First meetings are awkward for everyone. Names are flying from one end of the room to each 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.
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.”
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. 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 answered, but everyone has their own detailed set of boxes that they need to check off. Let the prospect run the meeting and ask exactly what they need. Doing so accomplishes a major goal; it lets the potential client know without a doubt that you’re fully engaged with what they need. 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. Sending out Invitations to Sales Demo’s 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.
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, and can’t be beat, unfortunately that’s just not the case.
You could give the best pitch possible, but for a variety of factors, 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 bringing food.
What you bring isn’t incredibly important, but make sure that most everyone would be able to enjoy it. Something simple like bagels, muffins, or donuts. After you leave, they might not be able to remember every talking point that you hit on, but they will undoubtedly remember the sales rep that brought them something to eat. 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 can’t hurt.
2. Take notes about what they’re saying
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 directly 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 going forward.
3. Take your phone out, and immediately turn it off for the duration of the meeting
According to a survey conducted by Forbes, there really isn’t a great reason to use your phone during a business meeting
-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. However, despite the lack of a real need, not only should you bring your phone into a meeting, but you should use it; but only as a prop.
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 off in front of everyone. Turning your phone off will send a direct and clear message to your potential client. It’ll make the person you’re speaking with feel like they have your complete attention, and that for as long as you’re meeting with them, they’re your only priority.
If you’re paranoid about missing an important call, at least give the impression of turning your phone off. But given that 86% of the surveyed business professionals think that it’s inappropriate to take a call during a formal meeting, there aren’t many reasons as to why you should need to take one. Obviously there are exceptions to every rule, but in a best case scenario, you should be able to get away with completely shutting your phone off for a meeting.
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