Yesterday, I had a first time client meeting that included a company CFO, the marketing person that recommended me for the job and a graphic designer handling the logo makeover. As I left the meeting, I had to reflect on the lack of nerves I had during the entire experience. Just a couple of years ago, I would have had serious stress preparing for this meeting and hidden panic when speaking. I would have grilled my colleagues on what I should focus on, what I should wear and how much technical information I should share. Four years earlier, I was in a similar meeting with another big contracting company. I was so uncomfortable but did get through it with an “I’m faking it ’til I make it” motto. I didn’t enjoy the experience and even though I landed the job, I was very insecure and believed deep down I was out of my league.
What’s different now? My confidence level and my preparedness. That’s it. I have more confidence in selling my services and I know my shit. Most importantly, I have processes to back it up.
Here’s how I prepare for meetings and stay confident:
- I get as much discovery done before a meeting as I can. Any new client I meet/work with MUST fill out my project application. If they don’t, it’s a red flag and I don’t work with them. If someone can’t fill out an online form, it’s likely they can’t figure out how to send website content either.
- I do my homework with the information they give me. I review their website, run it through XML-Sitemaps.com, Built With and Whois. I also review the competitors they’ve listed, websites they like and everything they’ve shared. I print sheets and put in a folder with their company name on it. I look prepared.
- I have a plan in mind for their website, but I describe the details in generic, non- techie terms.
- I let them do most of the talking and I listen. I really listen to the customer.
- I leave early for the meeting. Yesterday, I was 40 minutes early to my appointment. I stopped at a coffee shop nearby to review my notes.
- I get to the appointment location 5 minutes early. I once had a client tell me, “if you’re on time, you’re late”. Be early. I thought this was good advice.
- I lay off the coffee. Only one cup that morning so I’m not too amped-up.
- I remind myself I’m good at what I do. I believe I have the experience that to help them reach their web design goals. But if I don’t feel like I’m right for the job, I trust my gut. I never get in over my head.
Being prepared and having a system for meeting preparation will help you have more successful meetings. Your confidence will shine through.
Have you ever been nervous at a client meeting? What has helped you conquer your meeting nerves? What do you do to prepare for client meetings?