Business owners never seem to have enough time, so it's understandable that they work hard to save time whenever possible. When it comes to client relationships, however, sometimes a quick phone call or email isn't enough. There's really no substitute for the personal touch of face-to-face client meetings that stress how much you value their business.
It's important to make these meetings count. Here are five effective strategies to help you prepare:
1. Assemble a Professional Presentation
Don't skimp on quality for any materials you'll bring to the meeting. For presentation graphics — sales charts, booklets, proposals, etc. — create impeccably professional items through digital desktop publishing. Or, for greater impact, hire a graphic designer who can ensure your brand is consistently depicted across all media. Have employees and partners review the materials to ensure your messages are clear and mistake-free.
2. Refine Your Presentation for Maximum Effect
Never wing it during a business presentation. There's just too much at stake and too many ways to go wrong. Instead, to ensure greater attention — and retention — among your audience, here are tips to keep in mind:
- When using text, follow the "less is more" principle and opt for having fewer words on the screen.
- The same idea applies to images; use one or two at most, to avoid distracting listeners.
- Guide the presentation toward what's of greatest interest to your client — not about how great your business is.
3. Choose a Comfortable Venue for Your Meeting
Your surroundings have an impact: An unfamiliar or uncomfortable environment can generate awkwardness and inhibit the flow of conversation. If you're meeting at your location, set up a pleasant, uncluttered meeting space with professional touches. You may want to invest in custom wall art that incorporates your logo, for example, and be sure you have comfortable chairs at the table. Pay attention to your lighting and technology setup as well.
If you're meeting off-site, select the location carefully. Cafes and restaurants can be popular, but you risk being interrupted by noise and commotion. Investigate coworking spaces — these locations often have rentable conference rooms for businesses that need an area for interruption-free presentations. Personnel at these coworking locations are typically able to answer all your questions and make recommendations based on your needs.
4. Cultivate Confidence During the Meeting
As part of your meeting or presentation, focus on the "in-person" elements that can't be replicated online. A firm handshake sets the right tone for a professional, yet sincere encounter. Smile while you talk, practice "active listening" and make friendly, consistent eye contact. All of these actions build confidence in the client that he or she has made the right decision in working with you.
5. Use Your Talking Points to Strengthen Your Relationship
By the time the meeting has concluded, the client should come away with a sense of your commitment to their success. Your talking points should emphasize the following:
"I will deliver on the promises I make."
"I won't ever waste your time."
"You can expect quality and professionalism in all of our transactions."
In-person interactions take time — something in short supply for most busy business owners. But client relationships depend on building strong connections. Investing your time and attention into this aspect of your business will pay off in customer loyalty down the road.