Meeting clients outside the office is a regular part of many businesses. While these outings’ more casual nature can make them seem inconsequential, they play a crucial role in growing a company. That’s especially true when meeting someone for the first time.
In a matter of seconds, people subconsciously determine trustworthiness, status, leadership potential and more. How someone comes across while entertaining a client can make or break the business relationship, so it’s critical to get these meetings right. Here are eight tips to help.
Find Out What They Enjoy
Leaders should always do some research on their clients before their first meeting. What appeals to one person may be entirely uninteresting to another, so it’s important to match different clients to different activities. The more the client enjoys their time, the better impression they’ll have of the company.
Social media profiles are the ideal place to look for inspiration, as most Facebook and Instagram users use these sites daily. Some people may list their hobbies and interests outright, and if not, their pictures and other activity will hint at them. Look for foods they like, spots they frequent, sports they like and more.
Keep an eye out for dislikes, too. If people post openly about their distaste for something, that opinion is likely strong, so avoid those things.
Play to Your Strengths
In this research process, it’s easy to focus too much on the client’s interests. While it’s important to do something they enjoy, it should also be something that suits both parties. If business leaders are too out of their element, they may come across as insincere or incompatible with the client.
The solution here is to look for common ground. If there are multiple activities or foods the client enjoys, executives should go with one that also overlaps with their interests or knowledge.
This middle ground will help make a deeper connection with the client. It’s also a good opportunity for leaders to showcase their talents or expertise.
Take Them Somewhere Unique
It’s impossible to tell how many of these meetings clients have participated in. That makes it easy to get lost in the crowd, so executives should aim for a unique experience. Take them somewhere they probably haven’t been or do something others wouldn’t think of to stand out.
Clients may be used to meeting at restaurants, but eating on the open seas may be an entirely new experience. There are plenty of recipes you can make on a boat, and renting a yacht for a day can be surprisingly affordable. While the meal and conversation may not be special, the location will stand out, helping the client remember the meeting better than others.
Get Familiar With the Staff
If going to a restaurant or other business, it helps to know the staff ahead of time. Having a go-to location for every meeting makes this easier, as leaders will naturally get to know the workers and owners over time. Once they have a rapport with the people who run the business, it opens the door for more opportunities to impress.
Knowing the manager or host can help reserve the ideal table every time. Being familiar with the servers aids more natural conversation to come across to clients as personable and friendly. The workers and owners at an establishment can be a crucial help for impressing potential partners, so it’s worth it to get to know them.
If workers go through extra trouble to make the meeting special, execs should show their appreciation accordingly. Tipping them well is both the right thing to do in response to their efforts and a good way to build better relationships. It’s also a good, subtle way to impress clients.
Recent surveys show that 74% of employees and consumers prefer to associate with companies that are generous to their communities. While it may seem a small gesture at first, a healthy tip will reflect well on the business a leader represents. Conversely, not tipping well could make potential clients feel a company will be similarly stingy toward them.
Remember that people form first impressions in a few seconds or less. While what people say and do throughout the rest of the meeting helps inform a more accurate picture, it’s important to pay attention to those first seconds. More specifically, pay attention to appearances.
Clothes are an excellent way to make an impression. A Rolex, for example, which can cost as much as $12,000, can impress clients and signify a successful business. The most important thing to communicate through appearances, though, is professionalism.
Dress for the specific activity at hand, but err on the side of overdressing rather than underdressing. Dressing up for the meeting will let the clients know that you take their time and attention seriously.
Pay Attention to Your Client
Of course, no amount of fancy clothes or unique experiences will account for poor manners. Leaders should give clients their full attention, listening carefully to what they say and asking questions to learn more. In addition to providing more helpful information, this helps people feel respected.
Body language is an important part of letting others recognize this attention. Communication is at least 55% nonverbal, whether people consciously think of it or not. Turn towards clients when they’re speaking, look them in the eye, nod, smile and even take notes to communicate attention.
Follow Up Afterward
When the meeting itself is over, professionals still have an opportunity to stand out and impress clients. Sending a follow-up message in the mail or email is an important final step in the process. As simple as this seems, it can remind the client of the time they had and communicates that the company cares about them.
These follow-up messages don’t have to be extensive to be effective. A simple thanks for their time and consideration will suffice. Leaving extra contact details to set up a future appointment and including a small gift can help it be even more memorable, though.
A Good First Impression Goes a Long Way
Entertaining a client is an excellent way to grow a business, but it takes effort. Without proper planning and consideration, it can give people the wrong image of the company. By the same token, a thoughtful, well-executed meeting will leave a lasting positive impression.
These eight tips can help any leader in any business craft and hold the perfect casual meeting. They can then build their company’s reputation and seal valuable new partnerships.