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For most organizations, meeting with clients is one of the most valuable ways they can spend their time. Nothing helps you build strong relationships and ensure customer success like a little face-to-face time.
Now, you can schedule most customer meetings for a specific purpose, such as product training, service discussion, or a quarterly business review. But, each session is also an opportunity to build trust, gain evangelists, and identify ways to grow your customer base.
Your goal should be to move meetings with your clients from being merely tactical (eg, ‘Sign up with the client on this project’) to strategic (eg, ‘Control this project and ensure success through customer’s long-term’).
To accomplish all of your goals at once, you’ll need to expand the way you think about meeting with your clients in general.
Let’s explore ways you can improve your focus in the sections below.
The most common pitfall in client meetings is making the meeting solely about your business, when it should be solely about the client.
Put another way, if your meeting is a story, your customer is the hero.
However, very often you hear things like “We’d like to show you this new feature we created.” By placing any updates this way, you make your company the hero, not your customer. Instead, try: “We’ve released a new feature that streamlines your workflow. I’d like to show it to you and get your feedback. Sound good?”
This reframing does a few things. One, you talk about a benefit in terms of how it will affect your customer, which in this case is the optimization of their workflow. Second, it prompts a conversation by asking for feedback. This is attractive to the customer because it ensures that their voice is heard and appreciated. It’s also helpful for you, the provider, as customer feedback is valuable and you’re constantly collecting it.
Lastly, by asking permission to present a topic, you reinforce the notion that this is your client’s time and they control it. So for every topic you talk about, first make sure you’ve framed it in the context of what’s in it for them.
However, before you can host a meeting, you’ll need to create an agenda. This document will guide your meeting and keep the conversation on track.
Let’s discuss some ways to create this resource in the next section.
Client meeting agenda
Every good meeting starts with a well thought out agenda. That’s because your agenda is your plan and your roadmap. When creating your agenda, start by asking this question: “Why did the client agree to this meeting in the first place?”
Yes, you have your goals. You want to help your clients succeed, nurture relationships, identify churn risks, and uncover opportunities for growth. But more importantly, what do they hope to accomplish by spending time with you?
Here are some of the best practices to keep in mind when planning your client meeting.
1. Focus on the customer’s objective.
Whatever your goal is, make it a central item on the agenda. Next, keep your agenda concise when possible. When organizing your list, start with general topics and move on to more specific ones.
2. Don’t overload your meeting.
Plan your time so that you are likely to finish sooner, even if it means doing less. If you need to cover more topics than you have time, be sure to send instructions before the meeting to speed things up. Such instructions might say, “Please look at the attached report and be prepared for questions, as we only have about 15 minutes for this discussion.”
3. Use action-oriented agenda items.
Especially questions, whenever possible. Another pitfall is the use of boring or vague agenda items. For example, instead of “Training,” try “Where are the current training gaps?” And, instead of “Updates”, even a brief “What’s new?” it is much more attractive.
4. Share your meeting agenda at least one day in advance.
Or better yet, share at least a draft of the agenda when you request the meeting. When appropriate, you can ask your clients to contribute to the meeting plan as well. Ask them what they would like to cover and be sure to put it on the agenda.
Now that you’ve prepared for your client meeting, it’s time for a big session.
Best Practices for Client Meetings
You should think of your client meetings as a mini event. Time in front of clients is incredibly valuable, but that’s easy to forget because a meeting is something we get for free. But when you think about the impact these meetings have on your business, you may realize that you’d happily pay money to hold them.
So, pretend you paid for the time and approach your client meetings with the same attention you might a television producer. Put your effort, energy and budget into having a high quality session and optimizing every minute you have.
Other than that, here are some best practices to keep in mind when running a client meeting.
1. Avoid avoidable delays.
Test your conference call platform beforehand. If the video tools require an installation, make it clear in the meeting invitation. Connect your laptop to the projector and make sure it works. Do whatever it takes to ensure that the entire length of the meeting is spent working and not solving avoidable problems.
2. Set the pace of the conversation.
If you’re leading your client meeting, you may need to do a lot of talking. To keep your customers engaged, constantly engage with them by asking them lots of questions. If more than a minute goes by where you haven’t stopped talking, your customer may get bored and tune out.
3. Involve all participants.
Introduce everyone, not just the most senior manager. For example, make eye contact with a person when making a point. Then turn to someone else when you make the next point. If you are meeting remotely, consider addressing specific people by name in the same way.
4. Mark agenda items if necessary.
When you have an agenda and you don’t have a lot of time, you may feel like you need to keep the conversation moving. But, when the customer speaks, really stop and listen. Listening is one of the best ways to build a relationship with your customer and can provide critical details that will make them more successful (and your business more successful).
Chances are, if you’re talking, it’s about something more important than what you have planned. If listening means you can’t adequately address something on the agenda, that’s fine. Agree to follow up by email or schedule another meeting.
5. Close confirming the following steps.
A good structure for closing a meeting is to recap what was discussed, assign responsibilities for upcoming tasks, and set timelines if you have them. Doing so shows that you value the decisions of the meeting and that you are ready to control the outcome in the future.
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6. End on a high note.
Be enthusiastic about your progress and show your enthusiasm for your bright future with the client. This will make them eager to meet you again.
But, before they meet with you the next time, you should reach out in advance to follow up on the first meeting you had. Not sure how? Take a look at the tips below to learn how to follow up better after a client meeting.
Client meeting follow-up actions
On the day of the meeting, share your notes with your client via email. Base your notes on the agenda, fill it out with a little more background information, and include decisions and next steps.
Also, link or attach any documents or pages you discussed during the meeting. For the next steps, indicate who is responsible and, if possible, set a deadline. You can do this formally in your notes or include it as part of a personal message, for example, “Great meeting today. Justin will be in touch with you on Friday to schedule the on-site meeting with his team.”
If appropriate, you can also use these notes to build excitement for your next meeting. You may want to check the status of various challenges and most likely you will want to revisit all action items that came up from the last meeting, unless they are resolved a long time ago and are no longer relevant.
By mentioning the success of the last meeting and showing the impact the session had on your overall relationship, you are demonstrating an essential pattern to your client: When you meet with us, things get done.
Now that you’re familiar with the art of the client meeting, you’re ready to plan, organize, and follow up with your next client. But before you start, save yourself some time by creating your agenda using this nifty template.
Client Meeting Agenda Template
There are many different types of client meetings, so no one template will work for everyone. Still, take a look at the framework below and you’ll see that many of the best practices we listed above are built right in.
Template: Client Meeting Agenda
- Welcome the customer, thank him for his time.
- Summarize 1-5 updates here on the agenda with 1-3 bullet points each
- Include high-level deadlines/milestones on the agenda
Training or product updates
- Add any notes on training or product updates here.
- Include the name of the person responsible, the task, and the due date.
Summarize and commit
- End by reiterating the action items above. Call back to the original goal of the meeting to show how together you have achieved the goal.
- At the bottom of your agenda, include internal notes that should be shared only with your team.
- Assess constructive and productive learning moments in your meeting.
Risks and opportunities
- Concerns and risks
- Additional sales opportunities