business consultancy in the uk

The BD series

Running a first meeting – part one – six steps to high impact preparation for selling

In the last article we looked at the power of networking and the importance of follow-up.

It would be very unlikely for your first follow-up to result in a meeting – BD is a slow-burn – but persistence and staying in the client’s mind as they move through the buying cycle will mean that you are front of brain when an issue arises. Suddenly, you find yourself heading for a first sales meeting.

No doubt you will feel that kick of satisfaction. You know there is an opportunity. The client wants to meet you and hear about you. So what could go wrong? Unfortunately, this is where many lawyers start to lose ground through the following:

  • Lack of preparation – googling the client on your phone as you go to their office in a taxi is too little too late
  • Creating a bank of assumptions about what the client wants and needs – you are guaranteed to miss something
  • Focusing on what you are going to say – this leads you into talking and not consulting

So what would a great rainmaker do when preparing to meet a potential client?

Step one – Prepare thoroughly

When you walk into a meeting you should know as much as possible about:

  • The client’s business or situation
  • The client as a person – look at LinkedIn and google
  • The client’s role – their likely objectives, challenges and opportunities. You should also go back into networking mode and think about who in your network might be a good contact for them.
  • If a business – their products, services, structure, key executives, latest news
  • If a business – the sector, the competition, any relevant regulation, economic impacts, share value and share history for the past 12 months

If you are short of time – delegate some of this to a junior. It is great learning. From this research create a list of intelligent questions. You may not use them all – but you have a bank of conversation starters which will make you look both intelligent and knowledgeable.

Step two – create your objectives and agenda

You need to be focused and in control – but not controlling. Start by making a simple list in three parts.

  1. The information you want to gain in the meeting. This covers all you want to know about the client and their business
  2. The information and points you want to get across about your business and service. This should cover not just the features of your proposition but also the value it brings to your clients.
  3. Thirdly write down what you want them to think and know about you. Write the three key attributes you want them saying about you. This should come from your personal brand.

With lists created, shape your agenda. Make it a logical flow and designed to ensure you impart all the client needs to hear in order to want to engage.

Step three – gather your stories

The quickest way to lose a sales opportunity is to start listing the features of your proposition. So if you walk in and start reciting the features of your firm or service you will soon be shown the door. However, if you have stories which illustrate value of your business and working with you then you will remain interesting and relevant. But thinking these up on the hoof is tough. So spend time gathering good stories of how you have helped, made a difference, driven success. Keep these stories short and pithy. You may be interested in the documents you produced, but the listener is only interested in the situation, the action you took and the result. Aim at each story being told in no more than five, short sentences.

Step four – Shift your mind set

It is all too easy to get a little apprehensive before a first meeting. This is usually because you start to put huge pressure on yourself to get an instruction. Also, a sales meeting feels like an interview in which you will be judged. It is important to change your thinking here. If you walk in like a desperate salesperson you will be exiting very quickly. Instead, tell yourself:

  • You are going to help. Remember the advice of Zig Ziglar – ‘Stop selling, start helping’
  • You are going to have an interesting conversation
  • Your mission is to walk away with them wanting more information. If you achieve an instant instruction, you are on a bonus

Step five – Impress from the get-go

Racing into a client’s premises in a hot sweat and with your trainers still on is not a good start. Never underestimate the power of the PA who greets you. Arrive on time, arrive with good shoes, arrive with a case with papers in order. In addition have with you:

  • Relevant marketing collateral
  • Business cards
  • The CVs of colleagues who have relevant experience for the business

Think this is obvious? Our research with clients tell us that over 60% of lawyers arrive at client premises ‘looking unprepared’. Remember you have 40 seconds to make a good impression – walking in like a shambles steals this opportunity.

Step six – Get into rapport before you get into business

Step Six relates to all before you get into business.

Please do not fall into the classic mistake of deep diving into ‘selling.’ Be yourself and be friendly. Most cultures appreciate a little small talk. Use open questions to get the client talking about themselves. Research shows us that if you show interest in them, they will think you are more interesting.  

Use your LinkedIn and Google research to create questions and have no fear of telling someone you have looked at their profile. The vast majority of people are flattered. They are not going to think you are strange for reading profile information which they loaded up for people to read! The best conversations come from common ground – so if you can connect to something in their profile e.g. maybe a former employee of theirs was a client of yours or you share an interest – start there.

Achieve this and you are ready to move to the second part of the meeting – engaging and hooking the client through consultative discussion. Not hard selling. We will look at this in the next article. Running a first meeting – Consultative Selling.