Published: Wednesday 28th August 2013

Just to get your New Business meeting into the diary in the first place will have involved weeks and months of hard work – getting your product offering right, writing case histories and gathering client testimonials. Then you will have spent time and energy marketing this to your audience, using as many different marketing channels as relevant and then either via a referral, word of mouth or via strategic prospecting you, at last (probably after a few cancellations), have that meeting in the diary.

So, what can you do to ensure that not a single second of that hour is wasted?

Firstly, you need to do your research – there is now a myriad of tools that you can use to gather information, unlike the good old days when you had to send off for annual reports and accounts! The obvious place to start is the company’s website but you can also find them on LinkedIn, Twitter and all the other social media platforms as well as reading any blogs.

It is also a good idea to follow both the individual as well as the company to see what you can glean about the person you are meeting. For example, what does their biography on Twitter reveal about them? If it says “I like things either hot or cold” does that mean they are going to be a black or white person? If so, you can tailor your presentation to fit. If they are passionate about grammar, get a wordsmith onto the presentation document! What groups do they belong to on LinkedIn, where have they worked before and how long did they stay?

Do some work on their competitors too, as this is always useful information and information that people are hungry to have, but often don’t have the time to invest in gathering.

You can also get clues from any emails they have sent and language they may have used in their written or verbal communication. You can find out whether they are a visual, auditory or kinaesthetic person. For example, if they say “I hear what you are saying..” the signs are that they like to absorb information via the ear. You can then use their preferred communication method in your meeting.

What time of day is the meeting? If it’s early on then they will definitely need tea and coffee but also may not have had time for breakfast. If it’s lunchtime – do offer them something to eat. These may seem like obvious things but it is amazing how many people don’t these days and it is so welcome when you are offered refreshments.

Another no brainer – make sure reception are waiting for their arrival. They will need to know their name and company and what time they are expected. How much nicer is it for the person on reception to greet you by your name rather than demanding you fill in details for a security badge?

Give some thought to the numbers in the room. How many people will be attending from their side? Make sure that you don’t overwhelm them. Try to even up on the gender front too and don’t have it so that the person you are presenting to is in between two of the presenters – thereby having to do a side to side movement – not good for the neck!

If you are going to their offices, make sure you arrive in good time – not too early as that can be equally annoying, but allow yourself 15 minutes for a bathroom check and to acclimatise. Please do read their information in reception rather than check your phone!

After a few pleasantries (not too many) and once the meeting is underway it is time to practice the “two ears, one mouth ratio” for listening. Really be present and take in the information you are given when you ask those “high-gain” questions.

Make use of mirroring techniques – to match and mirror tone, language and body language.
And make sure you end with an effective “next-step plan” to ensure movement of this opportunity along the pipeline with the agreed action, person and date against it.

Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?! Is it possible to do all this in an hour, and come across as genuine, natural and really listening and being interested in them and understanding all their issues? Possibly not…., but a good New Business person probably does a fair amount without even realising, and should be able to get a feel of what is “keeping them up at night”.

Last but not least, follow up! If you promised them something, make sure you deliver. It is always a good idea to get back in touch sooner rather than later, while the meeting is still fresh in both your minds.