There’s an endless barrage of advice articles out there offering up the same old waffle about a meeting a potential client for the first time. Dress smart, look alert, ask lots of questions. All good tips; all done to death. ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression’ – yes, we know, very clever.
But clichés aside- there are a few more less obvious, outside-the-box hacks you might not have thought about which could really determine whether or not you land that big client on a first meeting. Do you have all these bases covered?
‘Nice and firm, but not angry’ – this seems to be the common consensus throughout the business world for shaking hands. But probably more important than the strength? The moisture.
A limp handshake? Not really a game-changer. A soggy handshake? As someone on the internet once said, ‘Ain’t nobody got time fo’ that’.
If you’ve arrived early or are at a networking event and have a cold drink, be sure to keep it in your left hand. Life Pro Tips, a quick-fire advice board on Reddit, suggests “having to switch hands when being introduced to someone makes you appear clumsy”, and adds “wiping your hand on your pants and offering cold handshakes is never a good first impression”.
They’ve got a point. If you have a recurring problem with sweaty palms (a commonplace issue for those attending high-stakes meetings) remember to bring a handkerchief. Failing that, inconspicuously use the inside of your pocket.
Mmmm, lovely. Moving swiftly on…
The old Cub Scout motto, ‘be prepared’ can be applied to all situations, but in particular auditions. Make sure you inflate their ego by showing you’ve done your homework on their company. Of course their website should give you a good idea of what they’re all about, but there’s a new way of going a step further.
The ‘Charlie’ app, available for free on most mobile devices, gathers info from across the web and sends the users a one page briefing on the person they’re about to meet. This includes not only a heads-up about the subject’s work, but also their recent achievements, their competitors, what you have in common and what they like to talk about.
A bit creepy? Perhaps, but it might just save your bacon if you’re in a rush and don’t have time to stalk them in the more traditional way.
Nobody likes business jargon, and you really don’t want to ramble on to the point where the client drifts off. This is where an ‘elevator pitch’ comes in handy.
An elevator pitch is a summary of what you do – short enough to be delivered during a quick lift ride, and concise enough so that it completely sells you and your skills.
Don’t just say what you do, tell them the benefits your clients get from working with you. If you can drop in any big names you’ve worked for, then even better.
An example of a good elevator pitch is “As a content producer, I provide engaging and on-the-pulse articles, like this one for Crunch Accounting. This really helps to drive traffic to their website and increase signups to their brilliant service.”
In an initial meeting, your mind will be jelly. It’s fine – you’re thinking about how to impress the client, and they’re thinking about whether or not you’re worth spending their money on.
Before you know it, you’ll have finished the meeting and, hopefully, if you’ve followed the instructions of every advice column under the sun, you’ll have impressed them by taking a huge bundle of notes.
If you really want to be productive, though, be sure to follow up on this, and as soon as possible send a debrief email, regardless of how the meeting went. Summarise what you discussed, what their pain points were and how you can be the solution to their problems.
You may have forgotten a couple of strong points you wanted to make, so this is a great opportunity to get your good lines in, simultaneously showing that you were paying close attention to what they were saying.
First impressions are important, but lasting impressions are the ones that matter. Find the person you met with on LinkedIn to ensure repeated exposure – out of sight, out of mind comes to mind. Hopefully you will be able to utilise this useful tool to organise a second meeting.
If you’re reading this, you probably have a big meeting coming up – so good luck! Let us know how you get on, and if you have any other outside-the-box tips to share.