The tips set out below describe what needs to be done before meetings with clients to maximise the chances that the meetings will develop closer and stronger relationships. The preparation falls into two elements:
- some research to understand the background and context of the world that your client is operating in – to enable you to ‘be in their shoes’ and understand their perspective
- to use this data to inform your thinking and preparation for the meeting.
1. Find out about the client as a person
Their ethnic background, age, family, education, pastimes, personality type (outgoing vs shy, big picture vs detail etc), career history (ie where they used to work etc)
2. Find out about the client’s job
Title, overall role, direct reports, who they report to, role on any relevant projects
3. Find out about the client’s view of your firm
Level of knowledge and attitude to your firm (On a scale of 1-10, where 1= they don’t know anything about us, through 5= knows a lot and would return a phone call, through to 10=a major advocate who already tells others how good we are). You may have to make an intuitive guess on this depending on whether you have met the person before, and what feel you pick up from others.
4. Consider what the client might hope for from the meeting
In terms on content:
- Examples/case studies?
- Practical information?
- Financial data?
In terms of style:
- Interactive, not a monologue?
- Big picture or detail?
- Logical analysis or more personal friendly approach?
- Formal presentation or informal discussion?
5. Consider any fears or anxieties the client may have about the meeting
In terms of content:
- Level of detail/complexity?
- Lack of clarity?
- Waste of time?
- Exposing their weaknesses?
In terms of style:
- Too pushy/argumentative?
- Do’ers not listeners?
- Boring or too trivial?
Having gathered what information you can, you should spend some time hypothesising about what you don’t know. What’s your best guess? What would you think if you were in the client’s shoes? If important information is not known, consider having a pre-discussion with the client…..”to help me prepare for our meeting it would help me to understand …….”
You will still be left with things you can only guess at, however, having given them some thought you will find you will have fewer surprises during the meeting and will be able to be more flexible and able to take opportunities as they arise …..
6. Consider what you might hope for from the meeting….
7. Consider any fears or anxieties you may have about the meeting….
8. Plan your agenda and approach accordingly…..
You should find your relationship-building meetings with clients will blossom.