The Do’s and Don’ts of a First Meeting

July 8, 2016

First meetings are awkward for everyone. Names are flying from one end of the room to the other, only to be immediately forgotten. Nobody knows each other yet, and there’s no real sense of how the meeting is going to turn out. It’s a tough situation for anyone, and given how important first impressions are, it’s vitally important that you refrain from making any huge faux pas.


If you’ve never met someone before, and all you can do during your time together is to stare at Twitter and watch it refresh, there probably isn’t going to be a second meeting. While that’s likely not going to be an issue during a business meeting (we hope), there are still a number of do’s and don’ts to keep in mind in order to leave the best impression possible.


Don’ts


1. Steer clear of trying to close a sale


    Unless you’re in a unique situation, where closing has already been brought up by the client, don’t even think of trying to finalize a sale on a first meeting. It’s simply not going to happen. The first call, or the first meeting is about evaluating the prospect’s needs; not trying to fill your sales quota. Instead, you should be learning about each other, and figuring out if a relationship would make sense.


According to The Marketing Donut, only “2% of sales occur at a first meeting. People in business often hope and expect to do business the first time they meet a prospect…The 2% who buy at a first meeting tend to be people who have already looked into the subject matter, and already know what they’re looking for. If they meet someone who ticks all the right boxes and they get on well, then business may well be transacted. But that is far from the norm. The other 98% will only buy once a certain level of trust has been built up.”


No matter how good your product or service is, there simply isn’t enough of a rapport for the two sides to connect on a deal. It takes time to develop a relationship where there’s real trust, and that can’t happen after just one meeting. Trying to rush a sale will likely backfire. But don’t worry, stay patient, and if there’s a good fit, a deal will eventually take place.


2. Running the Meeting


Yes, the prospect is there to see why your company would be a good fit for their needs, and while you have all the necessary information they need to answer their questions, that does not make it your meeting. It’s the same principle as to why salespeople shouldn’t be using scripts anymore. If you’re forcing the meeting to go in certain directions, it’s possible, and in fact probable, that you’re not going to hit on all the aspects of your service that the prospect is hoping to learn about.


Sure, you’ll likely touch on the basic questions that they need to be answered, but everyone has their own detailed set of boxes that they need to check off. Let the prospect run the meeting, and ask their questions first. Doing so accomplishes a major goal; it lets the potential client know without a doubt that you’re engaged with their needs. You didn’t start off the meeting by trying to sell your product to them, but instead sat back, and listened to what they had to say.


3. Presenting a Sales Demo Too Early


Just like you don’t want to try and close a sale too early, you also don’t want to try and get someone on a demo too quickly.


“The fastest way to ensure your prospects will not meet with you is to invite them to attend a sales demo. Think about it: Who wakes up in the morning, hops in the shower, and imagines how great their day will be if they get called by some salesperson they have never met to attend a sales meeting about a product for which they have no prior knowledge? Sure, they have been visiting your company’s website and you saw that they downloaded an ebook, but inbound lead or not, they don’t know you.


The sales process is a delicate one, and walking the tightrope between being too aggressive and not aggressive enough is difficult. However, holding back on showing them a demo until they’re absolutely ready is wise. At worst, if you wait too long, they’ll ask for a demo themselves, and the overall goal will still be accomplished.


Do’s


1. Bring food


If a company is taking a business meeting with you, it’s a pretty safe bet that they already have, or are going to have more meetings with companies that offer a comparable product. While everyone is sure that their product is the best available, and can’t be beat, unfortunately that’s just not the case.


You could give the best pitch possible, but for a variety of reasons, time of the day or chaos at the office, the people you’re presenting to might not be fully engaged. Fortunately, there are always things you can do to stand out and make sure they remember you; one of which is to bring food.


Literally bring food.


The exact item isn’t too important, but make sure that most everyone would be able to enjoy it.. After you leave, they might not be able to recall every talking point that you hit on, but they will remember the sales rep that brought them food. It won’t turn a bad pitch into a great one, and it won’t guarantee that they’ll choose your product, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.


2. Take notes about what they’re saying


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Want the customer to know you’re listening? Then take notes. Actual notes. By hand.


“There are a couple reasons to take notes – the first is practical, the second is to build trust. Taking notes throughout the meeting means you won’t leave anything out or forget anything you talked about, but it also shows the client that you’re engaged and focused, and that you take their words seriously.”


Taking notes will also allow you to quote them later on in the meeting. You can “say their words back to them. To make sure you and your client are on the same page, take a few moments throughout your meeting to repeat words back to your client.” It goes a long way to reinforcing that trust that is so important for the relationship to grow.


3. Take your phone out, and immediately turn it off for the duration of the meeting


According to a survey conducted by Forbes, using your phone during a business meeting is a big no-no.


    -86% think it’s inappropriate to answer phone calls during formal meetings

    -84% think it’s inappropriate to write texts or emails during formal meetings

    -75% think it’s inappropriate to read texts or emails during formal meetings

    -66% think it’s inappropriate to write texts or emails during any meetings

Overall, the entire group (which consisted of 554 full-time employees) thought it was inappropriate to use your phone to answer a call, write a text or email, or even read a text or email. Put more simply, they agreed that there doesn’t seem to be an appropriate time to use your phone at all while you’re in a meeting.


Given this information, there’s seemingly no point for you to even have your phone on you during a meeting. Despite the lack of a real need, not only should you bring your phone into a meeting, but you should use it; only as a prop however.


After the initial introductions have been made, and the meeting is about to get underway, it’s time to take out your phone, and shut it down in front of everyone. Turning your phone off will send a direct and clear message that the client is your only priority, and that there won’t be any distractions during the meeting.

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