Week 4 Challenge: Hold a Great First Conversation

[Please note: this article, and the rest of the articles in this series, together constitute the 15  emails in the It Starts with Clients Client Growth Challenge. Please subscribe here to receive them on a weekly basis over the next 100 days]

In Week 4 of this challenge, you’re going to improve your effectiveness at holding first meetings–for right now, let’s call them “first conversations” since you will most likely be meeting by phone or on a video conference. Be sure to read Week 4 of It Starts with Clients, as it provides an in-depth overview of the key elements and ideal behaviors that will ensure a successful conversation. If you don’t have a copy of It Starts with Clients yet, please to buy one here, on Amazon (or from your favorite bookseller).

The Pitfalls of First Meetings

Week 4 is all about what to do right in your first meetings. But as a reminder, here are some of the major pitfalls you need to avoid:

  1. You spend too much time preparing for your meeting by reading annual reports and other background on the company, and not enough time learning about the person you are going to meet.
  2. Your plan for your conversation is too elaborate and rigid (this will reduce your flexibility and ability to improvise).
  3. The issue you are talking about with the client is not a true “red issue” of significant importance
  4. The executive sponsor involves other stakeholders prematurely, who then torpedo your efforts.
  5. The executive you are meeting with does not actually “own” the issue.
  6. You try to cover too many agenda items in the meeting (three is usually the maximum).
  7. The client examples you have used do not resonate and are too generic.
  8. You rely excessively on PowerPoint or other written material and are unable to have an intimate conversation with the client.
  9. You talk too much and the client too talks too little.
  10. You ask questions that are tedious for the client because they are too general and do not implicitly incorporate a knowledge of the client’s strategy, organization, and industry.
  11. You lean back on asking lots of questions (which is fine to a point) and then don’t add any real, substantive value in the conversation.
  12. You do not rapidly align the conversation to the client’s agenda (be it cost reduction, revenue growth, customer focus, or something else).
  13. You take too long to get to the point.
  14. You tell (describe statistics about your company, talk about methodologies, etc.) instead of show (share short client examples, best practices, etc.).
  15. You lack self-confidence, which gets communicated through the words you use, your body language, and your overall attitude–you don’t walk in standing tall as a peer who has something valuable to share. On a phone call, confidence is projected through your voice and the clarity of your message. Don’t speak too fast, vary your volume, speak in short chunks–don’t go on and on, and make sure you leave spaces/pauses for the other person to interject.
  16. You are boring and unmemorable. Remember: You have to play to win, not to “not lose“–otherwise, you will most likely lose.

TIP: Evoke the client’s curiosity

Curiosity is a key factor you should intentionally leverage in successful business development. When you have the “expert mindset,” your tendency is to talk a lot at the client and give him or her a ton of information and documentation. You overwhelm them and try to push the sale. A healthier and more effective approach is to create “reach.” Remember, people like to learn but they don’t like being “taught,” and similarly, they like to buy but don’t like being sold to. For example, you might say to a prospective client, at the end of a conversation, “Would it be helpful if, in a subsequent conversation, I shared a brief outline about how we’ve helped other clients solve this challenge?” (Note–this is not an open-ended Power Question but rather a rhetorical question, which serves a different purpose). Leave your client wanting more, not feeling like they have more than they can possibly digest.

Curiosity is a key factor you should intentionally leverage in successful business development. Share on X

Your Week 4 Challenge: Hold a Great Business Development Conversation with a Prospect or Client

Here’s your Week 4 Assignment: Complete pages 19-20 in the Growth Guide. Use the checklist I’ve provided to plan and/or review your next business development conversation. You can also click here to download this assignment as a separate PDF: Week 4 Growth Guide.pdf

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