With the opportunity to meet clients not just during office hours, it has never been so important to razzle and dazzle them in any social circumstance. From the formal to the informal, we’ve put together a guide on the how to’s of client meetings.
1. It’s easy to become unfocused during boring meetings or boozy client dinners, but be sure to keep your eye on the prize. Whether it’s sealing the deal on a merger or merely ensuring a client has a good time, knowing your goal is key. Your client will follow up on the conclusion of your conversation and the lasting impression you make of him or her, so make the most of the time you have.
A quick note to all your social networkers who truly do your best work on the after hours or night life scene, drinking is totally fine. Some of the best deals are made with sloppy pats on the back, after all.
But ensure your client is not so drunk they don’t remember making the deal the next morning. No one likes the person responsible for their massive hangover, so don’t’ let that person be you.
2. When it comes to selling yourself and your agenda, there’s nothing more valuable than confidence. I realize that’s sometimes easier said than done for many, but believing in your pitch is crucial to making your client believe in it also. Nothing deters someone more than a shaky pitch. Easing into things, perhaps over small talk at the beginning of dinner or with a short introduction at a meeting, helps humanize the client and decreases the intimidation factor.
Remember, all you Nervous Nellys out there, your clients are only human, and finding common ground is key to creating a bond of familiarity and ease! That said, for all you corporate men who make deals over bottles, ensure the common ground isn’t just a shared fondness for Grey Goose.
3. Stay informed about your clients. Information travels a million miles a minute nowadays. With bbm, Twitter, Facebook and every other social media outlet under the sun available to us 24/7, the sheer rate at which information is made public is almost in real time, thanks to constant uploads.
No longer is it enough to just be briefed on their business history. Information on the client’s up-to-the-minute business status and personal status is key to sealing deals.
Accurate information is relevant for screamingly obvious reasons, but knowing extra personal facts can create a bond to really hit a home run. Did your client recently tweet about how amazing a certain restaurant was? Offer feedback. Did the client check in on Facebook at a concert you were also at? Discuss. It’s not cyber-stalking if you speak honestly about interests you both have.
Meanwhile, feigning interest in a subject you know nothing about is risky and has the chance of coming back to bite you. Keep well informed and you’ll be armed with all the content you need for a successful meeting.
4. Dress the part. A crisp suit for a business meeting is standard, and a suit should be the norm for most social settings.
If you’re going on a boating outing with a client, or some other out-of-the-ordinary environment, you will want to trade in your cuffs and collars for something appropriately relaxed, but in the context of conference rooms, restaurants, and even clubs, a slick, sharp suit never goes wrong.
I doubt many powerful mergers were made over bedazzled Affliction t-shirts and white-washed jeans.
5. Sealing the deal is the most important part of any client encounter. No matter how the meetings starts, goes and ends, be sure to discuss follow-up actions that will move your plans from talk to execution.
In the office, this is of course the norm, and handshaking, signing papers and future appointments are expected when things run smoothly. However, when out and about on the scene, finding ways to make firm follow-ups can be challenging.
Dinners should end not with personal talk but with a recap of whatever business decisions were made over the meal, even if the party is heading somewhere afterwards. It’s always best to hammer out details for business plans while ideas, thoughts, and agreements are fresh in the client’s mind.
If scoring a win occurs at a social event or even a party, shoot your client a text or bbm while everyone is still coherent enough to type properly, so you can reference it the next day to follow up. Even if you and your clients continue the night into drunken debauchery, you can bring up something solid in writing the next day about whatever deal was made.
The businessmen of today are the more savvy, tech-abundant, smoother, wiser, and more adaptable versions of their predecessors. So wherever it is you get business done, from the boardroom to the booth, keep your eye on the prize and ensure a success client meeting.