Do Your Homework
Last week, one of my readers sent a note, asking, “What do you do to prepare for your first meeting with a new client?”
Thanks to Jim for a good and timely question. I met with a new client just yesterday so my prep work is fresh in my mind.
It’s also an interesting question because so much rides on your first meeting with a new client. I’ve seen many sales calls go awry without the right preparation or forethought. That’s why I try to structure my initial meetings to cover three fundamental areas.
- Learning about my client as a person
- Learning about the subject I’m writing about
- Displaying my professionalism
I say they’re fundamental areas because, without them, I don’t think you can succeed. They underlie everything you’re going to do — and they build on one another to maximize your value to the client.
For starters, you’re there to learn about your client. You’re there to begin understanding your client as a person — his or her preferences, strengths, interests, hot button issues, and wishes.
But you’re also there to learn about the product or service. You have to explore it, dig deep into it, understand features, functionality, benefits, and the direction it’s going.
And finally, you’re there to be a convincing professional. Learning about the client and learning about your subject are basic parts of being a professional but there’s more to it — displaying basic skills, asking pertinent questions, and acting confident are all part of the job.
So how do I prepare to cover these three areas? Basically, it comes down to doing my homework.
- Research your client. Do everything you can to research your client and your subject. Look over her LinkedIn profile. Check out publications she’s written. Look at her work history. Google her name and see what comes up.
- Look for third-party feedback on the product. Google it. Pair it with interesting keywords, like “Product X reviews” or “Product X complaints.” Look at the searches historically, finding out what was said about the product a few years ago, compared with what’s said about it today. Look into social media commentary about it.
- Review what the company writes about the product. Analyze the copy for tone, voice, style. Run chunks of their copy through Flesch-Kincaid readability analysis. Learn about the features, functions, and benefits. Understand the value proposition.
- Think through what your client wants to know about you. Bring samples, testimonials, and other proof of your skills.
- Come up with a list of questions for your client. Some of these will pertain to the product, others to marketing, and still others will address the relationship.
- Make sure you have the tools of your trade ready for the meeting. Charge your laptop, bring extra pens, know where you’re going, and pack a few extra business cards.
- Make sure you have clean underwear. I’m joking in a sense, but it’s worth thinking through everything you need for the meeting. Is your favorite shirt back from the dry cleaner? Does your car have gas?
This approach works for me, but I’m not enough of an egotist to think it’s the only approach. How do you prepare for a first meeting with a new client? Anyone have other ideas?