In a world where 99% of business communication is done by phone, email or video/text messaging – there is no substitute for meeting clients face-to-face.
A personal meeting will create a better bond and this can be useful with challenging projects.
Do I really need to meet this client?
Not all clients are created equal.
Client One has a hair-brained website idea, calls you on a whim and asks to meet with you to discuss. You’ll go and have a conversation that will inevitably unpick their website idea so that they realise the folly of pursuing it. A wasted journey and wasted time.
Client Two is busy and would like to employ your company on an ongoing basis for years to come but will only do so after having met face-to-face. Client Two will not say this to you in as many words but has decided from your website that you can do the job.
These are two simplified caricatures of clients that I get calls from all the time. How do you tell a Client One from a Client Two?
There are lots of “red flags” that will expose a Client One to you. An email can tell you a lot about a person. Failure to spell properly, punctuate, explain exactly what’s required can portend of vague briefs, fuzzy thinking and a difficult working relationship.
Similarly, if the client is clear, business-like and polite in their dealings with you, it augurs well. It’s usually worth meeting the client if they belong to a large organisation or Fortune 500 company.
But these aren’t hard and fast rules.
I sometimes like to do some work for the client first before meeting. These are all steps that I take to ensure I don’t go out to client meetings and never see or hear from them again. I don’t want to waste my time and the potential client, presumably, doesn’t want to waste theirs.
What do I do before the meeting?
It’s a good idea to research the client, their industry and background beforehand. A quick Google will usually do. And, research the venue, how to get there and/or the parking to ensure you arrive on time and unstressed.
What do I wear?
Fashion guru, I am not. Thankfully, designers aren’t usually judged by the way they dress. I do always wear a jacket and try to look as smart as possible.
What do I take?
The last client meeting I went to, this is what I took:
- A laptop – handy for showing the client previous work samples or sites
- Some paper and pen for taking notes
- A mobile phone, preferably with SatNav further ensuring a prompt arrival
What do I say?
In an article about what you should say to a client, I say that you should not give a client details about the “how” of a job or technical information that they don’t need to know.
Try to keep the conversation as simple as possible and don’t get bogged down by discussing minutiae. Put yourself in the clients shoes, they want to know if you can do what they want on time and on budget – try and make them believe this.
If you’re introduced to somebody by name, repeat their name back to them soon afterwards. This will help you remember names when it comes to saying goodbye.
Talking to the client about money
The conversation may turn to the subject of money and you may be asked to give a quote. Obviously you should be clear about the nature and extent of the job when giving a quote. When you do come up with a figure, write it down on a piece of paper. This will help cement the number in their minds and reduce the chance of negotiation.
The end of the meeting
I often meet with clients in cafes or hotel lobbies. If coffees or drinks have been consumed throughout the meeting, it may be polite for you to offer to pay. Most clients will like to pay as they initiated the meeting. But you must thank the client for this curtesy.
I was given lunch once and I forgot to thank the client at the end. I felt such an idiot on returning to the office!
When the meeting is concluded, it’s good to thank the client and say how good it was to meet them. On returning to the office an email exchange re-iterating this is always good. You may like to write down some of the areas that were discussed and agreed upon.
I believe you should not appear overly enthusiastic nor too cold and calculating. View the client as someone who will benefit from a partnership with you.
Maybe the next time you have a meeting try to keep the language and topics of conversation as simple as possible.
Find out more about how to get great clients in my e-book How To Get Clients.