First, it's important to understand why to have a one-on-one meeting.
If you've been referred or met someone at an event that you consider a prospect (they told you that they're interested in doing business with you or hiring you), then that's probably a good reason for you to meet with them.
You met someone at a networking meeting and you "clicked". While clicking, you had a great conversation and you think there are ways you can refer each other more business.
You're a potential client for them.
That's about it. Otherwise, there may not be a good reason to meet. Of course, you have to decide whether a face-to-face or phone meeting makes the most sense. I know tons of people that have coffee meetings just for the sake of having coffee meetings. I've had my share.
But if it doesn't make sense to meet, then don't meet!
Of course, if there are more people that are part of the meeting (a party of four rather than one-on-one), it changes the dynamic of the meeting but shouldn't change the objective.
Anyway, here are some ways to get the most out of a meeting if you're a financial advisor or other type of sales producer and the meeting has resulted from your awesome networking efforts.
Confirm the Meeting
Basic, basic, but we've all been to meetings where there was a mix up. This happened to me a couple of weeks ago in a city I was visiting. I was slated to meet someone on the final leg of my trip and we had two different times in our calendar. It was a simple mix up that was corrected but if I had traveled for that one meeting alone, it would have been a big blunder. A best practice is to confirm all meetings the day before with a quick email insuring you're all on the same page. You can do this yourself or it might be best served to have an assistant handle. It takes seconds but can save you hours in travel and give you peace of mind.
Be Sensitive About Time
Especially if the person you're meeting is in a better position to help you than you are to help them. At the beginning of the meeting, ask how much time they may have (and/or how much time you have) just so the expectation is set. It's important to make the best use of both of your time and to show that you have respect for it.
Be Clear About the Objective
What is the purpose of the meeting? Is it to potentially exchange referrals? Hopefully, this is understood as you're setting up the meeting but it's important to set the tone at the beginning just the same. In some cases, the meeting is actually one-sided because one person is in a much better position to help the other. If that's true, be open about that and promise to be a resource to the other person however you can. But be clear about why you're meeting so the dynamic doesn't become confusing or awkward.
About them! How did you get involved in your business? What did you do prior to your current work? What are some of your goals? What are some of your greatest accomplishments? What are your best marketing approaches? What other networking organizations do you belong to? What are some of your outside interests? How do you get your business? What makes you different from your competitors? Who are your best clients? Ask the type of questions you would like asked of you. Often, the response you get to questions like these (after they're answered) is a "How about yourself?" So be prepared with a response!
Discuss Your Business
Have you ever been in a meeting and the other person goes on and on about their business in such great detail that you need to be in their profession to understand? Don't be that guy! Nobody loves your business more than you do so take mercy on those you meet and simply hit the high notes. Come from a place of what rather than a place of how - talk about what you do, not how you do it. If it's appropriate to get into greater detail, so be it, but the last thing you want to do is overwhelm someone with details they don't need. It won't make for a good connection.
Be Specific About Requests
The devil is in the details when you're discussing your best clients, prospects, and referral sources. This is when you want to get into the nitty gritty. Be very specific when you talk about those you want to meet. Mention industry, profession, market segment, company names, people's names, titles, and geography. The more specific you are, the more likely you are to create a trigger that might jog someone into saying, "Wait a minute! I know who you should meet!" Of course, ask about the specifics of their business so you can be in the best position to help them right back.
Write down all the broken promises (kidding!) you're making right there at the meeting. Certainly, you want to make promises if appropriate about what your next steps might be, introductions you might make on their behalf, information you might provide, and when you'll reconnect by phone or whatever. Be true to your word and writing information down will give the impression that you are. It's best to handle all commitments as soon as possible (next 24 hours?) as it will be off your plate but more importantly, you'll give the impression that your meeting and ultimately the relationship was a top priority. Hopefully, it was. Also, as you exchange commitments and develop a relationship, collaborate on the best way to stay in touch so you can continue to benefit one another. Again, if appropriate. There are some great relationships I've developed over the years and I have it in my calendar to contact them every month, some every three months. Every situation varies so collaborate on guidelines that work best for all parties.
Business relationships don't typically happen overnight. They require constant follow up, give and take, and effort. Yes, work! Notice that the word "work" is in the word "network."
But that's all part of the fun!
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