OK, let’s be honest here. Not everyone is a people person. They shutter at the thought of having to deal with people face-to-face (ahem, code monkeys). But if you’re a business owner meeting potential customers, your people skills equate to dollar signs. Geoffrey James offers up the dos and don’ts of winning customers through in-person meetings that every business owner should know.
DO make sure to have a specific goal and agenda
When you’re meeting with a potential customer or client, make sure you have a few specific goals you want to achieve from the meeting rather than “build rapport.” If you want that client to agree to the new terms of the contract, make sure that you achieve that from your meeting.
Another way to get the most out of the meeting is to have an agenda; list the top five questions you want answered and present the agenda to the customer. Geoffrey says this will give the meeting a natural time frame and make the customer feel more comfortable.
DON’T make it so formal
Another way to make the meeting more comfortable for all parties is to have a little casual banter before business so the meeting can continue in a more friendly (and less stuffy) way. Remember: a comfortable customer is a happy customer and a happy customer likes to spend money. I just made that up, but it’s true.
DON’T get angry with the customer
Obviously, this is the golden rule of customer service. Even if the customer holds a different opinion than your own, the worst thing you can do is argue with them and set a negative tone. Geoffrey suggests asking why they have that opinion and then… surprise, surprise… listen to them. The last thing you want is the meeting to turn into an all-out argument; this will never be good for business.
DON’T discuss politics or religion
This is usually a no-no in any type of first-time meeting situation. These are controversial topics that hold many preconceptions and can make a meeting veer in an uncomfortable direction. If someone insists on talking politics, Geoffrey suggests using diplomatic language like, “in our current political situation” and then bring it back to business.
DO your homework
One of the worst things you can do is show up unprepared. You should listen to what the customer has to say about their product or company, but you also should have knowledge so you can have an input and look impressive. You don’t want to be stuck saying, “Um, I’m not sure on that” or “I’ll have to get back to you in that one.”
Finally, make sure you follow-up with customer after the meeting to address any issues you discussed and ensure the customer that you cared about the meeting and took it seriously. It’s also the professional thing to do, of course.
So, shake off those in-person meeting nerves, set a comfortable tone, listen and stay focused on the goals at hand. You’ll win the meeting and win your customer. Like a boss.