There is an old adage called “Murphy’s Law.” It states anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, at the worst possible moment. Unfortunately, we have all experienced presentations, meetings, or even client lunches that resulted in less than desirable outcomes.
The objective is to make every client session “Murphy Proof.”
We can ensure every client interaction will have maximum impact, and help to accomplish our objectives on a consistent basis if we choose to follow these seven simple guidelines:
- The first thing to note is who will be in attendance. It seems very basic, but how many times have people attended meetings you weren’t prepared for? The rule is NO SURPRISES! Determine who the key people are and assign them to a member on your team to make sure they are engaged. Interestingly, the client is often not the challenge, but is our own team that is the liability! One rule to remember is that NO ONE goes to your client meeting or event without a pre-defined role. No one can be allowed to simply observe, including executives who need to be well briefed on the purposeful role they must play.
- What are the three key meeting outcomes that must be accomplished, ranked in importance? You, and your team, must have clarity. What things do you absolutely need to achieve that will advance your purpose/vision with the client? How many times have you been in a meeting where nothing was accomplished, other than when to have the next meeting? Assign the outcome responsibilities to members of your team.
- Now let’s think of the client individuals’ motives. Pay attention to the personal agendas, as well as the political environment. Who is looking for recognition? Who is concerned with being rewarded? Is there anyone that might be anxious and concerned about security? Discuss this with your team in advance to gain insights where you may be able to help these people. You MIGHT be able to move someone from a neutral relationship to a Supporter, or even a Partner Ally in the Be aware of the politics within the client interaction as well. Are there people involved in an organizational power struggle? Ask the team to consider how you might suggest a potential compromise or a means of illustrating mutual benefits so both sides are satisfied.
- Body language is critical for every one of your team members, especially if you are presenting to senior executives. There are two “unspoken” questions asked by each executive when watching a presenter. The first is, “Can they can help me?” and the second is, “Are they motivated to help me – am I important to them?” Senior executives will instinctively react to how they feel about you. They are evaluating your credibility, your trustworthiness, and your authenticity.
- People buy emotionally…. then they justify their decision logically. Nothing will be decided or accomplished IF you don’t intentionally evoke emotion from the people at the session. Are you going to excite or disturb? Does someone need assurance you can deliver? Write down and discuss with your team who you are going to create emotion with and what information you will share to generate that emotion. It has to be specific! Also, be aware of any negative or inhibiting emotions like fear, anger, doubt, or uncertainty that are present with members of the client’s team. Proactively plan how to neutralize these should they surface during your session in an uncomfortable and in non-productive way.
Remember, no one will buy something new, if they still have negative feelings about an issue from the past. Don’t ever believe the issue will go away if you don’t bring it up. Not only will it not go away….it will get worse! They will never buy into your approach or vision if you don’t handle this in a separate discussion beforehand.
- Never allow someone to present in your client interaction session without a discussion or review with you. You have to “screen” the information being given to the client. IF the information your team member wants to present doesn’t help you accomplish the three objectives you’ve stated for the session… it doesn’t get presented. This goes for executives too. Don’t leave it to their discretion. Be on guard against anyone presenting information that drags the meeting into a very transactional discussion. Build momentum and keep it.
- Be creative with how you set the stage for the meeting. Make sure you manage expectations and get your client contacts thinking about the topic for discussion, in advance. If you have a white paper that carries a higher level message, include it in an email. Scan a document/article and highlight any points you want to make with them in advance. The more they are aware of the topic, the better the quality of the discussion.
These seven simple guidelines should be used with every significant client interaction. A little planning will not only make your discussions more productive, it will also keep Mr. Murphy from paying a visit to your client meeting as well.
Map out your next important meeting with your team using the Encounter Plan™ Template. Align the team and rehearse. It will become the way you plan client sessions and keep Mr. Murphy at bay!