As you grow your business, networking will play an essential role in business development, customer acquisition and sales. The more you network, the better you will become and eventually you will become confident and comfortable growing your connections. Sooner than later you will also lock down a very big meeting — with a new client, strategic partner or vendor.
So, what do you do now?
When you land a 1-on-1 meeting with an industry heavy hitter; someone (or a company) that has the potential to improve your bottom line and take you seriously enough to give you their time, there is no official road map on how to handle it. But don’t worry – you can create one. Here are a few simple, yet detailed, planning steps to help you prepare for your next big meeting:
Step 1 – Do you know what your ideal meeting looks like?
What is your potential meeting supposed to accomplish? What do you want from this person (or company)? The first step towards preparing for any pivotal situation is to assess and visualize exactly how you want the meeting to go. Therefore, in a perfect scenario, what will you get from (and give to) the person(s) you are meeting?
For example, if you are in a pitch meeting — let’s assume that your audience has no background or briefing on what you are pitching them. In this case you need to prepare a condensed version of your pitch which includes a:
1. Transition from chit-chat and small talk to the actual pitch
2. Clear and concise explanation of your concept
3. Confident and enthusiastic delivery
Spend some time thinking about your pitch from their perspective. Then craft your pitch in a way that would make you respond positively if you were on the receiving end. Ultimately, ask yourself one key question, “What’s in it for me?” Next, practice the delivery. You do not want to memorize anything. Instead let the conversation flow naturally and develop key talking points. Be calm, cool and collected; let the information flow.
Step 2 – What do you want them to do—often referred to as your “Call to Action?
During the meeting you will want to qualify yourself. Therefore, after you dive into your personal background (e.g. telling an audience why you are qualified and why they should trust you) and review key data points in your research (which you should have in hand should they ask) you should ultimately lead to a strong close. The best close is a considered your “call to action.”
Don’t beat around the bush with this — grow a pair and ask for what you want. The fact is, when it comes to actually asking for the sale, many people balk. They mistakenly believe that they are now building a relationship, and don’t want to sabotage it by asking for the sale and getting rejected.
I compare this business scenario with dating. For instance, this can be likened to “that” guy who connects with the girl of his dreams, but is too afraid to ask her out. If you never ask, you will never ever get a “yes.” However, never ask for something you don’t think you can deliver on. Remember: Your call to action should either be prefaced by or immediately followed by something powerful.
Step 3 – Bring something to the table.
Here is the harsh reality of business—people are selfish. With that in mind, you need to make sure you are clearly conveying what’s in it for them. For example,
1. Why should they do business with you?
2. What will you be getting out of the deal?
3. Are you trustworthy and credible?
4. Why should they believe in you?
5. What happens if you don’t deliver?
Know the answers to each of these questions and over-deliver. Make it sound as if they are getting more out the deal than you are, and minimize or eliminate their perceived risk at every turn.