As an independent contractor, it’s always exciting to see more people interested in using your services. But you know very well that scheduling a meeting with a potential client doesn’t guarantee business.
An unproductive meeting with a prospective client could send them looking for business elsewhere.
On the other hand, a positive meeting can ensure booked services, great client reviews, and even referrals.
That means you’ll need to spend time preparing your first meeting from start to finish. Once you get the hang of it, your next client meeting will be a breeze.
Do Your Research
You should think of every meeting with a new client as a job interview. Just like a hiring manager, they’re probably meeting with several of your competitors before making a final decision.
So, what are you going to say or do to convince this client that you’re the best one for the job? First, you need to set aside time to do your research!
What Background Research Should You Do Before Meeting a Client?
Your background research should have two focuses: who your client is and what they want.
Prior to your first meeting, you should set aside time for a brief phone call with your client. You should learn about their project, their goals, and their budget.
It helps to take notes during your conversation that you can refer back to later.
As odd as it might sound, you’ll also want to do at least a Google or social media search on the client before meeting them. This will help you build a personal connection at your first meeting.
You might learn that you’re both fans of the same baseball team or that you both attended the same college. These are things you can bring up during your meeting to build a strong foundation on shared interests.
Be Prepared and on Time
Be sure that you hammer out the meeting details with your client beforehand. Check with them a day or two before the meeting to confirm the time and place.
Once that’s been settled, it’s time to prepare for the actual meeting.
How to Prepare for Your First Meeting With a Client
You’re confident, skilled, and you talk a good game.
Sometimes, you’re able to build enough rapport to lock down a client before the meeting even ends. Other times, clients want to sleep on it and make a decision in a few days.
Whatever the case, prospective clients should never leave a meeting empty-handed.
You’ll want to create a document or a packet that contains any information your client may need to make a well-informed decision.
Want to be sure your clients don’t lose this packet? Print it out on colored paper and/or send a digital version to their email address.
Dressing the Part
What’s considered “professional” attire will vary depending on your industry.
For example, if you’re a personal trainer, it would probably come off as odd to show up to a client meeting wearing a suit and tie. On the other hand, a real estate agent likely wouldn’t show up wearing jeans and a sweatshirt.
This is where it helps to know who you’re meeting with.
You want to dress in a way that suits the situation.
If you know your client is a corporate bigwig and wants to hire a photographer for a charity ball, then err on the side of caution and dress business professional or business casual.
Start With Small Talk
The thought of expanding your client base is wildly exciting. But, it can be a little off-putting to get right to business the second your client walks through the door.
You’re great at your job, but you also want to show your clients that you value them as individuals. Starting with small talk is a great way to build positive rapport.
How to Make Small Talk With Prospective Clients
Luckily, you’ve already done a little research into your client, so you may know a few things about them.
Yet, you need to be cautious about what topics you bring up.
Obviously, you don’t want to mention anything controversial that can make the meeting uncomfortable for either of you (i.e., politics, religion, etc.).
You also don’t want to bring up a topic that you’d only know if you scoured their Facebook page for hours.
Be prepared for the first few minutes of this small talk to be a little awkward and feel forced. The goal is to find some middle ground to break the ice and lower tensions.
Talk About Your Experience and Skills
Once you both feel a little more comfortable, you can start talking about what makes you a qualified candidate for your client’s job.
Take a few minutes to discuss similar projects you’ve completed in the past, any formal training that you’ve undergone, and how long you’ve been in the industry.
Even more important than what you say is how you say it. After all, you want to come off as confident and respectful, right?
So, make sure to maintain friendly eye contact and positive body language as you speak. That means hold good posture, smile when it’s appropriate to do so, and don’t fold your arms in front of your chest.
Let Your Client Speak Uninterrupted
Once you’ve gotten the introductory information out of the way, hand the floor over to your client. This is where you learn about what your client actually wants and what role you could play in their vision.
Listen attentively and take notes. There’s no such thing as having too much information, but having too little information can definitely lead to a poor experience.
Also, jot down any questions you want to ask when they’re done talking.
Questions to Ask During Your First Meeting With a New Client
The questions you ask your client during your first meeting will likely be clarifying questions. The answers can help you formulate a game plan for their project if they decide to work with you.
The goal is to leave the meeting with as much info about your client and their needs as possible. Taking the time to ask these questions also shows that you want the client to get everything they’re looking for.
Keep the Conversation on Track
Both you and your clients live busy lives, so try to stay focused on the key points. The last thing you want to do is end the meeting with unanswered questions. If you notice time is short or that the meeting is off track, redirect the focus.
Do you find that a lot of your meetings go off the rails?
If so, it might help to go into your meeting with an agenda for what you plan to discuss. That way, you can conduct your meetings more efficiently and be sure that all key points are discussed as intended.
Bring the Meeting to a Close
No meeting should end abruptly. Take a few minutes at the end to wind the meeting down and review what was discussed.
Always be sure to plan out the next steps with the client before the meeting is over. If you’re going to have another meeting, figure out when to meet, or at least when you’ll contact them to schedule the next meeting.
This doesn’t mean that you can say, “I’ll call you,” as your client exits the office.
Instead, be specific by saying something like, “I’ll call you on Tuesday morning after you’ve had a chance to talk with your team.”
Tying Up Loose Ends
Before your client leaves, make sure to end the meeting in a good place. Remind your client that you understand they have a choice to make and that they should do what’s in their own best interest, even if that doesn’t mean working with you.
Also, ask if your client has any more questions or anything else to add. Let them know to reach out if they think of anything new, and give them one of your business cards.
(Speaking of business cards, be sure to check out our article about small business marketing ideas.)
Check to see that you have their phone number and email address, and ask them how they prefer to communicate (phone, text, email, etc.).
Then, end the meeting with a firm handshake and thank your client for their time. If your meeting is online, end with a nod and a smile or some other form of virtual handshake.
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Plan a Client Contact Schedule
You should never assume that your meeting with a prospective client will be enough to convert them into a customer. Following up with clients is a great way to stay in touch and remind them of the services you offer.
That means figuring out when and how you’ll contact them.
How to Follow Up After Your First Meeting
If you don’t hear from your client within a few days after your meeting, you should reach out. Start off with a personalized email thanking them for their time and reminding them of what was discussed.
It’s important to be consistent in your contact schedule.
You don’t want to come off as overbearing by calling them every day. But, you also don’t want to fall off their radar and have them forget about you.
Once a week is a good guideline in the beginning stages of a client relationship.
Use a CRM
When your client base is growing, it becomes more and more difficult to keep track of them. How are you supposed to remember when and how to contact every client?
That’s where a CRM system can be a game-changer.
Use a CRM platform designed for freelancers and independent contractors looking to manage their client relationships.
You can use it to track:
- When you last contacted each client
- What you discussed in your meeting
- The products or services they’ve purchased in the past
You’ll also have access to all of your:
- Lead generation info
- Signed contracts
- Project management plans
- Client questionnaires
All great business relationships start off with a solid first meeting. That means you want to be prepared to wow your clients from the get-go.
To do that, you need to focus on making a great first impression. You want to show up to your initial meeting prepared, enthusiastic, and looking the part.
If all goes well, you should hear back from them in the next few days, and you’ll have a new client to add to your schedule!
Learn more about how to manage client relationships with Bloom.