I don’t know whether you would agree that in these days of Skype calls, WebEx etc. personal visits to clients in most businesses have become less frequent. People tend to meet up at trade events during the year and the rest is taken care of electronically.
However, I was recently invited to visit a client in the UK for a face to face meeting and I found it a very good opportunity to fresh my memory on the dos and don’ts of such occasions. So here they are my Top Ten Tips for visiting the client.
- If it has been a long running negotiation (in my case nearly a year) check back in your CRM system, mail folders etc. to refresh your memory on “how we got to here”, what has been sent to the client, their feedback etc. If you have a busy client portfolio the memory can play tricks!
- Do some research on the potential client, in most cases you don’t have to understand the science of their processes ( in this case biotech) but a basic knowledge of their products, history, location and other companies in the same group is a big advantage and may lead to further opportunities.
- In terms of presentations it goes without saying that they should be attractive and work well from a technical point of view. However, they should be tailored to your audience in terms of their level of knowledge. Try to anticipate their questions, it’s very impressive when you get it right almost like a mind reading trick!
- Leave yourself plenty of time for the meeting in terms of travel plans. A lot of time and possibly money has been invested up to this point and the last thing you want is to be looking at your watch 30mins into the meeting wondering if you will make it back to the airport in time.
- Book yourself somewhere comfortable if staying overnight. It doesn’t have to be the Ritz but a sleepless night, lack of hygiene or hunger should not get in the way of a successful meeting. Oh and don’t use being away from home as an excuse to over indulge in the local specialities, it’s a business trip!
- Make sure you have suitable takeaways to reinforce your presentations, company profiles, business cards (don’t forget to pack them!). Remember though it’s a fine line between getting your message across and loading your client down with bumf!
- An agenda is essential even it’s only in your head, of course ask your host in advance for input, check that you understand their requirements and present your preferred solution.
- Leave plenty of time for questions. This type of meeting is often as much an exchange of information as anything else. Try to see the client’s requirements through their eyes, on the other hand even at this stage it is a good idea to think about what the solution you are proposing would mean for you and your colleagues in practical terms.
- A small gift can be a nice gesture especially on international trips especially if it is edible and can be shared! Of course it should be clear that the gift is a token of goodwill and not an attempt at bribery!
- On your return to the office don’t forget to send a follow up thank you mail including all presentations and any other materials requested.