As a consultant, you’re going to go to a lot of meetings, so it’s vital you get them right. However, due to the flexible nature of consulting, there is no cut and dry process.
No matter the aim, whether it’s to impress a prospect or to renew business with an existing client, there’s no standard method that every single consultant meticulously follows within these meetings. This makes it easy to question whether you’re doing the right things.
You essentially want to ensure you’re creating a successful brand that will form the foundations of your career, which will in turn help you gain clients in the future and grow your business.
So how can you make certain that your client meetings go well?
Clients want consultants who are clearly prepared and appear to have a wide knowledge of their industry, so it’s all about doing your homework before these meetings! In this article, we provide 5 ways you can prepare for every client meeting so you can land clients and grow your consulting business.
1. Figure out the basics
When meeting with a prospect or client, it’s a given that you need to be doing a basic level of research to ensure you can appear confident and prepared.
That means researching the business, who you’re speaking with, the industry and their target market. Visiting their company website is the first step, but try and make sure you get time to read some of the industry publications that are related to the client so you know the latest industry news. Doing this will not only show you’re well prepared, but will also impress the client.
Remember to not neglect doing research into the latest consulting news too. You should always try and stay on top of the latest trends. Read reports from the big consulting firms. You could find a new perspective on an issue the client is experiencing and offer a better solution.
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Stay on track
However, while it’s important to do research, you don’t want to mention too many of the specific insights you found — no one likes a show-off. Also, be confident in your sources, not everything you read online is true, so if you refer to information you’ve found and it ends up being false, it looks like you’ve done sloppy research!
2. Think about the outcome of the meeting
Before you go into the meeting, have some clear outcomes in mind. What do you hope to achieve by the end of it? Figure out a sensible way to structure it and what you want to discuss in order to meet those goals.
You can do this by using the research you’ve done and thinking about the pain points that the prospect or client might have (or that they’ve previously mentioned). For example, they might be struggling with digital transformation within their everyday operations. Think about how this can be tackled within the meeting so you can come out of it with some productive actions.
A great way to approach this is to put yourself in the client’s shoes. You need to think about what they might want from you as an external consultant. However, this shouldn’t force the meeting to stick to a rigid structure. The client may want to discuss a particular topic that you hadn’t anticipated and you need to leave time for that. You want to allow for enough flexibility that the client feels they were able to discuss everything they needed to with you.
3. Come prepared with questions for the client
Doing your research is vital, but you shouldn’t assume you know exactly what the client wants. That’s why you need to come prepared with questions to ask the client to help you learn more about them, such as their industry, the challenges they’re facing and what their priorities are — to name a few things. And the best way to find out all of this is to ask questions. But the right questions.
Asking the right questions will allow you to deliver your expertise without looking like a know-it-all. You’ll be trying to glean the right information from the client, so that you can then suggest solutions and strategies. Asking the right things will also help you to communicate better with the client — which is vital throughout the engagement, from the initial meeting to your ongoing consultations — but it will also help you figure out exactly what they want and how you can deliver that.
Absorb as much information as possible by taking notes. This provides the added benefit of showing the client you’re engaged and invested in their growth.
Ask the right questions and remember to think about the outcomes of the meeting, so you can deliver the most value to the client in the long run.
4. Quiet confidence and preparation is key
Before going into meetings, you should be thinking about the way you come across to the client. Do you appear confident? If you appear stressed or ruffled, it won’t inspire confidence in your abilities and if it’s a prospect meeting, they may be less likely to hire you.
Before the meeting, make sure you’re relaxed. Glance over your notes and ensure you have the goals you want to achieve in mind. You want to seem quietly confident — try not to appear flustered or nervous. Also, remember not to seem too keen! You don’t want to come across as desperate and scare off a prospect.
Ways that you can ensure you’re more relaxed is to come prepared. Bring what you need to the meeting, such as any (relevant) notes you’ve made, a notepad and pen and your laptop/tablet (with any useful websites preloaded, such as their website or specific industry reports that you have identified).
If this is a meeting with a prospect that you’re hoping will hire you, then this meeting is essentially an interview. The client wants to know why you’re worth hiring, so they’re going to ask you questions about why you’re best suited for the project. You need to consider questions they might want to ask you and be ready to answer them confidently and succinctly.
5. Follow up quickly and stand out from the competition
So, you’ve made a good impression and smashed the meeting, but now what?
Now is the time to follow up. You’ve already demonstrated your value in-person, but you need the client or prospect to go away feeling confident in your abilities and to show that you care about their growth.
Mention within the meeting that you’re going to follow up — it shows them you’re always thinking one step ahead. At the end of the meeting, mention any information that you want to send to them that you think could be helpful. This also means you have a natural reason to contact them again, making it easier to establish further contact in the future.
How should you follow up?
Your follow up doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be a simple email. Just ensure you’re still adding value, such as recommendations, resources that could help them or just extending on points you made in the meeting.
You can even follow up over business-focused social media platforms like LinkedIn. A simple message is less formal and, if it was a casual first meeting, might take the pressure off, meaning they’re more likely to respond to you. LinkedIn also allows you more flexibility: you can leave comments, or write your own blog posts that are designed to target your prospect’s or existing client’s pain points that you can direct them to.
Whichever way you decide to follow up, just make sure you’re continuously adding value and demonstrating your worth as a consultant.
Never get complacent!
If the meeting was with a prospect and you land the job, be prepared to continue implementing these strategies in all your future meetings and consultations. And no matter the stage you’re at with a prospect or existing client, you should always be following these steps.
You want to continuously show your capabilities to the client and ensure that they want to continue to hire you and recommend you to others. After all, if you no longer demonstrate that your knowledge and skills are useful to them, why would they keep working with you?
These are just some ways successful consultants prepare for every client meeting, but it doesn’t end there. The more you learn about a client, the more questions you’ll have going forward, so you need to ensure you’re prepared and ready for anything that’s thrown at you. Continue to expand your knowledge so you can stay ahead of your competitors and ensure you’re delivering as much value as possible to your clients.
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