New business meetings: where business people talk to other business people about how great they both are at business. At the end they exchange a powerful handshake and agree to do business together.
As with most things in life, if only new business were that simple.
Winning new business was once a relatively linear process, but now (thanks to the internet) it’s more of a spider’s web. From an agency perspective there are so many routes to getting a first meeting with a brand – ranging from emails, phone calls, social media, events and PR to some slightly more eccentric methods, including, but not limited to, standing outside their window wearing a trench coat while holding a boombox over your head.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume you’ve already charmed the socks off your dream brand and have set up an introductory meeting. Excellent work, my friend. Now, let’s jump forward to the meeting in question.
The nature of chemistry meetings is that they are an informal getting-to-know-you affair, but their significance shouldn’t be underestimated. They are an opportunity for both parties to dip their toes into the potential ocean of a professional partnership, and often you’ll find that an opinion on a chemistry fit is formed immediately, and the rest of the time is spent looking for evidence to back-up or contradict the initial gut feeling.
So it’s important to nail that first impression, and to use the rest of your time wisely.
A few years ago, Carol Kinsey Goman wrote an article in Forbes suggesting that it takes only seven seconds to make a first impression. Goman is an efficient gal and clearly wastes no time, but for the non-Gomans of this world, what can you even do with seven seconds?
If you were Peter ‘Furious Pete’ Czerwinski, you could eat the equivalent of 1.98 Jaffa Cakes. If you were Feliks Zemdegs, you could solve a Rubik’s Cube with a cool 2.27 seconds left over to casually wipe the sweat from your brow. If you were Usain Bolt, you could almost run 100 meters.
Given that you have seven seconds to play with at the start of any new business meeting, the best ways to kick things off and impress the people you’re meeting probably don’t include furiously eating two Jaffa Cakes in front of their very eyes or wordlessly sprinting off into the distance in a pair of running shorts.
Thinking about it though, in the right circumstances, solving a Rubik’s Cube could be impressive.
Anyway, I digress.
Once you’ve wowed them with your firm handshake, winning smile and ability to remember your own name, you usually have about 45-60 minutes in which to impress, surprise and/or delight, and build rapport. While every meeting is different, there are a few things you can be doing to make sure you’re maximizing your chances of conversion later down the line:
1. Do your homework
Research the brand, the person you’re meeting and the industry before you go in. Turn up prepped and ready with an opinion and show them you know them.
2. Don’t rely on creds
Keep them short, snappy and flexible. Have them as a backup but don’t go in intending on using them. Laptops can act as a barrier to conversation and no one wants to be force-fed a presentation.
3. Don’t pitch
Crazy idea, right, but try to spend the time finding out about them, their brand, and any specific challenges/goals they’re facing. Ask lots of questions, and really listen. If you go in determined to sell, you run the risk of seeming wooden and rehearsed.
4. Always get a ‘next step’
Decide on the next steps before you leave the meeting. It could be a follow-up meeting/phone call, a proposed brand audit, a workshop, or an introduction to another member of the team. Whatever it is, make sure you have a plan in place before you stride off into the sunset.
5. Always have a Rubik’s Cube in your back pocket.
Holly Rutter, Account manager, The Future Factory.
Tel: +44 (0)207 378 0230