After the first meeting with a prospective client has taken place, we need to look at how to conclude that first meeting successfully.
At this point, anything can happen once we leave the meeting. Once we are out of the building a crisis can hit the business, their enthusiasm can wane, we can slip down the priority list, there could be any number of things.
Therefore, we have got to negate the possibility of that working against us and here is how we can do that.
In the initial meeting, we will come to a natural conclusion in the conversation.
They say, “Okay, right, thanks for coming to meet me.”
You say, “It’s a pleasure”
We stick, then we get stuck but we don’t need to. Okay?
The way in which we can conclude it is to use effective language such as….
“Well, thank you very much indeed for taking the time to meet with me today. We have raised a number of points here that I think are worth exploring further. What I need to do is to go away and have a think about the most appropriate way forward now. Can I ask if it would be possible for us to get together again in, I don’t know, in a week or so?”
They might say, “Well, maybe. Just send me your thoughts and we’ll take it from there.”
How we fall down
So we sort of fall down at that point and that is where the process would stop and we would say ok but we will have to send them a proposal now and that would be an issue.
So, take it a step further…
Know the decision makers
We say, “OK. Can I ask you, apart from yourself, who else is involved in the decision-making process to appoint a new firm of accountants?”
They may name their shareholders, they may name co-directors, they may name family members and they will say ok but they need to put together their thoughts on how they can overcome these issues and take things forward.
Name a time
You say, “So when would be the most appropriate time that we could get everyone together?”
To which they respond that it is going to be three weeks before that could happen or it is going to be a month before that can happen or so and so lives in Cuba. They are going to say it is just impossible!
So, now you look at when you can get as many, if not all, the decision makers involved in the process around the table.
You can say, “What I’d like to do is to make sure that everyone can get involved and can get a real feel for what you and I have talked about today and also give me the opportunity to explain where I think the most value lies in us working together, how we could go forward and what that would take and, of course, what level of investment would be required.”
You continue, “So, you think it would take about three weeks to get everyone together?”
They say, “Yes, I think at least three weeks.”
Agree a realistic timeframe for both parties
You carry on. “Okay, well, that gives me long enough to be able to formulate my proposal and make sure it’s ready to present. So, three weeks from now is the 28th of the month. Why don’t we have a look at the 29th? How is your diary set for the 29th? Do you have your diary on you?”
They say, “Oh, I have my computer here. Let me have a look.”
We start to formulate the date. We negotiate on the time of day, a mid-afternoon slot that gives you the opportunity to say that it gives you the time you need to prepare everything.
You say that it gives them time to sit with everyone around the table before you arrive to bring them all up to date with what you both talked about at the meeting today. You agree to confirm the arrangements formally in the meantime but you also confirm that you will go away, put together what you think is the most powerful solution, come back and discuss it with them.
That gives everyone the chance to ask all kinds of questions, resolve any concerns, issues or enquiries that may come up and reach a conclusion one way or the other, depending on how everyone feels.
Ask for their confirmation that they are happy with the suggested next step.
Generally, you will find that the answer is that it will be fine because you have created an interest in that meeting where there is no response other than, “Yes, that’s what we would like to do next.” It is a natural progression that we go through to a further discussion where something more concrete would be discussed, including the price.
Key Steps to Remember
The key steps to remember are:-
1. A very gentle relaxed approach.
2. We need to dictate what is going to happen, as in the next meeting.
3. The client dictates to us when it is going to happen. In this case, we cannot do anything about that for another three weeks. However, in three weeks’ time, you need to make sure that the meeting happens.
4. Set an agenda and the conclusion we want from the meeting ahead of time. So what I would do is submit a proposal, present that to everyone around the table, talk through all the issues and then reach a conclusion one way or another. This way, they will know what the next meeting is for and there is no reason why they should not reach a conclusion with you at that time.
So, in summary, never leave the initial meeting without a date in the diary for the next meeting. If you find tremendous pushback from the client, or they do not want to have another meeting then that should be a “red flag” to you immediately.
If this happens then something has either gone wrong, you have not created enough interest or enough potential value for them to talk to you again. So, assuming you have, there should be no objection to the next meeting.
Reading reference on the same topic How to Follow Up a First Meeting With a Prospective Client
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