How to Hold a First Customer Meeting
At a first meeting, a customer decides when to start working with you. Today, tomorrow, in a month or never. Your goal is to bring the cooperation to “today” as close as possible.
To show a customer you as a reliable partner, do a preliminary work before a meeting. To do this, determine the results that you want to receive at a meeting, gather information about a customer, develop a plan of a meeting.
Meeting planning starts with objectives.
Set first meeting objectives
Usually, first meeting objectives are set as “Get to know the customer” or “Give a presentation”. These are wrong objectives because you want to know not only names of a customer. You want to sell something to them.
So, first meeting objectives can be:
- Create a need for products or services,
- Determine a customer’s willingness to pay,
- Clarify project information,
- Agree on cooperation options,
- Set price ranges,
- Agree on a preliminary scope of work,
- Agree on a preliminary list of products or services,
- Agree on next steps,
- Request recommendations
Formulate your own objectives using the list above or your imagination. If your meeting has several objectives define them all.
Formulate SMART objectives which should be:
Specific. What will be achieved at a meeting? Do you and your colleagues participating in a meeting clearly understand a meeting objectives?
Example. “Agree on cooperation terms” may involve work under direct contracts, or work under tenders, or setting of deadlines, or setting of prices.
Make sure that you and your colleagues clearly understand a meeting objectives.
Measurable. How will a result be measured?
A result can be measured in quantitative or qualitative units.
Example. “Determine a customer’s willingness to pay” can be measured as: there is a need, evaluation of proposals, choice of a contractor.
Achievable. How will an objective be achieved? Do you have necessary resources and skills?
Example. “Draft a statement of work” can be achieved through a typical statement of work or a questionnaire. So, there should be either a typical statement of work or a questionnaire.
Relevant. Is an objective relevant to a first meeting? Will achieving an objective bring about to your global goal?
Example. Instead of “Supply of 100 air conditioners for Panasonic CS/CU-A24HKD” it is reasonable to plan “Fill in an application for brief inspection”, “Conduct a survey” or “Obtain documentation on the condition of the ventilation and air-conditioning system”.
Time-bound. Will an objective be achieved at a meeting?
Example. The objective of “Sign a contract” may not be appropriate for a first meeting. But “Determine the key terms of cooperation” looks appropriate.
Achieving objectives are limited by the meeting time. Therefore, set objectives that will be achieved at it.
The way to Everest and the million-dollar sale start with the SMART objectives
Gathering information before meeting
Gather information about a customer and customer’s company. When looking for information, focus on your objectives.
Find out who are going to attend a meeting. Collect information about them too.
Information about a customer can contain founders, management structure, financial condition, scope of work, products, projects, branches, partners, etc.
Also, social networks allow to find out personal information about a customer: place of birth, education, career, hobbies, etc.
- Your CRM system
- Your friends and partners
- Customer’s website
- Customer’s personal blog or vlog
- Social networks (customer’s personal and corporate accounts)
- Searching requests (keywords, news)
- Online information guides (google.com/maps)
- Online recruitment services (MonsteR, indeed)
- Catalogs, reference books
- Exhibitions, conferences
- Shops, service centers
Drawing up a negotiation plan
Objectives are set, information is collected – start preparing a meeting plan.
The typical plan of a first meeting includes stages:
- Collecting information on the spot
- Determination of customer needs
- Suggestion of a solution
- Demonstration of advantages
- Setting the first steps
Collecting information on the spot. Throughout a meeting, you must collect information about a client and his (her) reactions to your actions.
Greeting. Before a meeting rehearse a short greeting: your name, your company, benefits of working with your company, handing your business card.
Introduction. Prepare a brief announcement of your meeting, determine a necessary time.
Determination of customer needs. It is important to understand not only that a customer needs your goods or services, but also how and for what he (she) will use them.
Next open questions will help to identify customer needs: What difficulties do you face in your work? Could you describe them? What results do you seek? What is necessary to cope with the difficulties and achieve these results? What effect do you desire to get?
Prepare questions based on objectives of a meeting and information gathered.
Suggestion of a solution. Prepare a presentation with benefits for a customer. Use your objectives and collected information.
Each product and each service have characteristics and benefits.
Example. 10-centimeter umbrella is a characteristic of a good. A customer will need time to transfer this characteristic to himself (herself). To show the benefit of a product, you must first determine the customer’s needs.
Example. A customer has a large family. Benefits for this situation: an umbrella that fits in a jeans pocket, it can hide you, your second half, your son, your daughter and still there will be a place for your doggy.
Example. Or a customer loves picnics. Benefits for this: there is an amazing umbrella-tent, if you want, put it in your jeans pocket, if you want, put it in your car door, protect you from rain, snow, sun, hail, under your umbrella-tent there will be a place for 7 people, a table, a barbecue, and a place to play a ball.
Demonstration of advantages. This is the final chord of your presentation — briefly describe why your proposal will work.
Setting the first steps. Plan the steps that a customer will make after a meeting.
Conclusion. Prepare a brief positive conclusion. It should be aimed at solving customer’s problems.
Prepare your own meeting plan using the typical plan of a first meeting.
In case a customer does not have enough time, prepare plan B. For example, you are expecting for 20 minutes (Plan A), and a customer will have only 10 minutes (Plan B).
Conduct a meeting on the plan using established objectives and collected information.
Collecting information on the spot. If a meeting takes place in a customer’s office, pay attention to a reception, behavior and appearance of customer’s employees, a state of offices. Watch how a customer reacts to your words and actions of his (her) colleagues. Note that is important for a customer: his (her) opinion or opinion of colleagues or external sources.
Collect information on the spot. Pay attention to behavior and appearance of customer’s employees, a state of offices, reaction to your words
Greeting. Introduce yourself: your name, your company name, benefits of working with your company, handing your business card.
Introduction. Make a brief announcement of a meeting and set a time. If a customer asks for time reduction, do so by a presentation reduction. Be sure to leave time to determine of customer needs, demonstrate your advantages and set the first steps.
Determination of customer needs. Identify the customer’s problems, ways to solve these problems and results to which he (her) aspires.
Suggestion of a solution. Offer a solution to a customer’s problems using the identified problems and expected results. Focus on the benefits for a customer. Note how a customer make a decision: by himself (herself) or by others.
Demonstration of advantages. Summarize why your proposal will work.
Setting the first steps. Set the steps that a customer will make after a meeting.
Conclusion. Positively finish a meeting.
Summing up a meeting
A meeting is over, but your work continues.
Write down all the essential points of negotiations. Do it immediately. Find a place in a lobby or the nearest quiet cafe. You will need 5-15 minutes to sum up.
Make short entries about:
- Objectives: which are achieved and which are not
- Collected information at a meeting: a customer’s behavior, a behavior of his (her) employees, a state of an office, frequently used words, etc.
- Customer needs: problems, results, ways to achieve results
- A suggested solution
- Advantages of your solution. Customer objections that did not manage to be repulsed
- The first steps: what a customer will do, what you will do
- What you promised a customer
- What a customer promised you
Summing up and analyzing improves preparation for future meetings.
Preparing for a first meeting with a customer, perform 5 steps:
1. Set objectives
2. Gather information
3. Drawing up a plan
4. Conduct a meeting
5. Summarize a meeting