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How do you prepare for an initial client prospect meeting?
I always prepare my materials so that I'm cool and calm during the meeting, and not come across as flustered and under-prepared. That means preloading my website or online portfolio on my laptop and tablet, and ensuring I have a working pen and notepad ready to go.
Finally, I practice my pitch and know what I'm going to say. I have a rough idea of what the potential client needs, so I make sure I'm able to address those needs by having a range of suggestions and advice ready to offer.
Research the business, people meeting and other key executives, industry trends, and competitors. Identify why they are interested in meeting with you (what you expect they are seeking with your potential engagement) and prepare key points of support (examples from past engagements) for your presentation on what services you can provide. Anticipate questions and cover those topics in your presentation or prepare answers after learning whether those are relevant issues. Practice your presentation and be prepared to listen carefully to their statements so that your comments are responsive.
I research the client's website and competitive websites. If I have an idea of the scope of work I would provide relevant case studies as part of my presentation bringing my unique skills to life in real situations.
Make sure that the presentation is available on your desktop so that it can be accessed with one click.
Practice, practice, practice. Anticipate questions, have a leave behind such as your mission, vision, values and follow up.
I always research the company through public sources, their competitors, recent financial filings (if public), industry trends, then turn to linked in to look up the officers, see what connections I may have who work/worked there, suppliers, etc. then check out any other social media presence the officers may have. These sources can be goldmines of information and help you tailor your delivery so the audience is most receptive.
Then I complete my presentation, highlighting why I'm the best resource to solve their particular problem/provide the desired outcome. I always have it on my desktop, on a thumb-drive, and hard copies so if there are any technical snafu's, they don't derail me.
Practicing the presentation is key, so your delivery is smooth and seamless, but it is critical to NOT come across as if you're reading from a script!. I also try to anticipate questions so I have responses outlined in advance. I follow the old salesmans adage of "Tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em, then tell 'em, then tell 'em what you told 'em".
Have a leave behind ready (brochure, vision or value statement) and try to get a commitment on a time frame for next steps so you can follow-up and stay front of mind with the client.
As most of the others have said, preparation is the key. Searching available sources include newspaper articles, LinkedIn, EDGAR database if a public company and my own contacts to see if there is anyone who knows the company. Usually I know why I am meeting the prospect from prior requests for information. I like to have a few open ended questions to get the prospect talking about their current needs and how they arrived at the present status. That gives me the chance to use the audit technique of getting the prospect to walkthrough the current situation.
Research the company, competitors and the indivudual(s) I scheduled to meet with. I also send a one sheet questionnaire prior to the meeting to better understand how they view the issues that may be holding them back from success on their own. I always approach any client meeting as a discovery meeting for both parties. They will have questions and so will I, if, after our questions have been answered then we can determine if there is truly a fit for our working relationship. Neither I nor the company will benefit if my skill sets don't match their need and I'm quick to point that out when necessary.
I look at it like any sales call. First research the client and maybe talk to others around him and find out what the immediate and long term needs are. Second, I then map my capabilities into how I can affect those issues. These might be just with me, or with my associates. I'm a problem solver after all and it doesn't mean I have to do everything.
Then I present my value in the following way:
Imagine ….. if you could an action, based on what I know, and begin a story.
Stop imagining, I am here to provide this function to you.
Works almost every time.
It's all about building a relationship where accomplishments are easily seen and aligned.
The comments here are great. Research the company, look at board of director and executive profiles, news on existing initiatives, as well as outside partners and existing vendor relationships.
Do a search on who you are meeting with both on LinkedIn and the internet. Look at recent press releases, annual reports, quarterly reports for any focus on new initiatives and company direction.
An initial prospect meeting sounds more exploratory than pitch-focused, so I tend to have a prior conversation that elicits key information for me to weave into the follow-up face-to-face dialogue. I am prepared with open-ended questions that will encourage a conversation on key initiatives or challenges. From that, I modify my value statements based on what areas I can help them manage or possible solutions that I can bring to their business.
I then ask for the opportunity to come back and present more in-depth ways that my business can help with their strategy, goals, and challenges. This is based on their needs highlighted during the discussion. I look at this initial meeting as a stepping stone to the next where my pitch is then tailored to their business interests.
Initial prospect meetings are key in building rapport and establishing how I can bring value. Credibility is further established through questioning, listening, and tailoring my value proposition based on the dialogue.
If the meeting is already scheduled then send a very brief agenda of the items you will be discussing. Agenda MUST have value add topics, and customer related questions. ie: Customer company overview and product or service provided. My company description and value add proposition.