Growing your WordPress development business has many challenges, one of which is running an effective first meeting with a new prospect.
With no existing relationship to fall back on, there are many unknowns. Will your personalities clash? Will they scoff at your rates? Will they like your portfolio? Could this finally be the client from hell that you’ve been dreading?
With all these questions, it’s easy to see why the initial meeting with a new prospect can be so nerve wracking. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to make the whole process easier and less stressful? And at the same time, increase your odds of landing a new client (provided there’s a good match)?
Luckily there is. In this post, we’re going to discuss some ideas around the process of preparing for and running the first meeting with a new prospect.
Preparation Is 95% of the Battle
We’ve all been in the position of walking into a meeting with a new prospect and feeling totally unprepared. I’m not suggesting you can’t pull it off, merely that the chances of doing so are greatly diminished without a plan or system in place.
Olympians often train daily – hours per day, just for the opportunity to compete in an event that lasts mere minutes. They follow a regimented but adaptive training process that centers around continual improvement.
What does this have to do with your WordPress development business? Everything.
Let’s assume you plan to be in business for the next 10-15 years. How much time do you spend preparing for an average new prospect meeting? I’d be willing to bet that most people don’t spend anywhere near the amount of time required in order to increase our odds of success.
However, what if you spent some time establishing a simple repeatable system or process that would help you interview new clients?
That’s the core idea here: to develop a process. A simple, repeatable process that will enable you to measure your results and make changes where required. Each and every client meeting will provide you with an opportunity to improve. Your first meeting with a new client probably won’t be that successful. But by the time you’ve reached meeting number ten, watch out – you’ll be on fire.
Running an effective first meeting starts with establishing a baseline process which you could choose to break down into three steps (or more if it suits you):
- Know your client.
- Know your pitch.
- Run an effective meeting.
Keeping those three steps in mind, let’s take a closer look at each one and see why they are an important part of the process.
Know Your Client
Chris Ducker mentioned not too ago on one of his #Duckerscope broadcasts that one of the questions he asks potential employees during their interview process is “What do you know about me and my company?”. It seems to be a simple enough question, but it easily reveals how interested someone might be in working with you.
This is not to say you should be asking your client what they know about you. No. It’s about you coming to the meeting prepared and having a baseline of knowledge about your potential client. You’ll have lots of questions for your prospect, but asking about what their business does should not be one of them.
So, before you walk into your meeting, what are some of the things you should try to learn about a new prospect?
A few questions to consider include the following:
- What is their core business or product?
- Who are their competitors?
- What information can you find on their long-term business prospects?
- Have you looked at their social profiles and what do their customers have to say?
- Do they have an existing website and what do you see as its strengths and weaknesses?
There will be times when you’re dealing with a business that has yet to open its doors. That’s no excuse for not researching their industry or potential competitors.
What you’re trying to avoid is looking like you’ve walked into a meeting unprepared. Spending some time researching your prospect or their industry is a great way to show that you’re legitimately concerned about your clients.
Know Your Pitch but Keep It in Your Back Pocket
You can call it what you like: elevator speech, value proposition or unique selling proposition.
Whichever one you choose, it’s about having a clear understanding of the value that you provide as a WordPress developer. Not only what you do for your clients to help them grow their business, but what makes you different that the other developers they might be considering.
Maybe you specialize in integrating websites with a popular CRM. Maybe you’re really good at developing sites that have above average conversion rates. Or do you have some decent design skills to back up your front-end development expertise? Whatever it is, understand it, and practice communicating it effectively.
Keep Your Pitch to Yourself (For Now)
Nothing can tank your meeting faster than pitching your new prospect something they don’t need or by coming at their problem from the wrong angle. Before you share your pitch, make sure your prospect has told you about the problems and challenges they are facing.
Speaking of challenges, most potential clients are going to come to you with something that’s fairly similar. Custom database work aside, the most common issue is needing new leads, new customers or increased revenue. The only thing likely to change is how they present that information to you and what they see as their personal obstacles.
By keeping your value proposition in your back pocket, you’ll be able to tailor your approach ever so slightly, making it more appealing to your prospect. If you’ve ever presented a solution to a potential new client only to be told “That’s not really what we’re looking for”, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
Lastly, when it comes to your pitch, practice enough that it becomes effortless. If you stumble out of the gate, your prospective client will pick up on the fact that you’re not 100% confident. The more you practice, the better off you’ll be.
Assuming you spent the required time researching your new client and you have a deep understanding of your value proposition, it’s time to actually meet with them.
13 Ideas to Help You Run a More Effective Meeting
If it’s possible, I’m always a fan of meeting in person. It’s way easier to form a connection with someone and read them properly when you’re face to face. Granted, this isn’t always possible, so a video chat might work or alternatively, a phone call.
As you read through these ideas, decide which ones might be appropriate for your business. Once you’ve decided, stick to them until it’s time to make an adjustment.
This is how you build confidence and efficiency into your process. If you change how you run every meeting, you’ll never figure out what works and what doesn’t, you’ll never get comfortable and you’ll find it harder to improve.
Let’s jump into some ideas!
- Stick to your plan!
- Dress appropriately. While a suit and tie will probably come across as too stuffy, jeans and a t-shirt might be a little too relaxed. Pick something appropriate like business casual – but above all, be yourself.
- Don’t be late. It goes without saying, but seriously, in this day and age, you’d be surprised how often this happens, and it makes a horrible first impression.
- Leave your laptop at home (if practical). Instead, bring a notepad, pens and a willingness to listen. It’s too easy to get caught up in technology, and staring at a screen does nothing to build personal connections.
- Ask a ton of questions. This can’t be overstated enough. Your conversation should probably be around a 5:1 ratio, with your prospect talking more than you. Ask about their goals and objectives. What actions do they want their visitors to take? What functionality do they want their website to have? What don’t they like about their existing website? What challenges are they facing in their business? The more opportunity you give them to talk, the clearer it will become how you can help them.
- Listen carefully. It’s easy to ask questions, but how good are you at listening? One strategy as you’re writing down what your clients says is to parrot back to them. Active listening demonstrates to a prospect that you really understand what they are saying.
- Sell them on a solution. Once your potential client has shared their problems and challenges with you, it’s time to let them know whether or not you can help. This is always a key decision point for the developer. By now you should have enough information to decide whether or not this is the type of client you want to take on. If not, think carefully before you make a commitment.
- Discuss your requirements. Take a few minutes to discuss your process and requirements. If there are elements of the project that you require from the prospect before you begin work, now is a good time to discuss them. This could include content, specifications, timeframe or payment terms.
- Establish a single point of contact. Sometimes you end up working on a project where there is more than one person responsible for contributing to the website. “Websites by committee” rarely work. Always try to arrange for a single contact who you can deal with – someone capable of making the final decision.
- Don’t negotiate on price. Deliverables can be adjusted to match your prospect’s budget. But if you negotiate on price, you risk having every conversation from that point forward start with the same topic.
- Pay attention to your gut instinct. Learning how to filter out problem clients early in the process will save you a ton of time. With practice, you’ll develop an instinct that you must learn to pay attention to. If a client interrupts you every time you speak, how do you think they will act once you start working together? Are they likely to change? Probably not. Use your first meeting as an opportunity to filter out the bad apples.
- Outline the next steps. Many potential new client meetings end with a handshake and a friendly “I’ll get back to you”. Instead, find out what your prospect needs in order to make a commitment to the next phase. It’s easier to deal with objections immediately. Given enough time, every prospect will be able to come up with more things to get in the way of a commitment.
- Debrief yourself. At the end of every meeting spend ten minutes replaying it in your head. What could you improve? Did you ask for a commitment too soon? Did you waver on price because you felt like the deal was slipping away? Write down a list of things that you will work on improving for the next meeting and revise your system.
Running an effective new client meeting doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. If you’re still at the stage where these types of meetings are causing you stress, it might be time to write out your plan on a piece of paper and start practicing.
You might not have Olympic level aspirations, but that doesn’t mean consistent practice won’t result in improvement. Chances are, the more you practice and the more you refine your process, the easier it will be to land new clients.
No meeting is ever perfect. If you’ve been a freelance developer or run a small agency (or any WordPress profession for that matter) for any length of time, you know that some meetings run smoothly and others fall apart at the seams. It just a numbers game – you win some and you lose some.
How do you prepare for a client meeting? If you have any tips or ideas about running a potential new client meeting, please share them in the comments below.
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