Have you ever been in a business meeting where someone has spoken continuously about their company, projects, services, company structure, future plans, projections, brand story, colour choices, logo choice blah blah blah….?
Maybe you’re a client who has projects out to tender and have experienced something similar?
Unfortunately I have experienced this numerous times over the years, and in fact as recent as a few weeks ago. Worse still I had more than one meeting with one particular start-up company and had to sit through this spiel every time.
Here's a sneak peek as to what was going through my head: “hmmm, this was interesting the first time but now it’s just boring” “I’ve heard it all before, stop wasting my time!”, “How is this relevant to our discussion today?” “What exactly did you want to meet with me for?!” “I’m confused!”.
If the meeting agenda was specifically to discuss their company’s structure and growth strategy, it would have been relevant and perhaps of interest to me…..but no. This meeting was to discuss possibilities of collaborating on some projects. It would have been much more useful if we had discussed the project requirements, client requirements and capabilities from both sides.
Contrary to that I met another company earlier, with the same agenda, and this experience was the complete opposite. The first half of the meeting was spent purely discussing my background, my offerings in respect to their needs and those of their clients, my views and requirements. I then had an opportunity to ask them the same. It was mutually beneficial and productive, and we have since worked on a few projects together.
In the past I’ve sat through meetings where a client needs a solution to a business problem, and the company pitching for the work spent the entire meeting name dropping, explaining how wonderful and perfect they were because they’ve done some work for so-and-so on such-and-such, and they have so many team members, and technology solutions. Again, this information is only really relevant to the client if the project is in a similar field and addresses a very similar problem. If the client is interested in taking it further, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to discuss such things when the time is right.
The bottom line is that the majority of times, people initially are only interested in one thing and that is: “At present, can you solve my problem?”.
Remember, they are probably meeting with several people/companies and their time is limited and valuable. Don’t waste the opportunity.
If not sell yourself, what should you do instead?
And then ask questions.
It surprises me just how many people waste a perfectly good opportunity by not even asking the bare minimum, basic questions.
Over talking and explanations of your capabilities, talents and products can reek of insecurity and desperation.
As a Senior Project Manager in my former career, the number one skill I had to employ every time was good Listening Skills.
Without truly understanding your potential client’s problem, how do you think you’ll even begin to solve it?
If you don’t know the extent of the problem, which often times the clients themselves don’t know, you’re in no position to:
- Understand the true requirements of the situation
- Consult at a professional level
- Propose an appropriate solution
- Up-sell for greater value add and additional revenues for your organisation
If you’re pitching for new work, and you have an opportunity to sit in a meeting, make no mistake, your job is to zip it, and listen much more than you speak.
Listen long, listen hard, and only then ask the right questions.
Unless they happen to ask of course, the meeting is not a license for you to bore everyone with unnecessary info.
You need to have a genuine interest in the needs of the client. At times, you may even decide that you’re not the right person/company to help them on this occasion, and actually turn down the opportunity.
So next time, remember to take the focus off from yourself and onto your potential client, their history, their business and their requirement at hand, if you’re to increase your chances of truly serving them in the best way possible.
Got any tips that have served you well in client meetings? Please feel free to share with us using the comments box below!