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A big part of your team’s success comes down to your very first meeting with clients and prospects. How well those first interactions and conversations go determines whether there will be another meeting with you to keep the conversation going. This is why you should get in the habit of following some key steps to connect and inspire in your initial meetings.

Establish rapport early on.

Unless the client or prospect wants to immediately talk business, start things off with some friendly conversation. It helps to break the ice with small talk. Make eye contact and chat with them while you wait for any additional people to join the meeting.

Review the purpose for the meeting.

To set the stage for a productive initial meeting, you should always review the reason that you are meeting. Doing this allows you to remind everyone at the table about the previously agreed-to reason for the meeting and will help prevent the discussion from getting derailed.

Prepare a tentative agenda.

You can help guide the discussion by saying something like, “I’m going to take ten minutes to discuss these new products and services. Then we can spend the following ten minutes or so talking. What we talk about will depend on your thoughts. Often, we get to whether it is possible to use these products for your purposes and what that would look like. Ultimately, we want to know how we can help you.” The critical part is “often we get to,” because the power suggestion and the call to action help guide the discussion without completely dictating the agenda.

Ask all attendees to contribute to the agenda.

Find out if there is anything they would like to cover or discuss. This allows you to hear what their concerns are. Now you can work to address their questions or concerns. Remember that the more you understand, the better you can customize the conversation to match their needs.

Welcome interruptions.

Let everyone know that you welcome feedback during the conversation. Encourage them to interrupt you. This lets you know that they are all engaged, preventing the discussion from being too one-sided.

Always embrace the power of story.

The story is where the magic happens. It creates an emotional connection. A convincing story allows you to educate others on new perspectives and ideas and inspire them to think about the situation from a different angle.

Work on discussion and collaboration.

The last step to a successful initial meeting is inviting everyone involved to weigh in.
You may consider asking questions such as:
• Would this work here?
• How would this work here?
• How would you compare this approach to what you are doing now?
• What are the pluses and minuses as you see them?
• How do you think we would need to alter or change the approach to make this work here?
• Why wouldn’t this work here? What could get in the way?

It does take significant effort to conduct a smooth initial meeting with a new client or prospect. You can start on the right foot by utilizing the steps above. Not only will you have more successful initial meetings, but you will build relationships that will have clients and prospects wanting to work with you time and time again. And this will help you thrive.

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