In their first column, the Secret Salesperson reveals their advice for the first time you meet a new client.
1. Always do a little bit of research about your client before your first meeting with them - but not so much that you start to think you know all about them and don't need to ask questions when face to face.
It's easy to feel that having read their website throughout that you know what they do and how you can help them - wrong. Many websites are out of date and vague, plus perhaps they are launching a new product or service that you don't know about?
2. These days, because of the internet you can be self-pressured into believing that you should know everything about them along with the industry they work in, and perhaps even their competitors - remember it's not an interview where you are being tested on your research, you are there to listen to what they are looking to achieve and to see if your services can match this.
3. When you actually get to the client's offices or the meeting place, you may feel a little intimidated, particularly if it's at 1 Canada Square or Berkeley Square. Don't be.
The contact you are meeting is probably just another busy person trying to do their job. An office is an office, no matter how much shiny glass and lifts it may have. Remember they have invited you to come and meet them so they must think you have something good to say. And hey, maybe they are nervous about meeting you.
4. To build rapport or not built rapport? That really is one of the questions that you can never answer for certain. You just have to judge the situation and of course the person. Some people love a good natter before getting down to business (and if this is that case, roll with it, get to know them and build the relationship - this is gold dust) but others just want to shake your hand and get cracking.
There's a careful balancing act you have to play - being friendly and approachable to help open up conversations without coming across as overly keen and a little bit fake - If you've got a good product and you are speaking to the right person just be yourself and don't try too hard!
5. Talking about you and your offering: Sometimes a client may throw you the open floor and ask for an overview of what you do. This can be quite intimidating and you will probably feel like its your time to shine.
The best advice is to keep it brief, speak slowly and don't go into too much detail - use this as a way to throw out a few lines and see what comes back. Chances are before you have even finished your little intro your client will have picked up something you mentioned and have started asking further questions - the conversation has started!
6. It's good to have a presentation up your sleeve and have an idea of what you are going to say, but don't rehearse it too much as what has worked in previous meetings may not fit others moving forward.
You may also run the risk of appearing robotic and wooden and not really listening to the client and being responsive to their needs. The first meeting is all about listening to their challenges and exploring ideas together. It's all about the consultative sell these days - unless you're flogging veg at a market!
7. Taking notes: While it's good to be able to remember what was discussed in the meeting, you're not at school and certainly not writing an essay. What is far more important is good eye contact, open body language and showing the person you are meeting that you are digesting what they are telling you, rather than frantically trying to keep the minutes from the meeting. Everyone has their own style and clearly there will be things you do need to note down but don't feel like you have to be seen to be taking notes.
8. While sometimes it's good to try to seal a deal when in front of a client, particularly if you have been trying to meet them for the past six months, don't feel under pressure to have to diagnose the solution and sell something there and then. It can be better to go away, reflect and have a good think about what you can offer them and what is going to work best
Demonstrating that you have taken this time to put together a bespoke response tailored to their needs will bode well and show that it's not something you have rushed into. Being a pushy sales person who has all the answers straight away can in some cases come across the wrong way - no one wants to feel like a square peg is being banged into a round hole.
9. Before you leave the meeting, agree a course of action - another meeting, a proposal or a follow up call and if possible, try to get something in the diary - you may not have closed the deal but you do need to get some sort of commitment, even if it is just the next steps.
10. Don't forget to follow up! Drop the client an email summarising what was discussed and thanking them for taking the time to meet you.