Whether you’re a consultant, freelancer, small business owner or a leader in your organization, you know how important it is to have a successful first meeting with a prospect, client or other key people. The old saying is true. You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression. Even those of us who are experienced at “first meetings” could benefit from a refresher on how to start a new relationship on the right foot.
Do your homework. Before the meeting, gain as much information as you can on the person, his organization and the issues that he may be facing. This doesn’t mean that you’ll go in to the meeting with full knowledge. It simply eliminates a lot of the background sharing, so that you can get to the substance of the meeting more quickly.
Get there early. This may seem like First Meeting 101, but how many times have you started a meeting with unnecessary anxiety due to arriving just in the nick of time? Plan for the worst – extreme traffic, bad directions and problems with parking. Better to arrive too early than to arrive frazzled.
Ask good questions. Plan ahead so that you are prepared with a set of questions AND be flexible enough to adapt and add questions along the way. You should walk away from the meeting more informed not only about the facts, but about the other person’s purpose and goals.
Listen well and restate. Resist the urge to plan your response. Put all of your energy into hearing what the other person is saying. Once you feel you understand, paraphrase key points to make sure you really got it. “What I’m hearing is that your main concern is around employee engagement, specifically people not feeling comfortable making decisions that impact the customer experience.” Remember that the goal is not to impress the other person, but to gain knowledge. “Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent” (Dalai Lama).
Take notes. Your memory is not perfect. Make sure that you note enough of the details to capture the vital points. In order to listen completely, you don’t have to take notes while the other person talks. Say, “Let me just jot a few notes to myself to ensure that I get this right.” The other person will appreciate your respect and desire to capture the details.
Give value. After the meeting, give thanks and a little more. Email an article about an issue that she mentioned. Give her a contact that might help her solve a problem that you cannot address. “A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as one deed” (Henrik Ibsen).
First meetings can be stressful. They can also be enjoyable opportunities to get to know others and make valuable connections. The key is to plan enough so that you can relax and be fully engaged in the moment. This focused-yet-relaxed approach sets you up to make a great first impression that may lead to a long and valuable relationship.
Need help prepping for a key meeting? Contact Humanergy.
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