Eight Ways to Master Productive Client Meetings
1. Define the Purpose
We’ve all been to meetings that seem to have no purpose. Attending these types of meetings probably leaves you feeling like you wasted your time. You don’t want your clients to feel that way after leaving one of your meetings, as it could make them take their business elsewhere. That’s why defining a meeting’s purpose is critical to ensuring productivity. Going into a client meeting without a purpose will undoubtedly result in frustration. It may seem silly, but clearly stating the purpose of the meeting at the start will help to set your customer’s expectations and keep you on track. For instance, you could say, “the purpose of today’s meeting is,” or “in today’s meeting we are going to cover.” You’ll be surprised by how much more efficient your meetings are when everyone is on the same page from the start.
2. Create an Agenda
In addition to clearly defining the purpose of your meeting, it’s important to create a detailed agenda of what you’ll cover. Your agenda will help you stay on track, and should also include a strict schedule so that your meetings don’t surpass your allotted time. It’s important to distribute your agenda beforehand to your team members and client, so everyone can be prepared. Having a strict agenda will ensure you never skip over the most critical discussion points, and will lead to more effective collaboration.
3. Do Your Research
There’s nothing worse from a client’s perspective than attending a meeting that is poorly planned. Since your clients will expect for you to be prepared, it’s critical to review your notes from previous meetings to ensure you cover all follow-up items. If you’re meeting with a client for the first time, make sure to research the company thoroughly and pay attention to your client’s mission so you can connect with them on a deeper level. Also, consider investigating the strategies of your client’s competitors, and advise how your products and services could help their organization gain a competitive advantage. Your clients will be impressed by your knowledge of their company, which will help you establish trust and foster a meaningful business relationship.
4. Know How to Handle Distractions
Having an agenda will undoubtedly help you lead your meetings in the right direction; however, even with an agenda, distractions can quickly derail a well-planned meeting. Letting a meeting get off topic could lead to running out of time before you can cover the most critical topics. It can also result in your meeting exceeding your appointment, which could inconvenience your customer. Remember, your clients’ time is valuable to them. Running a long meeting could be interpreted as a lack of concern for their time, money, and business.
An excellent way to guarantee that your meetings stay on track is to schedule them at locations with minimal distractions. Additionally, if you notice that attendees are getting hung up on minute details, take a moment to get your meeting back on track, and write down any questions or concerns attendees have and offer to follow up at the end of the presentation or via phone or email. Knowing how to strategically handle distractions is critical to running a successful client meeting.
5. Understand When to Stop Talking and Listen
A common temptation many people face when conducting client meetings is to run the entire show. Instead, remember to let your clients have the floor. After all, you’re there to assist them. Listening to your clients can provide you with valuable information to create a more prosperous business relationship and solve complex problems. Not giving your clients an opportunity to speak could result in larger problems later on.
6. Leave Time for Questions
Asking for questions at the end of a meeting is vital to making sure your client leaves without any confusion. A strategically planned Q&A session will show your clients that you care about their needs and concerns, and could lead to action items that need to be covered during the next meeting. While a Q&A session is an important element of any meeting, it’s important not to let it run your meeting into overtime. If you notice that your meeting is running over, advise your client that you’ll follow up via email or phone to answer any questions they have.
7. Close Confidently
Don’t underestimate the power of closing a meeting with confidence. You should conclude your meeting with a summary of the most important topics that were discussed, as well as decisions that were made and outstanding tasks. When your client leaves the meeting, they shouldn’t have any questions pertaining to the actions that need to be completed before your next meeting.
8. Conduct Proper Follow-Up
Your work doesn’t stop after your meeting is over. Following up with your client is critical to ensuring all parties are aware of what was discussed during the meeting, what decisions were made, and what the action items are. Sending written meeting minutes will also help to remind everyone what the next steps are, and maintains a written record of what you covered with your client. You should aim to complete your follow-up within 24 hours of holding your meeting.
Running productive client meetings is not an impossible task; however, doing so won’t be achieved without effort and planning. Whether you’re conducting a meeting with just a few people or planning an extensive meeting with an entire organization, you should put the same amount of effort into the preparation. Now that we’ve provided you with eight ways to lead more productive client meetings, put your skills into action and make your next meeting your best one yet!
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