How To Achieve Effective Client Meetings?
Meetings have been a vitally important tool as a professional to communicate among clients, colleagues, peers or business partners. Where digital rule most areas of how we work – we are powered by emails, automation systems, synchronized calendar, virtual meeting and reporting tools, often, meetings are being labeled as unimportant or a waste of time, given that almost every communication within the organization can now be done via digital channels.
This has never been the definition of a meeting, but rather a reputation of ineffective meetings done in the past.
Effective meetings are especially important for people, such as our clients, who value their time and are specific with what they want to achieve by accomplishing a meeting agenda.
Why are effective client meetings important?
Face-to-face communication is never to be discounted. We’ve brushed on our Effective Listening article that only 7% of the meaning of our messages comes from the word, 36% are from the way we say it and 55% are from facial expressions.
Running effective client meetings are an opportunity to engage and interact with the customers in a humanly manner. Remember that: Buying decisions are based on 20% logic and 80% emotion. We as humans are appealing to our emotions despite operating in a professional setting. It is not always about being logical because personal connections also strengthen professional relationships such as a seller-buyer relationship.
Meeting with clients build valuable relationship. A factor that makes you convert twice as likely . It shows a strong and lasting impression as a professional sales person who takes an extended effort to show up and present your best solution to their organizational problem.
Client meetings offer an opportunity to build trust and transparency, two crucial points that are important not only in a personal relationship but also in business. Clients need a trust worthiness factor in deciding if they are to choose you to supply their business needs. Effective client meetings are a chance to influence trust and rapport among our clients.
Like internal sales meetings, meeting with customers also gives way to pitch in ideas from both the seller and buyer’s side thus gathering and combining insights that will better solve the client needs and at the same time, inject profitability into the business.
95% of survey respondents who say face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships. – Great Business School
How to run an effective client meeting?
Effective client meetings extend beyond the time set for it. That is why we are going to cover a before, during and after approach to ensuring that you will nail your next client meeting.
BEFORE MEETING THE CLIENT
Set the meeting agenda
What are the goals you want to achieve after the meeting? An agenda is a guide that shows the direction to both the client and the seller as to where the meeting is headed. Often, meetings without a clear agenda are becoming catch up sessions that end with no real value for the two parties. An effective meeting agenda will keep the conversation focused and will aid in achieving the goal of having the client meeting in the first place. It will also help to refrain wasting anyone’s time.
Take note that effective client meetings are not always closing a deal especially if it is an initial meeting. Consider building relationship, representing your company or presenting your solutions as an agenda in a client meeting.
Prepare yourself for the client meeting
Preparation for client meetings is the key.
Start with internal preparations such product knowledge, presentations, data and reports. Prepare some questions as well that you think will be relevant asking in order to further know your client. Include in your preparation, the answers to possible questions that maybe thrown your way.
Secondly, prepare the part that shows the first impression, the exterior.
“Dressing well is a form of good manners.” – Tom Ford
Consider the environment of your client or the location where you are meeting. There can be times where formal suits are not necessary for a person, as long as you present yourself in a professional manner. Either way, do your research about the person or people whom you are meeting with and observe an acceptable way of presenting yourself as a professional salesperson.
DURINGTHE CLIENT MEETING
Building impression and rapport
Effective meetings with customers should always revolve around relationship and rapport building. Show your professionalism by arriving on time, if not early, for the time of the meeting.
Keep the clients and the other participants of the meeting engaged and let the ideas flow into the discussion. If you are prepared enough, you will be able to lead the client into the objective of the meeting, lead them to reveal their goals and expectations for doing business with you.
Ask relevant questions but Listen more than you speak
Asking open ended questions is one way to lead and keep the clients engage in the meeting. It helps a seller to understand the requirements and needs of the client in order to effectively design a solution for them. However, leading the meeting does not mean taking all the time to talk. Listen more than you speak. Regardless of how great your questions are for your customers, you will not be able to fully understand the answer without listening effectively. Show empathy by trying to put your feet into their shoes and see from their perspective.
Take effective minutes of meeting
An important part of conducting effective client meetings is recording the minutes that you can look back on as reference for action-taking or value review. Some simple tips on taking better minutes of meeting is by considering the following points:
- Follow the agenda. An effective minutes of the meeting is a great way to track if the agenda you’ve set beforehand is being followed. Record the discussion points, questions by the customer and answers to your questions.
- Seeing that you will be the one to take down the meeting notes as opposed to having a minute-take like in internal sales meeting, it is important that you retain your focus while juggling the talking and writing. Take your meeting notes in a straightforward manner. Decide on the things that are actionable and skip the parts that are inclined on relationship building. But to make sure that you are not missing a point throughout the whole meeting.
- Have a template, in either printed or digital format. A Green sheet from Miller Heiman is a great tool to have Meeting plans organized well. A Green sheet will help you be more organized in taking this crucial notes and will be easier to sort out later when you are sending a follow up or thank you email to the client.
AFTER THE MEETING
Review and organize your client meeting notes
Effective client meetings don’t end when the meeting is over. Have a look at your minutes of the meeting. The notes you’ve taken are important in formulating the action plan that your client will be expecting from you. Make sure that you are not missing any important talking points from the client meeting.
Present an action plan and prepare for a follow up
Follow-ups commence the next phase. This is going to be the time to check for understanding and making sure that the points tackled at the client meeting are being followed through.
It is evident that despite the boom of digital communication channels, we are still clinging on to the power of effective meetings. Meetings can be considered part of an organization or a sales division’s investment given that 15% of an organization’s time is spent in meetings and that in the US alone, around $37 billion are being spent on unproductive meetings. ()With that being said, effective meetings are indeed necessary not only within the organization to meet their objective but has to also be extended onto client meetings. Effective client meetings are a powerful tool to closing more long-term customer relationship and an engine that boosts business profitability.
Know your customer environment that can help you understand their challenges to be better prepared for the meeting.