Business

How to focus and improve your first meetings with a potential client

What? You don’t see what’s the big fuzz about learning and perfecting your first-meetings-with-prospects game? Do you reckon that by just bringing your Mac and your cool portfolio, you have it all? Well…

Let’s take a minute to think about it.

The world has changed a lot. I can safely say it because I saw it happening. I’m only 33 years old. But the process with wich social and personal relationships are acquired, these days, is entirely different from when I started to take my first baby steps into the business and corporative worlds.

Yesterday, I was advising a friend about his resume. It seemed obvious to me that those primitive Microsoft Word’s utterly sad resumes waved us goodbye back in 2005 or so. But what a surprise – he was still considering hunting for a job with one of those in fist.

Information travels so much quicker than it used to as recent as ten years ago. Concurrence presents themselves in so many upgraded media possibilities as if just removed from a Minority Report set design sketch.

Thus a considered plan is needed for those who really wish to find, pitch and keep good clients. We need to sell ourselves better than ever.

But then, our perception of time has also drastically changed. It’s easy to feel like we’re often wasting it: the clock runs faster and faster and, we feel the guilt in our guts when executing any task that isn’t directly related to a fast result. But think how long do a musician practice only to be able to perfect a 7-minutes piece, or how many hours does a swimmer trains only for those 30 seconds tournament shots.

Got my point?

Prepare!

You will develop a process, a very simple, repeatable one. Then you’ll be able to measure your results and make changes where required. Every time you meet a new prospect client, you will be provided with an opportunity to improve. It will get easier and easier, and you’ll end up being super confident (which is exactely what will help you sell your services better).

Here are the steps to master first meetings with a potential new client, so you’ll be sure to brand yourself in the best way possible, and stop wondering if it was something that you said or did, after all!

Research Your Client and Their Niche

Have you ever been asked in a job interview or by a prospect “What do you know about my company and my business’ niche?”.

Arriving at the meeting prepared and having a bit of knowledge about your potential client is absolutely a plus. You’ll have lots of questions for your prospect, but asking about the simplest thing as what their company does it’s a no-no.

So consider learning about:

  1. Their primary product or service
  2. Who are they competing with?
  3. What do their social media and customer feedback have to say for them?
  4. How is their website? What works well and what could be better?

Sometimes the business or product is yet to be launched. You can still research the market and the concurrence. It will show that you’re genuinely interested in your client.

Know Your Song And Dance

Unique selling proposition – it should be as important as your I.D.

Whichever one is yours, it will be what’ll better indicate your value as a designer. Not only what you do for your clients to help them increase revenue, but what makes you shine brighter than the other designers that they will be considering to work with.

Perhaps your strength is in Branding, or in developing kick-ass land pages. Maybe you are a Graphic Designer that can code a little, or it could even be that this won’t be your first experience in their niche. So the first step here is that you, before anyone, understand what it is that makes you unique. Then, you only have to communicate it effectively. Oh, but wait! Not just yet.

Don’t Throw All Your Glitter at Once

Don’t put the cart before the horse here. I remember my first lesson when I started working as a salesperson at a retailer: never, in any circumstance, approach a client who is analyzing a garment, and praise it right away. Because they might be thinking: “I have never seen something this awful in my life”. And that my friend, was your credibility running out the door. Hear what the client has to say, and then make sure you’ll pitch it from the right angle.

You already have the advantage of knowing that most clients will ask from you something similar: higher conversion rates. Either by new leads, new customers or increased revenue. The only thing likely to change is how they present that information to you and what they see as obstacles.

By keeping quiet in a first moment about your value proposition, you’ll be able to tailor your approach, making it more appealing to your prospect.

Lastly, when it comes to your pitch speak, practice enough that it becomes natural. The more you practice, the better off you’ll be.

Now that you did your research homework and identified your golden pitch, it’s time to actually say hello to the client:

11 Tips to Help You With Creating an Awesome First-Meetings-Process:

Try always to meet your prospects in person. It’s more empathetic. Enough of this Jetson’s stuff already. Or ok, Skype or phone calls will also work (if they have to, argh!).

Choose the ideas that will work for you and don’t change them. It will be impossible for you to run an AB test on your meetings process if you keep changing your approach every meeting. The idea here is to reach the perfect process for you. The one that if doesn’t work, you can be sure you stumbled on a client from hell. Ha!

When sticking to a plan, you will eventually become excellent and confident at it.

See what might work for you:

1. Careful with your outfit.

You know. You don’t want to get to a first meeting wearing your at-home-freelancer-uniform. But you shouldn’t wear that suit which screams “I’m a corporate guy; therefore I can’t be creative enough” either! You should look like a designer.
A good one.

2. Don’t get there late.

Duh-uh.

3. Try not to use your laptop SO much.

Naturally, you need to show your work. But be aware that this is the first meeting. You’ll have more chances if you manage to build a good, empathetic relationship with your prospect – and screens won’t help so much in that sense.

4. Show interest by asking, asking, and then asking more.

We can’t stress that enough. Your future client should talk around five times more than you’ll do. Ask about their revenue perspective and business goals. You don’t have to go through all the specific technical details of the service or product you are to Design, but try and get a more general idea of how they want THEIR customers to act. Is there something they don’t like about their current branding concept or website? What is it that’s been holding their business back? How could the product you’ll deliver help? The more you listen to them, the more you will understand their needs.

Is there something they don’t like about their current branding concept or website? What is it that’s been holding their business back? How could the product you’ll deliver help? The more you listen to them, the more you will understand their real needs.

5. Be as good listening as you are asking.

It’s easier to ask questions than to pay proper attention to the answers. Don’t rush, listen carefully. Take notes as you go, and throw some of them back into the conversation, to demonstrate that you are really understanding what is being said.

6. Proudly (but not so snobbily) present them your solutions.

Once you exhaust all the possible add-ons your prospect has to bring to the table, you’ll be ready to transport the focus to your work and solutions. I don’t want to scare you, but this is often THE core decision point for the prospect. But listen carefully: it is also a crucial moment for YOU. You’ll be now able to decide if this is the type of client in which you’ll be willing to invest your time and work. If you aren’t completely sure, take your time to ponder before you commit.

7. Be clear about your preconditions.

We wrote a whole post about the specifics of a freelancing contract. But you don’t need to discuss every single item yet. Just whatever necessary elements you’ll need from your prospect before starting to work. Such as content, specifications, timeframe or (vital) payment terms.

8. Establish who’s the person you’ll be dealing throughout the process.

Most times we work in projects where there’s more than one person to deal. Sometimes even a whole department. You can guess how confusing this can be, especially if the prospect is not so familiarized with the designing and the developing processes. Always try to arrange one person to be your contact, that has the authority of taking final decisions.

9. No price haggling.

Simple: it diminishes your credibility and your work. You already explained your value: do you offer high-quality work? Do you deliver it quickly? Do you provide assistance and fantastic customer care?

By acknowledging that you aren’t trying to win on price, you are inserting value on your work. Now you will break the price down by listing the most relevant specs on the project. Explain why, if the said project is difficult, complex, or time-consuming. If it’s a prospect that might offer future work possibilities or connections, you can even offer a first-timer discount.

10. Settle the next steps.

The “we’ll talk soon” on meetings ends can definitely disrupt the whole thing. Be sure to schedule what will come next. Wil you meet with the person that will be your contact from now on? Will they send you the elements you need to start developing? Will you deliver a first sketch or wireframe? When? Find out what your client needs to take a step towards the next phase.

11. Give yourself a grade!

At the end of every meeting, spend some time replaying the meeting in your head. Don’t be harsh with yourself. The idea here is to understand the weak points so they can be improved for the next time. Maybe you ask them to commit a bit soon? Or did you let go of your pricing tactics because they were bargaining too much? Write down a list of topics you’ll work on to upgrade your game in the next meeting, and re-manage your process accordingly.

Now, Relax!

It doesn’t have to be stressful, it won’t be perfect every time, and sometimes it won’t even work. But to have a process is to have 80% of the work ready. And by following a procedure, you will end up more relaxed and authentic. And it will only get better!

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Tatiana Bastos

The Content Pac-Man: Born and raised in Brasil, studied advertisement at Mackenzie University in Sao Paulo. But from a small child knew to be taken head over feet by fine arts, illustration, and photography. For that reason, attended Panamericana School of Art and Design, also in Brazil, and then ventured to learn some more at The Art Students League of New York, in Manhattan. After years spending time traveling the globe and living on an inspiring island at the center of the blue Aegean Sea, in Greece, settled to be based on electric Berlin, Germany. Still a world traveler, healthy eater, art lover, diy do-er and a words-addict.