Monday, April 03, 2006

Meeting a Prospect for the First Time

Meeting a prospect for the first time can be intimidating. Check that. IS intimidating. Meeting someone that you do not know, and you would like something from, is intimidating. And being intimidated keeps a lot of us from ever having that first "date". Let's face it; We can't lose if we don't go, right?

But you 'gotta go. New business and a solid practice is relying on it....

So here are a few tips to help your "first date" be a more successful and less intimidating experience.
  1. Make the first meeting a short meeting. Do a lunch, or early morning coffee, or cocktails at a mutually attended event. There is no need for you to map out an entire client relationship in the first meeting; You're just trying to see if there is a synergy. If things go well you can always extend the meeting, but starting simple and short is a great choice. There is nothing worse than scheduling two hours when the first five minutes uncovers all you need to know.
  2. Be punctual. There's no greater sign of disrespect than being late for your first meeting. Get directions to the meeting location, arrive early, and demonstrate that you care about him or her and the plans you made.
  3. Dress appropriate to your prospects expectations. Know the dress code tendencies of the company and person you are courting. Extreme mismatches in attire will have your prospect questioning something about how you practice, maybe what you charge, and at who's expense.
  4. Compliment, but don't over do it. A few nice words makes everyone feel special, but persistent comments about the other person's company, personality, abilities, etc., gets old and will seem desperate.
  5. Balance talk and listening. Pay attention to the amount of time you spend talking versus listening. If the scale is weighing in either direction, look to balance it out. If they talk too much; Bad. If you talk too much; Really bad! Strangely enough, people do ask questions when they need more information. You do not have to try to answer every question before they've even thought it.
Connecting to other people is tough stuff and it is human tendency to try too hard and do too much all in the name of hoping to be liked and needed. Patience and good planning will help you to overcome a little bit of what can be so uncomfortable.
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