It’s going to happen very often for every sales rep: meeting a client for the first time. It can be nerve-wracking for some; after all, you never know what to expect in these meetings. But you can always take the necessary steps to make sure that a meeting goes smoothly, and that a client is left impressed.
So how do you make sure that you nail a first client meeting each time?
14 Ways to Ace the First Client Meeting
1. Set the goal(s) for the meeting
Ask yourself, “What do you want to accomplish with this meeting?” “What do you want to know?” “How can this meeting accelerate the sales process and help you close the deal?” Be very specific with what you want to achieve with this meeting. Setting the goals also allows you to plan ahead. If the meeting doesn’t end the way you would have wanted it to, what’s your plan B? Then you can get the ball rolling for plan B soon, even right after the meeting.
Unless you have a vey motivated buyer, a sale doesn’t happen in the first meeting, but the outcome of the first meeting can definitely make or break the next steps in the sales process.
2. Prepare really well. Do your homework
Know who you’re meeting with. Look him/her up on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Read up on prospect’s work history, interests, professional affiliations. Do you have common contacts? These pieces of information can help serve as talking points.
Of course, research the brand/company as well. Who are their customers? Who are their competitors? How is the brand faring—versus competitor and in the market? What’s the latest on them? Now, based on what you discover, how do you think your product/service can help them? What value can you give them?
This is not to say that you will share with client everything you need to know about them. This is information you need to know in case the client asks specific questions about what you’re selling, and how it relates to his/her business. It’s best to be prepared. And it pays to know all of the client's (possible and actual) pain points, issues, and concerns—and the solutions and benefits you can offer him/her.
3. Perfect your pitch
Make sure that your pitch is not generic and that it has been created specifically for the client. Personalize it using the client information you’ve researched. Keep it comprehensive yet concise. You don’t want a time-consuming presentation. Take note of how you can create a convincing sales pitch and make sure it addresses these points:
- Shows your understanding of the client’s business, industry, and customer
- Answers the needs of the client
- Communicates your unique value proposition
- Demonstrates your expertise and/or authority—and your edge over competition
It may help to do a run-through—or practice run—of your pitch with colleagues, or even your supervisor, and get their feedback.
4. Prepare your own questions
You’re there to get as much information as you can to help close the deal so prepare your own questions in advance. The first meeting is also a way for you to qualify client so you need information on their BANT: budget, authority, needs, and timeline.
Your questions will also help shape the conversation. Some clients need prodding too, especially if the client is not particularly communicative, so your questions can prompt client to share more information.
5. Prepare for their questions too
Client will have questions, and if you’ve been in a lot of client meetings, you would most likely know what they will ask you about. So prepare for those questions. The more you research on the client, the more you’ll know the questions they will most likely ask. So yes, that pre-meeting research is very important.
6. Confirm the meeting
A day or two before the meeting, send an email to confirm it. It has happened that clients forget about the meeting but since you’ve shown up, they squeeze you into their schedule and you only get 10-15 minutes. Add to that, they’re distracted and anxious to move on to their other appointments. That meeting will not turn out well.
Do yourself—and your client—a favor and confirm the meeting beforehand. You want the client focused on what you have to say in your meeting.
7. Make the first impression count
The first few minutes, even seconds, really count. Your client will form an opinion based on the impression he/she gets. The very first impression he will form will be on your punctuality. So don’t be late to the meeting. Arrive earlier than the appointed time. It will be smart to know the approximate commute time to the location days before so you can avoid being stuck in traffic or getting lost.
The client will pick up on the little things so make sure you are fully aware of your bearing. The other things that you need to consider to make a good impression:
- Dress appropriately. Professional work wear always works.
- Give a good, firm handshake.
- Make eye contact with the person you’re talking to.
- Smile and relax. Nerves are expected, but you need to calm them.
- Address the client by his/her first name.
Don’t be afraid to show your personality—but nothing too forced, or too much. Be enthusiastic, but don’t appear over-eager. Or arrogant. Be confident yet charming. Master the soft skills you need when engaging with clients.
8. Start with small talk
Don’t go straight to business talk. Start with a little small talk. You can ask the client how his day has been (if meeting is in the afternoon), how his weekend was (if start of the week), or how his week has been so far (if mid- or end of the week). Or you can talk about recent events.
9. Let clients talk first
After the small talk, have the client talk first. In fact, let them do most of the talking. And make sure to listen actively. You will get a lot of information from doing so. This will also allow you to be engaged in the conversation.
10. Establish client’s needs
The thing that really needs to be established in this meeting is the client’s needs and how you can address them. So that should be next in the discussion. Client will most likely mention it, but if not everything is clear, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Not only does this help you clarify everything, it also demonstrates a keen interest in their business—and clients like that.
11. Begin selling
Don’t forget that you are still there to sell. So after client has discussed his business and his needs, you can begin selling your product/service. Pitch your winning value proposition. Show off your expertise; have your portfolio and some case studies ready. (Make sure you create case studies that convert leads.)
Another way you can show off your expertise is by offering some free advice. This is tricky, as you don’t want to appear like you’re giving unsolicited advice. But in the course of your conversation, a client will most likely mention a concern or an issue. Feel free to jump in with some friendly, free advice—if you think it’s appropriate.
12. Initiate the next step
When it’s time to wind the meeting down, make sure you thank the client for his/her time. And here’s the other important thing: you need to establish the next step. Don’t wait for client to ask. You can say, “So I will email you the formal proposal on Tuesday and if it works for you, I can follow up within the same week?” Most sales reps fail to establish the next step, but it’s very important that they do.
13. Connect with client on LinkedIn
Send client an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. Social selling has been proven effective: 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-level executives are influenced by social media when making purchasing decisions. But before you connect with clients, make sure that your own social media profile is set up for effective selling.
14. Follow up
Follow through with a follow-up. 80% of sales require 5 follow-up calls after the meeting. 44% of sales reps give up after 1 follow-up. So don’t be timid about following up!
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