I have the most amazing client meetings. We laugh, they talk, I listen. And by the end of a typical client meeting, I feel like I’ve started a relationship with a new friend. Now, I don’t have the charisma of Bill Clinton or Ronald Regan, but I am really, really good at connecting with people.
Chalk it up to my years as a reporter, when my job depended on getting people to talk to me. No matter where or how you learn to connect with people, I guarantee you it will lead to more business. Because at some point in your career, you are going to be really good at what you do. And there will other firms that are really good at the same thing, too.
So the difference between losing a client and landing new business, then, is about the relationship. Are you likable? Are you a good listener? Do you blab endlessly about your problems? People hire people they enjoy working with (unless they truly can’t help it). Build the relationship, and you’ll get the business.
6 steps to connect with clients
1. Be happy to see them.
Have you ever walked into a roomful of people talking, heard someone happily call your name, and spotted a smiling face? It feels like a million bucks, right?
I know because a flute player in my high school band shouted my name every time I arrived for rehearsal. She was always so happy to see me! And guess who I spent a lot of time with? The clarinetist. Just kidding! The flute player. I loved hanging out with her because she was always so happy to see me.
DO IT: Smile, offer a warm greeting and firm handshake. It ain’t rocket science, but you’d be surprised how many folks goof the first three seconds of meeting a client.
2. Be prepared.
Check their social pages, personal blog, and company news before heading to a one-on-one meeting. Did they just return from a vacation in Iceland? How IS Iceland this time of year? Is their daughter heading to University of Pennsylvania in the fall? Congratulations! Did a beloved pet just bite the dust? You are sorry to hear their sad news. Furry friends are the best.
DO IT: Spend 20 minutes checking in beforehand. Good idea to check a major newspaper for that day’s headlines so you can chat easily about current events, too.
3. Be on time.
Don’t ever leave a client waiting for you. Aim to arrive 15 minutes early. Time is more than money, it is respect. If you don’t respect someone enough to respect their time, you shouldn’t be working for them.
4. Set your goals.
What do you need to get out of this meeting? A quote for a press release? A signed contract? Answers to your questions? Mentally check in with yourself for what you need to accomplish to make the meeting worthwhile and productive. When the conversation veers off course, nudge it back with a gentle, “I want to make sure we get a few minutes to discuss…”
Keep your focus, meet your goals for the meeting, and you won’t get stressed when your client or colleague goes off on a tangent. In fact, you’ll probably enjoy the entire encounter a whole lot more.
Duh! Make eye contact, ask thoughtful follow up questions, and take notes if needed. Maintaining eye contact when you are making a particularly important point sends the message: what I am saying is significant.
6. Follow up.
Shoot a friendly email within 24 hours of the meeting thanking your client for their time and recapping any to dos for both of you. Keep the momentum going by responding quickly and setting out the next steps.