*This article was written and edited by Tracey Spicer’s mentee Lucy Xu
Much like dating, it takes practice
A night of unrest, sweaty palms, self-doubt circling in the back of the mind, a doomed expectation of what will happen, sound familiar? Either you are having a mini heart attack or you need to impress someone the next day. And let’s hope in this case, it’s the latter.
As social animals, we prefer in-person interactions, we thrive on cooperation with our fellow counterparts in order to survive. However, it’s a different picture when we are meeting someone with an agenda in mind. From general business meetings, say, making a presentation, or negotiating with a client in order to sell an idea or product, we get thrown into these situations on a daily basis.
While some of us may be more communicative in nature, some may need to channel the ‘fake it till you make it’ energy in order to power through, the art of business meeting requires certain skills. The good news is, skills can be learnt and as the saying goes, practice makes perfect.
The first step of this set of skills is to make the first impression. They say that you only get one chance to make a first impression, but that doesn’t cover the full picture. According to experts, the first seven seconds of a business meeting can control the entire business relationship. That’s how quickly humans form opinions.
Given that short period and the fact that do-overs don’t exist in the business world, it is essential to wow clients right from the start. Those first impressions are more critical than ever, and it’s up to the business to get it right.
Meeting and Greeting
When meeting a client for the first time, the individual representatives need to do their best here. When in doubt, follow social etiquette, it will never fail you. This will help you to establish a strong relationship with the client as early as possible.
First impressions are improved through eye contact, warm smiles, firm handshakes, and sincerity. It’s essential to show your willingness to listen to the client while coming off as genuinely caring about their concerns. On a related note, don’t forget to include proper introductions and remember their names once given.
Going back to how important those first seven seconds are – don’t be late! Tardiness is an excellent way of making the client feel as if their time has been wasted and will leave a lingering negative impression.
Research Ahead of Time
Not every client is a good fit, and not every business is what a potential client is looking for. Doing research ahead of time helps to avoid wasting time for both parties. Additionally, it can help to provide a better impression.
Bringing personalized advice and insights to the first meeting is an excellent way to show clients that the company is taking their business seriously. It will make them feel valued and help to show why the company is the right fit.
When trying to show a client your interest in their business/problem, be as genuine as possible. Ask sincere questions to show that you are listening. Instead of answering their questions with bland responses, tailor your answers. Ask them about their goals, how they want you specifically to help them, and any other relevant details.
It’s always crucial for a business to appear confident, especially during the first meeting with a potential client. There are a few easy tricks to help build the appearance of confidence.
Avoid pausing terms such as ‘um’ or ‘ah’ during presentations or even conversation in general. Likewise, it’s important to avoid phrases such as ‘and other things.’ These phrases come off as weak and can even imply a lack of mastery in the field. Neither of which will help leave a lasting positive impression.
But the best trick of all: practice, practice, practice! Confidence will naturally shine through if you are well-versed in the knowledge and have prepared thoroughly.