Being unprepared for a meeting with a client could mean the difference between a new contract and you wondering how on earth you’re going to make budget for the month. Fumbling through paperwork, forgetting a client’s name, being unsure about responses to client questions or running late, are all signals to the client that you may not be the right person for the job, regardless of your seo expertise.
When it comes to client meetings, always be sure you have everything organized before you arrive – never during! Read through any prior correspondence via email, quotes or notes you have to refresh your memory about this client’s needs and go over them in your head. Then make sure you have a full understanding of the objectives and outcomes you and your client both want to achieve for that meeting.
Still unsure? Here’s a few successful meeting tips to get you cracking.
Here are some quick guidelines on adequate preparation for a successful meeting with a client:
You remember that scene with Robert Deniro in the movie Taxi Driver? You know, where he’s looking at himself in the mirror and asking “You talkin’ to me?” This might sound crazy, but if you’re a bit of an introvert, client meetings might be just enough to scare you to death – but don’t worry. As with everything, you’re bound to make mistakes, and that’s okay. Even if your pen does run in your top pocket.
Remember the old saying “practice makes perfect”, well - start practicing.
Get yourself in the bathroom and start rehearsing in the mirror. That’s right. Slip on your favourite tie and scribble out some notations and start rehearsing your responses, and how you intend on dealing with those tough questions.
You might feel like an idiot, but wouldn’t you rather feel like now, rather than later, in front of a client?
2. Set Objectives for the Meeting
There’s little point meeting with a client, unless you both know why you’re actually meeting. Sure it might be nice to share a coffee or talk about the weather, but that’s not going to put money into your account.
Be sure before you head off, that you create some objectives you would ideally like to achieve throughout the course of the meeting. You may want to cover specific topics, discuss time frames or work allocations, or even consider verifying unclear details with the client while you’re face to face.
Trust me, you don’t want to find yourself back at the office, with an unsigned contract, wondering what on earth you just talked about for 2 hours.
You don't want your meetings to go like this.
3. Provide an agenda beforehand
This is always useful. I like to think of it as a client ‘itenarary’. Rather than have the client rock up with no idea of what to bring, expect or talk about, its much easier to provide them with a complete overview of whats going to take place during the meeting.
If the meeting agenda is clarified ahead of time, you will both have a better chance of keeping things on topic and not find yourself talking about left handed screwdrivers and inflattable dartboards.
Be sure to include a list of questions you want to ask the client. You may also want to find out what specific requirements the client has in mind to make sure you are meeting their exact needs.
4. Assign meeting preparation
There’s nothing worse than meeting with a potential client and they arrive with nothing but a smile and a handshake. No notes, no laptop, no documents, no nothing.
To prevent this, you may want to ask the client to bring certain information or relevant documentation to the meeting. By assigning who needs to bring what to the meeting, there is less chance of seeming disorganized when you do meet.
It might be worthwhile calling them ahead of time and reminding them (in a polite way of course) to bring certain information that is required during the meeting.
5. Assign actionable items
Any topic addressed during the meeting should end with an agreement or discussion on how it should be acted upon.
This should mean, agreeing upon some form of tangible action that will see the project produce the end result.
Talk is cheap. A signed contract is everything. As said in Glengarry Glen Ross - “Always be closing”
6. Examine your meeting process
You might think that you nailed it, but what about the client. Feeling all warm and fuzzy about the way you handled those tough questions during the meeting mightn’t mean much if the client is left confused or annoyed.
Don’t get too far ahead of yourself, regardless of how long you’ve been doing this.
Always take some time to assess the meeting and try to pinpoint any areas that could be improved upon. Even if this means asking your client for feedback.
Your level of preparation and planning will portray your level of professionalism to your client, and could mean the difference between securing new work, or hindering a successful outcome.
7. Be On Time
This should be a no-brainer, but it’s worth repeating. If you’re late to a meeting, this shows a distinct lack of respect for your client’s time. Always try to arrive at least 15 minutes early, but if you are running late for any reason, give your client the courtesy of a quick call to let them know.
And no, its not worth a speeding ticket.
8. Personal presentation
With so much business being conducted via virtual means, either by email or video conferencing, it’s becoming rarer to meet clients in person. However, there will be times when it’s necessary to meet face-to-face to discuss specific project details. It’s at these times that your presentation must be professional and appropriate.
First impressions really do count, especially in the world of business, so be sure you take care of all the details of your personal presentation. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be wearing a power suit, but you also shouldn’t think that ripped jeans and a metallica t-shirt will be appropriate either.
Smart business attire is always a wise option. Neatly pressed trousers and a business shirt with freshly polished shoes is a great option.
9. Personal grooming
Dressing very well but neglecting basic personal hygiene is a definite no-no. Brush your hair, shave, use deodorant and be sure your hands are clean, especially under your fingernails. You should also be sure not to go overboard with the strong, over-powering cologne. A little is more than enough.
Brush your teeth and use some mouthwash. There’s nothing worse than sitting in an appointment opposite someone with bad breath or brocolli stuck in their teeth, so imagine how your client is feeling as you talk. And no, don’t have that butter chicken curry for lunch before the meeting.
10. Communication skills
When you’re in a situation of face-to-face contact, there are three facets to any communication that can tell you much about the other person. Likewise, the other person is seeing those same things in you.
Research has proven that only 7% of communication is reliant on the words you say, while as much as 38% will be impacted by your tone of voice as you say those words. Hesitation during a response can indicate uncertainty. When you pause or draw out sentences with a lot of “ums” or “errs”, this can also indicate to a client that you’re not sure of your response.
A client may very well choose another company to do business with because of that feeling of uncertainty you could have inadvertently conveyed. The biggest facet of communication when face-to-face with another person is your own body language. The way you move, sit, respond, twitch, fidget or gesture can speak volumes more to a person than anything you’ve just said.
If you have an air of desperation about you that screams silently how badly you need the work just to stay in business, this is going to come across to your client subconsciously. This is irrespective of whether you’ve used all the right words or not.
11. Shut up and listen
You have two ears, but only one mouth, so it’s important to keep this ratio consistent.
When your client speaks, don’t interrupt, or talk over the top, or otherwise try to anticipate what they’re trying to say. Let them talk and really LISTEN to what they’re saying.
12. Body language
Slouching isnt cool. Nor is leaning back in your chair yawning every 2 minutes.
Positive body language is all about being open and relaxed. A professional level of confidence in your ability to successfully meet the client’s needs will be conveyed by your own body language, so prepare yourself beforehand and your body gestures will let the client know you’re confident you’re the best person for the job.
13. Location, location, location
If you have the option, try to arrange for meetings to be held in your own office. If you prefer not to do this, opt for a quiet café that isn’t overcrowded or too noisy. Bringing your client out of his own office will give out a professional image about you and give your client a sense of confidence in your company.
Try if possible to cover the costs. Be mindful that paying for $2 coffee on behalf of your client might be enough to have them sign your $15,000 contract.
14. Take notes
During meetings, always take notes of any points that you don’t want to forget. This includes points of interest, comments made by the client, preferences or omissions the client may have specified, or any other important points that you can’t afford to overlook later.
Don’t feel obliged to write down every word being said, as you could miss potentially important information as you write. Just general, informal notes jotted onto a notepad will be fine to jog your memory when it matters. If possible, have someone with you to take notes so that you can devote your undivided attention to the client.
15. Provide client checklists
It’s important your clients understand exactly what goes on behind the scenes while you’re working. Many clients won’t completely understand the SEO process, but they’ll want to see results quickly.
If you provide checklists of tasks that are being carried out and completed behind the scenes, your client is far more likely to understand a bit more about what you’re doing to assist them. (I include one of these in my seo business kit)
16. Obtain client details
Always be sure you have your client’s full details. This includes their name, phone number and email address. Even if you don’t end up winning the contract, you should still have these details so you can follow up after your meeting.
Following up with clients after a meeting is one of the more important business moves you can make.
17. Client perception
The biggest factor in whether or not you land the job lies heavily on the clients perception of you. Whilst you can only do so much, your client’s perception of you can be directly attributed to your attitude and body language throughout the entire meeting.
These things are also known to have a significant impact on the final decision your client makes about awarding you the business or not.
So do your best, and remember to have fun. It’s about building relationships and enjoying what you do. Making money is just a bonus.