the meetings
- The length of the meeting, do longer or shorter meetings gain greater success?
- The venue chosen for the meeting – Look at success of meetings held in your own office, the client’s office, a coffee bistro, conference call. Do you have better success at a certain place?
- The way you present it, is there a pattern to what is successful?
Do some research and gather some info to find out what is working well. If this is your first meeting it’s all part of the learning process.
2. Research Clients before the Meeting
As I mentioned previously, we need to be going into a meeting prepared and armed with information about the client. Do some research by?
- The first thing I do is go to their website and check their social media profiles.
- Read any press related articles about the client or their company and industry.
- Do a company search and check their records on business registers.
- Ask people about their impressions and feelings towards them or their company if there is anyone to ask.
The information you acquire will enable you to:
- Qualify the potential client as a good fit for your business. They may not be a good fit and in time you will end up declining to work with more clients than accepting. (I wrote an article about my 6 P’s Checklist I use when validating clients you will find helpful. You will find the issue in our community newsletter )
- Identify the services they will more than likely be searching for assistance with.
- If you have a larger team that includes sales people and account managers then this info will allow you to allocate the right person to help deal with them.
- The most important thing is now that you know more about the client, it will help you feel more confident in yourself and enable you to go into your meeting feeling more prepared.
3. Create an introductory package
Creating a simple but visually pleasing brochure or company introductory package is a great way to introduce and ease client’s thoughts about working with you.
It does not need to be long and include in-depth information just something short maybe a few pages about your company and its services.
Not only can you include information about you and your company and the services you provide, but also testimonials and a case study form a previous client and their project.
Let the client understand your working procedure and process, and what they can expect when working with you.
This can also include any agendas or checklists for meetings or the general on-boarding process.
Include your payment guidelines and be fully transparent about how a client can expect to pay to work with you.
This can be sent over digitally to your client ahead of the meeting so they have plenty of time to view and read it over and formulate any questions they may want to ask you.
This type of introductory pack will serve two purposes:
- This will ensure you cover everything that needs to be covered during the initial meeting.
- This will demonstrate to the client the value you place to them on clear communication and transparency.
Once you have finished your client meeting you can attach the documents to your proposal as this gives you yet another chance to seal the deal and win the project post-meeting.
4. Offer Something Free that’s of Value
I’m not a big fan of offering something free as part of a service as if you do it regularly it can come off as desperate and even make you look cheap.
A more unique idea of the something free concept would be to do it during your initial meeting with the client by offering them something small that they are able to do themselves that will not cost them anything and will in turn help their business.
It does not have to be something that is tangible, it could be something as simple as good advice as you review their current marketing materials, or a free piece of content such as an eBook or link to an article they can benefit from.
You can send this via email before or after the initial meeting. It’s a clever approach to building rapport and gaining trust, while at the same time demonstrating your confidence in your profession.
5. Focus on Listening Not Speaking
What I personally recommend when you kick off your meeting is not to go full pitch mode talking about you and your services, instead let the client talk about their company.
Going into full pitch mode can come off as a sales pitch and make the client feel uncomfortable.
Information is key and it’s our job to find out as much as possible that will help us create the best solution.
Look at gaining information about:
- What makes them unique
- Their position in the market
- Their strategic goals
- The problems they are facing and their pain points
- The reason they have approached you in the first place
During this time that the client is speaking and explaining all about them and their company uses this time to take notes and follow up with questions to dig deeper to gain more information.
What you are doing here is coaxing for vital information so you can achieve the best solution possible for the client and at the same time demonstrating your communication and listening skills.
6. Focus on Their Specific Pain Points
Once we understand the client’s specific problems they are facing, we can directly address how we can resolve those certain pain point areas.
It’s helpful to both you and the client if you can use a past case study to demonstrate how you successfully resolved a similar issue for a previous client.
Go as deep and as technical as you wish while not overwhelming or confusing the client. Use statistical information and facts that include graphs and images to reassure the client as they appreciate seeing the tangible results of your successful past projects.
7. Anticipate Those Common Questions Asked
If you followed the steps in the first tip and analysed your current meeting, then you should have a decent size list of the most common questions that clients ask you during an initial meeting.
Being prepared will allow you to incorporate those answers into your typical meeting format, or you can address them within your introductory package, you can even add them to your website FAQ.
By doing this you give the feeling to the client that you have anticipated their needs early on.
Some common questions include:
- Properly, one of the most frequently asked questions early on is “What does it cost?” “What’s your hourly rate?” “What’s your day rate” What’s your package pricing?”
- Details about your working procedure and process. Some clients love to know the ins and outs of how you work, they want to feel part of the process.
- How do you handle certain restrictions, market shifts, or industry issues?
- Asking for examples of specific types of work. For example I’m currently working with a clothing brand and they asked to see some of the other work I had done for other clothing brands.
- If you have any experience working with clients in a certain industry
8. Dress to Impress, but Always Be Yourself
We are in business to make money and in order to do so we need to impress potential clients.
You should always be looking to impress with every little aspect of your business.
This also includes you and your professional image, tone of voice, personal grooming, which includes your look and the clothes you wear.
You represent your business and you are your business. People buy from people they like and trust.
You want your potential client to leave the meeting with a positive feeling knowing they have made the right decision to work with you and their project is in good hands.
For this reason, it’s important to wear clothes that make you feel comfortable but also confident within yourself.
When you feel good about yourself, you exclude self-assurance and your clients respond well to that.
Don’t go wearing a smart suit if you don’t feel comfortable wearing one.
Take the time to learn and study more about the science behind making a good lasting first impression.
Success Tips for Client Meetings
Below are some personal tips that have worked for me here at The Logo Creative that will help you with your client meetings:
- Positive Previous meetings that you nailed: Think back and ask yourself what went really well. Visualise yourself experiencing success before the meeting begins.
- Prime the meeting with positive vibes: from the get-go speak about positive events and experiences that happened within the client’s business or personal life, or a recent win in the industry.
- Get advice from your client with their area of expertise: This is a good way to make your client feel at ease and of value. It also grants them an opportunity to speak about their business gaining you valuable insights about their business philosophy and vision for the future.
- Complement them honestly: don’t give a lot, keep it small, and most importantly be honest. Do not use insincere flattery. Honest compliments will make the other person understand you’re passionate and a joy to work with. Only complement when you’re one-on-one with the client, and never in groups as they are perceived with envy.
- Relax, be friendly and smile: You must always remain composed even if your meeting is not shaping out as you had wished. It’s a lesson to view it as a learning experience and a chance to improve for the future.
- Refer to them as they have addressed themselves to you: If they refer to themselves as Mr or Mrs Smith then call them that as it shows respect and good manners. More than likely, they will say “please call me by my first name….”
- In your own mind believe you have already gained the project: By doing this in your mind you will be more confident trust me it’s effective! It will further develop a closer relationship with the client and make them feel like you are already working together.
Using these simple psychology tips will help you run a much more successful meeting, win more clients and gain more projects.
Mistakes to Avoid During Client Meetings
It has been said that you never get a second chance to make a first impression and that is very true.
You get one shot at that initial client meeting and it’s your chance to demonstrate to the client your value to them and you have the necessary skills to successfully complete their project. So that is your one and only chance and you don’t want to blow it.
Remember your clients are human just like you and they are used to people trying to sell to them even the things they don’t necessarily need or want to have.
Your client has had enough bad experiences in the past to spot a disingenuous salesperson from a mile away that most of us can go through past experiences.
Do you want to avoid triggering that
“Do Not Engage with This Person feeling”
To help you avoid this then you will need to skip the following:
- Don’t try too hard to make friends: Your in business to do business not make friends, this is not the school playground. People purchase from people they like and trust and that right there is enough, but it does not mean you need to become best friends and share life stories. Be professional and friendly and treat the meeting like a business event your there to impress and do business.
- Never start the meeting with a pitch: The client’s main focus is getting their problems solved by a professional, they are not interested in listening to you ramble on about your business. It’s about them! Studies show that the majority of people like to talk about themselves and 60% of conversations are spent with people talking about them. This percentage rises higher to 80% on social media. In your next meeting, start off by asking the client “Tell me about your business. I would love to learn more about it” trust me you will get a good conversation going, put the client first and show interest early on.
- Don’t be excited about everything: Going to your client meeting with high energy, and approaching their project briefly in a collaborative way is a great technique. If you can demonstrate how you can resolve their issue it is a win every time. But don’t be that person who is just too much to deal with, you will drain your client within minutes and they will switch off. Being enthusiastic is great but too much enthusiasm about everything your client says will make you seem unprofessional and not taking them seriously, you will come across as being desperate for their business. Slow down, take a calm deep breath, and let the client do most of the talking. Focus on being genuine instead of impassioned.
- Don’t show aggression, pay caution to your body language: A lot of people are unaware of how their own body language sets the tone for an entire relationship. Such as standing too close to someone, touching them without invitation, facial expressions, finger pointing can all come across as aggressive behaviour. On the flipside, hunching your shoulders, constantly fidgeting, and staring at the floor while speaking (instead of making eye contact) makes you seem passive or unresponsive. This will leave doubt with the client if you are indeed the professional that you claim to be. Pay caution to the tone you set with your body language and make efforts to adjust it. Practice roleplay with your colleagues or by yourself in front of a mirror, read up on body language in a business context.
- Make sure you ask the right questions: As you proceed to evaluate your past client meetings success and failures, you will notice that certain questions will lead to better conversations and more project wins. The correct questions will vary depending on the industry you work in, but they will be the golden questions that encourage openness from your client about how they think about their business in new ways and uncover meaning behind their business challenges.
- Never speak in a negative way about other clients: There is nothing more unprofessional about a business person who speaks negatively about past clients to another client. What kind of example does this set? You’re breaking confidentiality, you’re speaking in a negative way, and your client will wonder if you speak about them behind their back. Don’t do it! It’s not professional and you won’t get far by doing this plus you’re just digging yourself a hole the client will bury you in. You lose!
As the meeting is coming to an end
The first thing to be aware of is your behaviour immediately after the initial meeting closes, especially while on the client’s premises.
- Push your chair under the table
- If you have had a drink tidy your cup away and thank them
- Make some small talk don’t just leave right away. Show the client you’re still interested in them on your own time now the meeting is over. You could complement their office and location while collecting all your belongings but don’t overdo the complements!
- Don’t look at your phone until you’re back inside your vehicle
If you follow everything up to this stage you can make it through your client meeting and I assume it went really well.
Big congratulations are in order!
Give yourself a pat on the back! Pour yourself into a stiff one you earned it!
But don’t get to comfy your work is not finished just yet.
You still need to follow-up with the client.
Always Follow Up With the Client after the Initial Meeting
How you approach following up will depend on your industry and client expectations.
I find that if you send a short email the day after or later that day depending on the time of your meeting just saying thanks for your time yesterday it was nice to meet you and learn about you and your business type of email sits well with the client.
Within this email you can include your brochure or company introductory package.
You could also include a link to your calendar to invite the client for a follow-up meeting or phone call with yourself to discuss anything further or ask any questions they may have forgotten to ask you.
By doing this it sets expectations and shows the client just how much you value clear communication.
Give it a week or two, don’t panic people are busy it’s not necessarily a bad sign. But at this point you can follow up again with an email or telephone call. If its possible pick up the phone and call them you have a higher chance at a conversation with them if you can get them 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 boost success in your client meetings?
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Also published on Medium.