Initial client meetings can be intimidating, especially with first time clients. Do them well, though, and your business will soar. The first meeting is your chance to prove you're an expert with a solid product that your clients can’t live without.
The steps below were painstakingly learned through hundreds of initial client meetings, but with some preparation, you won’t have to learn the hard way. First-meetings should be structured, yet friendly, discussions. You should walk away knowing exactly what you need to do next to win the client’s business, and they should walk away confident that you’re the one best qualified to reduce their pains and bring them the gains they want. Airgram’s sales tools and agenda timer can help you stay focused on the meeting instead of fumbling for your notes.
We’ll cover the main steps to crushing your initial client meeting, how to prepare before the meeting, how to start the meeting and stick to a productive agenda, how to follow up after the meeting to close the deal, mistakes to avoid, and tips for success. Armed with these tools, you’ll soon be entering initial meetings like a pro, with a portfolio of happy first time clients to prove it.
An initial client meeting is the first time that you speak with a client, either in person, on the phone, or over video. It is your chance to find out who they are, how their business works, and if and how they can use your product. An initial client meeting doesn’t always lead to an immediate sale, but the client could need you down the road or recommend you to a colleague. Either way, the first-meeting is the door to future business.
Initial meetings are often informal, and they should end with both parties feeling relaxed and comfortably communicating. Your sales process may require a pitch or a formal presentation at some point, but the first-meeting is generally not the place for it. This doesn’t mean that it’s just a friendly chat, however. You’ll need to be prepared, give and receive correct information, and follow up according to a plan. Preparing yourself beforehand with a new meeting note in Airgram will help you stay focused and worry-free.
How to start the meeting is equally important. Show up early, look your first time client in the eye, and greet them with a friendly handshake. The initial client meeting is all about creating a first impression, which starts the minute the client walks through the door or answers the call.
1. Analyze your meetings
Recall the initial meetings with previous clients and note what was effective or awkward, what you’d like to repeat, and what you wish you could change. If you’ve used Airgram before, review the transcripts of previous meetings. If you haven’t done many client meetings yet, ask a colleague about their experiences.
2. Research the client beforehand
People love to talk about their own projects, and they will instantly warm up when they learn that you already know something about them. Find out about your client’s company and what they’re working on currently.
3. Create a welcome / onboarding package
Your client will need something to take away with them after the initial meeting. A welcoming or onboarding package should be more in-depth than a brochure, but less specific than a proposal. The client needs to remember who you are and exactly what you’re offering, they also need to be able to show it to other people in their organization.
4. Offer something value for free
Treat the initial client meeting like a consultation. Learn about the client's organization or their project, and give some expert advice that will be helpful whether or not they work with you in the future.
5. Prepare for their questions
There are a few commonly asked questions unique to each industry or market. Create a new note in Airgram and use the Product Explanation meeting agenda template in Airgram to brainstorm these questions, share them with your team and ask for their comments and ideas.
6. Prepare your own questions
Write out the information that you need to find out from the client as agenda items in an Airgram note. Copy and paste some of the commonly asked questions from the previous step into this note for easy reference during the meeting. Keep this note open and record the meeting from the same screen.
Practice with an experienced team member or a friend from the industry. Someone who knows the questions and concerns of your typical clients. If no one else is available, practice on your own in front of the mirror.
8. Know your client
If the client lead was a referral, ask the referrer about them and why they may wish to work with you. Try to find out why their organization needs your product or what project they may wish to engage you for. Write this information down in the same Airgram note as your questions.
1. Make scheduling client meetings a snap.
Send the client several choices of meeting times, along with a calendar link to show that you’re organized and easy to work with. Make things easier on yourself by syncing Airgram with your calendar so that you can join the meeting straight from within the app.
2. Pick the right meeting type
Meeting face-to-face is a great way to build rapport with first time clients, so in-person or video meetings are usually preferable. If a phone call is the only option, send some information beforehand so that the client has something to refer to during the call.
3. Qualify inquiries before client meetings onboarding
Find out if the client has a hard deadline and if they do, make them a priority. Add the deadline to your Airgram note as an Action Item. If the client is gathering information, have a fun initial meeting and continue to stay in touch. If their needs are not a match for your product, let them know.
4. Pick a good location
A neutral location outside the office is usually best for in-person meetings. If you’re using video, choose a quiet space with good acoustics.
5. Prepare yourself
Spend a few minutes before the meeting clearing your head and breathing calmly. Don’t worry about what you’re going to say, you should have all of your questions and notes on product info in front of you in the Airgram note as a guide.
6. Be flexible
The client may want to meet you for completely different reasons than what you’ve prepared for. They may be planning on referring you to a friend or working on a new project that you know nothing about. Be ready to alter course and speak to the client’s actual needs.
1. Get comfy
Choose a seat that you like, and keep your bag and phone accessible but not in the way. Take care of things like going to the bathroom, having a drink, and putting your phone on silent. Open up the Airgram note with your questions for the client so that you can record directly in the same note.
2. Let them talk first
You may need to ask some questions to get the client comfortable and speaking freely. No need to get into the detailed questions that you wrote down previously, just ask general questions to get the conversation going. If they are not opened up enough to speak with you, they probably will not be open to signing a contract with you later.
3. Go to your list of questions
Once you’ve established rapport, dive into the questions you prepared earlier. After the meeting is over, you can find their answers in the meeting transcription, and share them with your team.
4. Find out their pains and desired gains
Why is the client interested in your product? Will it help them become more efficient? Save money? Generate revenue? These reasons are their prime motivations for buying, so make sure you understand them and know how to speak to them. Highlight these motivations in the transcript after the meeting.
5. Flush out their concerns
Every client has reasons for not signing with you right away, it’s better to hear them and respond than to be in the dark. Find out what they need to know or do before deciding to work with you. This is when the client will ask those common questions about your product, if you’ve prepared well the answers will come naturally and with authority.
6. Find out if they’re looking at other options
If you are being considered, your competitors are most likely being considered as well. Find out what they like and dislike about the competition and take the opportunity to show why your product is better. Don’t attack the competition, stay friendly and honest.
7. Go into detail
Now that you’ve established rapport and gotten some intel, it’s finally time to explain your product in detail. Speak directly to their needs, and dialogue rather than monologue. The more questions you uncover and answer the better. Speak naturally and refer to the product info you wrote dosn earlier in the Airgram note.
8. Confirm interest
You can’t expect every first time client to be ready to buy at this point, but you can find out what they think of you. Keep the conversation friendly and see if they’re imagining how to incorporate your product into their business. If they’re not, there is probably a hidden objection lurking somewhere.
9. Explain the onboarding process
This will save time in the future, reveal details on the client’s budget and timeline, and teach you about their decision-making process. Don’t be afraid if they ask to make changes to implementation dates or payment options, these are buying questions. Find these questions later in the transcript and highlight them.
10. Keep it friendly to the end
Conduct the initial client meeting with the goal of walking away on good terms. Before leaving, repeat the key points to be sure you’ve understood the client correctly and to let them know that you’re working to help them. Tell them what your next steps will be, and ask if there is anything else you can help out with or any questions you can answer.
1. Follow up with a client meeting recap and thank you email
In most cases, there won’t be a need for formal minutes of the meeting, but a quick recap of the discussion and a mention of the next steps will save time and keep you in the client’s mind. Ask some follow-up questions that show your commitment to moving their business forward.
2. Analyze the meeting
Review the transcript immediately. Highlight any new information received from the client, create new Action Items from the most important information in the transcript. Use comments to note answers to your inquiries. Clean up your notes and share them with the relevant team mates.
3. Deliver on your outlined next steps.
If things are moving quickly, the next step may be your initial proposal. It could also be a more detailed team discussion or sending some promised information. Avoid time-wasting steps just for the sake of staying in communication, each step should be along a straight line that leads directly to a sale.
4. Follow up
Follow-up could be a revised or initial proposal, a presentation, or pricing information. Don’t get lost in the process at this point, focus on providing the client with what they need to know in order to buy. Add any changes or questions from the client as comments and Action Items to your original meeting notes.
5. Ask for their concerns and schedule
If you haven’t learned about the client’s specific needs, schedule, and budget, now is the time to find out. Now that you are further down the road, you can ask for more specific information without seeming pushy. Add any new information to the meeting note and share it with your team.
6. Craft your proposal
If you haven’t already, review all of your notes and transcripts, and put together your best proposal. Make sure you speak to all of the pain points and desired goals that you uncovered in the initial client meeting. This is a first time client so be sure to showcase your company’s strengths and stand out from the competition.
7. Ask for their business
It seems obvious, but don’t forget to ask for the sale. If the client needs more time or information, it’s best that you know. If price is an issue, find out what their price point is. If they are considering other options, find out why and brainstorm with your team about what you can do to compete.
8. Find out their decision making process
If you haven’t signed a contract or received a rejection yet, it’s time to find out why. There could be other decision-makers with their own questions, or the project could be stalled. As other teammates get involved and meetings take place, use Related Notes on Airgram to share your recurring meetings and keep everyone in the loop.
9. Revise your proposal
Having an initial proposal be accepted is great, but that isn’t always the case. If you need to submit a revision, incorporate everything that you’ve learned from the initial client meeting to the present. Refer to your Airgram meeting notes, mention other team members in your comments and ask for their suggestions.
10. Ask for a referral
Whether you win the contract or not, your relationship with the client should be strong enough that you stay in touch and they are happy to recommend you to their colleagues. Move on, note your successes and areas for improvement and go after the next first time client.
1. Trying too hard to make friends.
Show up for a consultation, not a blind date or a night out with friends. Show the client that you are the professional for the job, and fun to work with as a bonus.
2. Opening with a pitch.
The initial client meeting is usually not the best time for a formal proposal or a sales pitch. Instead, learn everything you can about the client, their business, their problems, and their goals.
3. Use aggressive or passive body language.
Everyone has different comfort zones and ways of communicating. Watch their communication style and flow with it. Don’t copy their actions but do let yourself become a comfortable match. Too much touching, talking loudly, looking at the floor, mumbling, or hand-wringing is almost universally undesirable.
4. Wasting their time
Some clients like to take their time and chat, while others prefer to get the facts and get out. Follow their cues. Cover your agenda and ask the client if they’ve learned everything that they wanted to know about you.
5. Leaving without a clear next step
Once the meeting is over, you should be thinking about your proposal, sending requested information, scheduling the next meeting with others in the client’s organization, or some other appropriate next step. Add the next step as an Action Item with a due date on your meeting notes.
6. Being pushy
Asking for a sale before you’ve established trust is a great way to lose an opportunity. If the client hedges about commitment or seems reluctant to provide more information, be inquisitive and show you care about them and their business.
7. Being ill-prepared
Be “sharp as a tack” when coming into an initial client meeting. Know all of the facts and numbers regarding your product by memory. You’re well prepared if you can answer 90% of a new prospect’s questions off the top of your head. Add bulletin points to your Airgram meeting notes as cheat sheet so you dont miss anything important.
8. Being combative
No matter how well you do, there will be some prospects who don’t like your company, your product, or even you. Don’t argue or fight them, find out why they feel that way and educate them if they’re wrong. People don’t like to be argued with, but by showing that you’ve seen and heard them, negative energy can be reversed into positive.
1. Arrive 10 minutes early
Nobody likes to be kept waiting. Use the extra time to find a good seat, calm your nerves, and clear your mind.
2. Be inquisitive
An lot of the work needed to close a sale can be accomplished by asking the right questions and listening well at the initial client meeting. Find out what the client needs, why they need it, when they need it, and who is the decision maker. Find the answers in the Airgram transcript and highlight them, or use them to create new Action Items.
3. Be knowledgeable
Know the industry you work in and the environment the industry operates in. Professionals like to be able to discuss the market, competitors, regulations, and opportunities with one another.
4. Be honest
No product or service is the best at everything. Being honest gives you a chance to explain how you compensate for weaknesses with other strengths.
5. Be understanding
Your clients have their own budgets, schedules, and internal hierarchies to deal with. Let them know that you understand their issues and will work with them as much as possible. If you can help them solve additional pains, your relationship will be that much more valued.
6. Be helpful
You most likely have plenty of information that first time clients will find invaluable. Show that you’re on their side by freely giving some expert advice.
7. Be organized
Printed documents should be kept in their own envelope, and all windows on the computer should be closed except the ones you need. Go over your materials beforehand so that you can provide info without a pause in the natural flow of conversation.
8. Be mindful of their time
Find out how much time your client has. If they have a tight schedule, get straight to the facts. Busy clients will appreciate the respect shown. Set an Agenda Timer to be sure you stick to the schedule.
1. Why initial meeting is important
The initial meeting is your only chance to make a first impression on a client. It’s also your chance to learn the client’s needs and how your product can fulfil them.
2. What is the purpose of initial meeting
First time clients agree to an initial meeting because they think that you and your product may be able to help them. Your purpose is to show that you are a trusted advisor and to discover what bases your product needs to cover in order for them to buy.
3. How to phrase the first meeting with a prospective client
Your client is either in the same industry as you or one that is serviced by your industry, so use phrasing that shows you know the ins and outs of the business. They are looking for a partner who is as or more knowledgeable than them, so speak in a way that shows you are both friendly and an expert.
4. How to prepare for the initial meeting discussion
Find out everything you can about your client and write down what you will need to know from them in order to make a custom proposal. Write down your notes and questions in a new Airgram meeting note before you start. Let the discussion move naturally, gently steering the talk to learn what you need to know.
It can seem like a lot to prepare for, but don’t let the pressure of figuring out how to start the meeting trip you up. As you review these steps, write down your product info, intel on the new client, and questions for the meeting in a new Airgram note.
The process will get easier over time and eventually it will come naturally. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes either, just review what you could have done better and take notes for next time. Meet your first time clients like they are new friends that you can’t wait to learn everything about, cover your agenda professionally, and follow up like the expert that you are.
Ranee has worked in the SaaS industry for nearly ten years. She loves working with, learning from, and helping develop effective leaders and is willing to share her thoughts through words. Outside of work, you can find her dancing, hiking in the mountains, or reading in a cafe.