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From A Cold Call To A Warm Lead

5 steps for a successful first meeting.

My friend Joy recently told me about a great first meeting she had with a new client in Asia.  I asked her why she thought it went so well, and she said, “The client and I really connected.”

As she continued with the story, I learned that Joy and the new client shared a love for photography.  Before meeting the new client, Joy spent time researching and planning.  As she was researching the contact and his background, Joy found an article written about the contact.  He had placed second in a large photography competition.

Joy, who was an amateur photographer, knew she had a common interest with the new client and this made the beginning of her meeting much more comfortable and interesting for both of them.

Establishing common ground is a great first step in a conversation with a new contact.

The uncertainty of meeting with someone new can be stressful.  Although knowing exactly what to expect in a meeting may be impossible, there are a few things you can do before the meeting to maximize your chances for success.

1. The first step before meeting with your new contact is research.  Spend some time researching the contact’s overall background and company.  By beginning your research with a big picture approach and then delving into the detail, you will be able to cover a wider area of potential connecting points.  The initial look is simply to identify sources of information that are available to you.  Make notes of all of the sources you find which may include social media like Linked-in, Twitter, or Instagram, articles about the contact, blog posts, white papers, and speeches given by the contact.  Any other sources concerning your new contact that are readily available to you can be helpful as well.

2. Once you have researched your new contact, the next step is to research your new contact’s company.  You may find press releases, marketing collateral, articles, filings, social media, news blurbs and other general information that provide insight into the contact’s company.

3. Now spend some time reading the information that you have gathered.  Look for specific links that may connect you and your business to the new contact and his or her business.  Think about the contact’s job type and function within the company, and consider how your solution may bring value to him or her by either maximizing revenues or minimizing costs.  Having a clear sense of the customer’s role and the issues that may affect his or her business will help you to connect and keep the conversation moving toward accomplishing both your and the contact’s goals.

4. Step Four is simply to make a list of the commonalities, concepts and ideas that may be of value for you and the new client to discuss.  Just like in your research, begin your list with the big picture so that you identify the overall value of the business relationship first.  Then you can begin to delve into the more detailed and specific information.  As you progress, list common business interests share, potential synergies and viable market growth trends.

Then list the specific value you and your products or services may bring to the new contact’s role within the company.  As you add to the list, begin to think about specific questions that you will need to ask to better understand the contact and his or her needs.  Finally look at his or her work history, education, leisure activities, clubs, and contacts. You may find that you have the same alma mater, have worked at the same company before, have lived in the same town, know some of the same people, or enjoy similar leisure activities.  This specific information will become a connection point to help you with building a rapport in the beginning of the meeting.

5. Step five is to create a Basic Call Plan that details your approach to the meeting, stated objective, value statement, and questions you would like to ask.

Once your research and Pre-Call Plan are done, you should feel much more comfortable meeting your new contact.  That comfort will translate positively through your body language and the ease of conversation in your initial meeting.  The research and planning may take a little extra time, but can greatly increase your chances for success.

Read more posts by Bill Hobbs here. Bill blogs for JenningsWire.