Where do you conduct sales meetings? In your home, in your office or in a cafe? Or perhaps you don’t even meet your clients in person and instead use the phone, Skype or FaceTime.There are so many options when it comes to meeting potential clients. Technology has paved the way for easier communication over long distances, between busy schedules and after business hours. It has also allowed us, as business owners, to create our own individual workspaces and schedules, whether that’s in an office, at home or on the road. Today we’ll be discussing the pros and cons of such arrangements as well as how to make the most of each situation to ensure you make a great impression and close the deal.
When You Can’t Meet in Person
I do business with many wedding clients from out of town. They might be in the military and stationed in other states or countries, professionals who have relocated for work, or perhaps they are just trying to find a mutually convenient wedding location for all their family and friends along the East Coast. I do what I can to accommodate their schedules; however, if they are only in town Saturday or Sunday and I’m shooting a wedding, we have to find another solution. Phone calls are a great, easy way to have an initial conversation, but Skype or FaceTime are the next best thing to an in-person meeting. A lot of times clients have already scoured your website and read your reviews so they are armed with most of the information they need to make an informed decision. What they really need now is to determine if your personality is compatible with theirs and you are competent and knowledgeable about your products and services.
Making a Good Impression Through Technology
Over the phone: Sometimes clients guide the conversation. They have list of specific questions and are ready to maximize the time they have with you. Often times they are ill prepared and need some prompting to get to the information they need. I generally introduce myself, make some light chit-chat, and then give the client the opportunity to speak so I can get a sense of their personality. If they seem to not know where to begin. I have a semi-prepared "sales pitch" to start the conversation. This allows them to think of questions they might have while I’m speaking and I invite them to interrupt me at any time.
FaceTime and Skype: While I sometimes am nervous using these platforms, I have to say it’s fantastic to see people’s faces and have the ability to read their body language. Everyone is much more relaxed, the conversation flows more easily and there are fewer awkward moments. That being said, it’s important to choose the right environment and make sure you look presentable. As a photographer I’m probably more detailed about the lighting and background for these conversations than the average person. I try to choose a setting with little to no visual distractions and I’ve been known to rearrange lamps and furniture so I’m well lit and have a flattering appearance. You don’t need to go this far, but having a messy room behind you with pets or children occasionally strolling by and making noise is distracting. Try to find a quiet space, place your device as close to face level as possible and find make sure the light is illuminating you properly. Wear what you would wear to an in-person meeting and don’t forget the bottom half. (Seriously, I once cheated and had on pajama pants then had to get up to get an item. Needless to say it required me to slide sideways out of my seat rather than stand up. Lesson learned.)
There are many options when it comes time to meet face-to-face. Perhaps your initial contact was via one of the virtual methods above, and now they're ready to meet you in person. If you have your own space, great! Just give your clients some options with regard to day and time and voila, you’ve set a meeting. You may need to straighten up and arrange any work samples prior to the appointment, but you’re mostly prepared. On the other hand, if you’re meeting people in a public place, you have the added challenges of finding a location that's suitable and convenient for everyone involved, as well as transporting products and materials to the meeting. Depending on your particular industry this may be tough.
Here's a quick breakdown of how to make the most of your chosen meeting space:
In your office or studio: This is the "creme de la creme" of meeting locations. You have complete control over the environment. Hopefully you’ve chosen the the space with your branding and personality in mind so that it reflects the very essence of your business. I’m not going to lie, I’m envious of anyone that has such a space, as they are able to capitalize on their time and make an amazing impression on their clients. All your sales tools are at hand and on display, you have drinks and snacks at the ready and are completely comfortable and confident in an environment of your making. Maybe I’m over-romanticizing it a bit because it's definitely possible to become too comfortable or to create a setting that is not conducive to sales. Again, try to create a space that is neat, clean and with little distraction. Clear off your desk, put away the coffee mugs and eliminate the piles of papers. You want your client to be comfortable (without falling asleep) and you don’t want to overwhelm them with every product you offer all at once. Make sure the noise level is at a minimum, the temperature is comfortable and there are clear instructions for where to park and enter.
In your home: Hopefully you have a space set up similar to the one mentioned above. It may be smaller or more homey. It also may require that clients walk through other parts of your home to arrive. Treat these spaces with the same care as your office. Make sure there is clear and ample parking, driveways and sidewalks are neatly maintained, and there is a path from the front door to your professional space that is clean and visually pleasing. This doesn’t mean you have to sanitize your home of everything personal; just make sure the fur babies, Lego cities, and piles of laundry are conveniently put away for the duration of the meeting.
In a bookstore, coffee shop, or clients' home: There is a Starbucks on every corner of every city. There are also restaurants, bookstores, lobbies, cafes, parks, and bars. I’m pretty sure I’ve met clients in all of these venues. The challenge is finding one that is clean, convenient, open and located near multiple forms of transportation. For example: When I meet clients in Washington, DC, I try to find places along the metro that are also accessible by car. Keep in mind, also, that not all coffeeshops are created equal. I try to scout locations ahead of time in popular areas. Yes, this requires more of my time and effort (and it’s not always feasible) but it’s worth it to not have to fight for a table or to realize the place isn't open when you need it, forcing you to have to quickly come up with an alternative.
Fortunately, my sales kit is pretty portable. I bring album samples, an iPad, some printed promotional items and a notebook. This all conveniently fits into a rolling briefcase that has traversed rocks, cobblestones, gutters and steps. Of course I cannot bring all my samples, so I store portfolios on my iPad for convenience. If your sales kit is not mostly books, though, you may have to get creative or leave yourself extra time. You might even consider meeting at the clients’ home if it’s not too far so you can unload and set up in a private environment. This brings the added challenge of the unknown but still may be more appealing than a public setting. Asking for a space ahead of time may solve the problem so the clients are prepared for your arrival.
No matter how or where you choose to conduct your sales meetings, make sure the space fits your brand and you feel confident delivering your message. There is no right or wrong way, only the method that fits your personality and brings you business. Now, go get ‘em!