Did you know that around 55 million meetings are held weekly in the United States alone? Shocking, right? That’s over 1 billion meetings per year! It’s apparent how professional meetups have been more active after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Client meetings are excellent when facilitated smoothly and disastrous when things go wrong. Let’s discuss strategies you can use to run effective client meetings.
What is a client meeting?
A client meeting is a dedicated time where professionals and clients collaborate to create strong communication and trust. It’s not solely about converting sales but establishing a relationship based on mutual business understanding. These meetings help in setting expectations and forming professional bonds.
Types of client meetings
An effective meeting is crucial in any successful business. Setting clear meeting objectives allows the professional and client to check and align their goals, in-person or virtual meeting.
- Onboarding Meeting: This introductory meeting presents products and services and establishes the expectations, needs, budget, goals, and deadlines of a potential client.
- Presentation Meeting: These proposal meetings are initiated for showcasing (new) ideas, proposals, or products to existing and prospective clients for buy-in and support.
- Consultation Meeting: A dialogue focused on offering expert advice or gathering information to address specific client issues. This meeting is also crucial for building client relationships and trust.
- Review and Feedback Meeting: A meeting to discuss the outcomes of a project or service. Its primary purpose is to gather client insights and gauge satisfaction.
- Progress Update Meeting: A periodic check-in to update the client on a project’s current status or milestones, what was achieved, and the next steps on the agenda.
- Resolution Meeting: The primary goal for this meeting is to clarify misunderstandings, resolve issues, and ensure continued, smooth collaboration.
There are different types of client meetings, which require different preparation and strategies. Your preparations will hugely reflect how your next client meeting will end up.
How to Prepare for a Client Meeting
Preparation is the key to running a client meeting effectively. But before you prepare, you must know what kind of challenge you’re facing to get your gear ready. Here are some client meeting tips to consider before entering another meeting.
Defining meeting goals and outcomes
Before anything else, don’t come on the battlefield unprepared. Ask yourself what you want to achieve in this meeting. Determine which goals are the most critical to address during this particular dialogue.
Once the purpose of the meeting is established, planning everything from there gets a lot easier. This step builds the foundation of every successful meeting.
Do you homework
Research your client (including their industry, needs, and preferences). Learn more about their businesses to understand their needs and align your pitches with their interests.
Doing your homework helps achieve three things: asking the right questions, giving the best answers, and demonstrating your dedication as a proactive partner.
Creating a structured agenda
Crafting a clear meeting agenda beforehand ensures that you and your team are organized, focused, and ready to engage productively. Having a set meeting time and objective helps you deliver your pitch before you run out of time.
Creating an agenda with a solid follow-up plan will show your accountability, engagement, and professionalism to new clients. Remember to share the agenda with the client before the meeting to allow them to prepare as well.
Customizing the meeting approach based on client characteristics
While having a structured agenda is essential, leave some wiggle room for unexpected topics or discussions. Your client may react differently than you’re hoping for or might not be well-versed with the subject.
In this case, tweak your strategy to foster better understanding, build trust, and enhance collaborative dialogue. The more you prepare for these contingencies, the better your responses will be.
How to Run an Effective Client Meeting
A meeting with a client can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially if it’s your first one. It’s important to make preparations prior to the meeting to achieve preferred outcomes. Here’s how to plan and run a massively successful meeting with your client.
Creating a welcoming environment
Begin with a warm, positive tone and ensure the setting is right. Use a well-prepared conference room or a cozy coffee shop, depending on the agenda and the phase of your continued discussions. Minimize distractions and remember, “Dressing well is a form of good manners.”
Michigan State University suggests these tips for success in creating an all-inclusive environment:
- Emphasize mutual respect and cultural sensitivity.
- Allow participants to express themselves.
- Use ACT (Apologize, Correct, and Try Again) when you make a mistake.
Delivering the agenda and objectives
Align the type of meeting with the pre-determined agenda. Remember to prioritize secure communication and exercise caution, especially for confidential conversations. Always follow the set agenda and minimize distractions to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding the meeting objective.
Let your agenda act as a guide, not just an accessory for the meeting. Double-check your notes to ensure all points on the agenda have been given enough attention.
Active listening and asking relevant questions
Engage clients by listening more than speaking. Use open-ended questions to maintain an interactive dialogue and ensure the client feels heard and involved. The more you address client needs, the less confusing the discussion will be. Make the most of your client interactions, and don’t add up to the 11 million daily meetings in the US.
Stick to the agenda when asking questions; you might want to seek input from your team members to ensure their concerns are addressed during the meeting.
Addressing concerns and providing appropriate responses
Foster an environment where attendees feel comfortable voicing their concerns. You could start by asking if there are any concerns or questions regarding the topics on the agenda. When a concern is raised, listen attentively without interruption and show understanding by summarizing the concern before responding.
Answer concerns with clear, straightforward responses. If a concern requires a detailed explanation, consider following up after the meeting to provide more comprehensive information.
Tailoring the discussion to meet client expectations
Customize your discussion to address unique client needs, and avoid generic pitches as much as possible. Every client you’re meeting is different, so mold your approach accordingly.
Before the meeting, gather as much information as possible about the customer’s goals, preferences, and concerns. A pre-meeting survey or a brief discussion can be helpful in understanding what the client hopes to achieve from the meeting. Use terminology and examples relevant to the industry and organization.
Handling Unexpected Situations and Challenges During Client Meetings
“Expect the unexpected” is cliche, but it is very applicable when you need to meet with clients. Even if you meticulously pick up all meeting details, not everything might go to plan. Thoroughly preparing for a customer meeting can help mitigate risks.
- Technical difficulties: In case of connectivity issues, suggest switching to a backup platform or advise on basic troubleshooting steps to ensure a seamless experience.
- Client disagreement: When faced with conflicting opinions, actively listen, acknowledge their viewpoint, present solutions, and work towards an agreeable compromise.
Scope creep: If the discussion veers off the established project scope, diplomatically remind of the agreed-upon parameters and propose a formal change order if necessary.
- Unexpected questions: When confronted with unforeseen queries, admit if you’re unsure, promise to investigate and respond promptly, and offer supplementary resources to meet client requirements.
Post-Client Meeting Actions
Your work as a client advocate doesn’t stop at the end of each meeting. Make sure to invest in post-meeting strategies to kickstart good relationships with customers.
Prepare and coordinate meeting notes
Remembering what was agreed upon after a meeting is a recipe for disaster without proper documentation. What if participants misremember crucial details such as proposed activities and information discussed? How would you prove accountability after the meeting without official records of events?
Preparing and sending out concise meeting notes can help capture the essence of discussions to inform non-attendees and remind attendees of any finalized agreements. Keep the meeting document short and sweet, summarize the major points, and omit any opinions and other irrelevant information.
Agreements only amount to letters and words at the end of the meeting if not implemented properly. If you want to influence actions and build relationship with the client, you must follow up to keep them engaged. Following up can uncover forgotten meeting topics or missed information.
Send a follow-up email to emphasize accountability and eagerness to build business relationships. Don’t forget to summarize key points discussed and mention agreed-upon actions and deadlines. Lastly, express appreciation for their time and insights while reassuring them that things will progress.
Utilize client portals
Use business management tools like client portals for efficient follow-ups, client updates, and next meeting scheduling. Client portals are digital platforms that provide a secure environment for businesses and their clients to collaborate, share documents, and manage projects.
Implementing and utilizing a client portal post-meeting can be a highly effective way to streamline communication and ensure that both parties are aligned on project goals and progress.
Keep your meetings productive by following these tips. Clearly define the purpose of your meeting, stick to your agenda, and be proactive throughout the meeting to build lasting relationships with current and potential clients.
Still trying to figure out where to start? Consider using a client portal like Ahsuite to discuss and schedule meetings. The Ahsuite Starter Plan offers free portals for up to 10 clients. You can also deliver meeting minutes to your clients and team members with the “work journals” feature.