How I Approach First Meetings

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As everyone gets back into the “normal” routine post-holiday season – back to school, back to work, back to reality – I hope you’ve enjoyed an active sales week? Hopefully, you’ve either been attending some meetings you wisely booked back in July, or you’ve had some good prospecting sessions?

My week has been full of helping clients achieve amazing sales results. They are back from holiday’s and are DRIVEN to win new business in the next few months.

  • Monday was with the lovely Sue Rees, a lady who helps the CEO’s of Pharmaceutical companies bring the right executive resource they need to grow;
  • Tuesday and Wednesday was with Stuart Lane and his brilliant team at Finsa who provide the platform to help everyday people all over the world trade the financial markets;
  • Thursday was with the amazing Rebecca Godfrey who is an incredible Leadership consultant who is changing the way big science companies achieve change and results with their teams; and then
  • Friday was with the fantastic Ben Kirk and Marcus Holmes from Inspired Schools who are inspiring schools all over the UK to improve children’s activity levels and behaviour.

So a manic week but a brilliant week. This is why I love what I do. Such a diverse group of companies and industries but the concepts of sales don’t change. They are the same regardless of what you do or sell.

Meet Me in the Middle

I had an excellent question from a subscriber to my YouTube channel this week. He always finds first meetings with a new prospect difficult, and wanted to know if I had any advice to make this critical step in the sales process go as smoothly as possible? I wrote a more in-depth answer to this for readers of my Saturday Sales email – subscribe below if you haven’t already – but here’s a summary of key points.

Getting to Know You

First impressions are so important, there are several things that you can do to give you the best chance of having a successful initial meeting. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be looking to close some business here. Your goal is much more likely to be to build rapport, learn more about the prospects requirements, and set up further meetings where you can sell.

But just because you’re not closing, doesn’t mean this is a “no risk” encounter – get off on the wrong foot, and you can easily fall at the first hurdle. That’s why you need to go into a first meeting having done the right preparation. This will give you a lot of confidence – and that’s the key to making you and your service attractive to new clients.

Do Your Research

The first thing to do is to make sure that your prospecting has been thorough on this potential client. It really is true that proper prior preparation prevents… well, you know the rest!

I like to build a prospect outline or profile that I can refer to. Here is a template you can download and use for your own clients. You might recognise the bloke in the template.

Don’t cut corners – unless you’ve completed all the fields in the outline you’re not ready to meet. Spend some time really trying to understand more about the person/people you are meeting. Be prepared.

Once you have all this information, you will have sufficient knowledge to talk about their business confidently and to be able to engage in some professional small talk about them personally. Having these two factors gives you “ice breakers” that aren’t just idle chat – they’ll help your prospect to see that you have taken the time to find out about them. You’re already setting yourself apart from most of the other salespeople they will have encountered.

Ok, so you’re in the door. Where to begin? The first thing to remember is that the number one goal of this initial meeting is to sell yourself, not any products. What do I mean by that? You need to build rapport and build a relationship with this prospect before you can even think about going anywhere near an order form.

Look and Smell Good

The first thing to be aware of is appearance and smell. Whether we like it or not, people judge each other very quickly by what they can see. What many people don’t realise is that our sense of smell is just as potent when assessing new people. As well as making sure you don’t have any unpleasant body odour, please don’t go overboard with perfumes, aftershaves or body sprays. These can be just as overpowering and off-putting as bad smells. Less is more, just make sure you smell pleasant.

Please also check your appearance. If your prospect’s workplace is very formal, then wear full business attire. If it a dress-down organisation, wear smart business casual. Give yourself a quick check in the mirror and make sure you haven’t spilled your lunch down your tie, or your hair doesn’t look like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards – not something I need to worry about, personally!

Top tip if you’re out in the field: carry a spare shirt and tie or blouse with you in the car just in case something gets messed up earlier in the day. Also, having one of those quick shine shoe cleaning pads in your glove box can be very useful to smarten up your shoes quickly.

Be Confident But Not Brash

When you first introduce yourself to your prospect, remember to smile, be courteous and engage with them confidently. Don’t be overbearing or loud, but don’t be timid and too reserved either. Aim for pleasant positivity.

Build Rapport Quickly

This is often referred to as “breaking the ice”. Rise above your competition and avoid generic pleasantries. Use your prospect knowledge to ask questions about them personally – if you can find you have something in common, even better.

How about: “I see you used to work for X Ltd. What prompted your move here?” Or, “I saw from your profile that you went to Uni in Southampton – I lived there for 10 years! What did you think of the place while you were there?”

These kinds of questions immediately start to place you in the frame of “acquaintance” rather than “business stranger” because you’re sharing personal information about each other.

Be Professional

Once you’ve built this initial rapport, it’s time to show your professionalism. Start by confirming the pre-agreed time limit and outline the agenda for the meeting. Check that the prospect is still able to give you that time and confirm what it is that they are looking to get from the meeting.

A simple way to do this could be to say: “I really appreciate you giving us this 30 minutes, James. What would be the key things that you want me to cover to make sure you get the most from the meeting?” As well as further confirming that you care about the prospect and want to help them, it also gives you a focus on the areas you need to probe and concentrate on.

Body Language

Throughout the meeting, be conscious of your body language and tone of voice. Make sure you come across as humble and agreeable, and not arrogant. Sit in an open posture, nod in agreement, avoid interrupting or speaking over your prospect. Don’t forget to smile! This will let them see that you are interested in them and what they have to say.

Listen Actively

Ask sensible questions and really listen to the answers. This can be harder than some salespeople think! Don’t assume you understand what their concerns are. If they raise a business issue that they currently have, respond to it along the lines of: “I’m sorry to hear that. What impact is that having on you?” Remember, you’re here to help solve problems – so make sure you understand what those are.

Use a nice professional looking notebook and a nice pen that the dog hasn’t chewed. Taking notes helps to show you really are interested in the prospect and it helps you summarise actions at the end of the meeting.

Outline Next Steps

Finally, before you leave the meeting, make sure that you set clear expectations for how you will follow up.

If the meeting didn’t go positively, make sure that you still make a professional and courteous follow-up email or call. Remember, just because this prospect isn’t ready to buy now, doesn’t mean they won’t be in a few months. Don’t burn any bridges!

If the meeting went well and you felt that you had built good rapport, try and get another face-to-face meeting in the diary before you leave – or at least a confirmed time for a follow-up call. Although I said you shouldn’t be looking to close a deal at this meeting, you should be looking to close on another appointment!

If the prospect doesn’t want to agree to another meeting, there could be a reason for that. Take a look at this video to check that the meeting went as well as you thought it did?

If you found these tips useful, be sure to watch my video “How to Ensure your First Prospect Meeting is a Success” –

Let the Good Times Roll

So there you go, just a few tips to try and maximise your success at a first meeting. What are the things that you find most challenging about meeting new prospects? Can you think of any examples of where things went wrong, and analyse why? Where you had prospects turn into clients, can you break down the key reasons they bought from you?

I always enjoy hearing about your experiences and getting your questions, too. If there’s anything you want to ask or any requests for topics for my YouTube videos or these Saturday Sales emails, don’t forget you can contact me by email via or through any of the social networks: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or YouTube – just search for ‘jameswhitesales’.

For more tips and in-depth information about sales and prospecting delivered weekly, sign up for my Saturday Sales emails here.

I hope your first meetings this week all go brilliantly. But if they don’t, don’t forget to look back and see if there was anything you could have done differently to build more rapport.



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