For all businesses, customers and clients are the lifeblood. I mean, why else does any business exist but for its customers. For many small businesses, face to face meetings with our clients are essential to survival. A poorly run meeting can destroy a client relationship. So, it pays to conduct the meetings professionally. Here are 8 tips to make your client meetings run more smoothly:
1. Choose an appropriate environment.
Forget the sit-down meeting in the coffee shop where conversations can be overhead or worse still, misheard, due to the background noise. Use a professional meeting room. If you’re a home-based business, then hire a meeting room at your local business centre. First impressions count for clients, so make sure your business looks and feels bigger by inviting your clients to a professional space.
2. Start with the end in mind.
You need to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve from the meeting. Start by working through the conversation in your head and how you want the discussion to progress. Then, pull out the main discussion points and add them to an agenda. Where it’s appropriate, share that agenda with the client.
3. Ensure that the technical set-up is working before the meeting starts.
There is no greater waste of meeting time than waiting for a technician to fix some aspect of the meeting room technology. Any technical preparation required for a meeting should be completed in a timely fashion prior to the meeting start time. If you’ve hired a meeting room and you need to connect to a new WiFi network or set up a camera/microphone etc, then add an extra half hour before the meeting start time, to your booking. This will enable you to check that everything is working without the added pressure of being watched by your client.
4. Start on time.
If your client has taken time out to come see you, then you should respect their time by starting the meeting on time.
5. Stay on topic.
It is very easy to stray from an agenda item, and it can be difficult to get the discussion back on track. If this happens, it is your responsibility to gently redirect the discussion back to the matter scheduled for discussion. If new topics for discussion are tabled, but are not urgent, you can defer discussion to a later meeting. If a new urgent matter comes up during the meeting, you may need to defer agenda items to a later meeting. It pays to be flexible when meeting with clients.
6. Ensure there is agreement on the actions and deadlines.
Prior to ending the meeting, you should run through any subsequent actions to be done by you and/or your client. Ensure that both parties understand the deadlines for the actions to be completed.
7. Finish on time.
Again, show respect for your client by finishing the meeting as agreed. Quite often, a business owner will ‘block’ meetings and allow just enough travel time to get from one place to another. If you go over the allotted time, you’re making your client late for their next meeting. That is not a professional look for your business.
8. Follow up.
The bulk of your client meetings will not require formal minutes. However, as a courtesy, ensure that you follow up your meeting with a quick email, thanking your client for their time and re-confirming any decisions, actions and deadlines. This is a second way of ensuring agreement on key items.
Keeping clients happy is the one thing that every small business owner needs to do. And face to face meetings are a golden opportunity to impress them with your professionalism. Try these tips for your next meeting and you’ll start to see ways to make your small business bigger.