A first meeting with a prospective client can be nerve-racking. After all, there’s usually a lot riding on the outcome.
Just like a job interview, the first meeting is all about first impressions—every detail counts, and there are no second chances. One false move and your prospective client is now someone else’s.
Although the first meeting is about developing an immediate rapport on which to build momentum—just one play in your long-term customer relationship game plan—it’s crucial during this initial meeting to clear your mind, focus on the short-term and seize the moment.
Do your homework
The first meeting is about getting to know your prospect and their needs. Where are they in the transaction process? Do they have properties scouted? Were they unhappy with a previous valuation? How can you help them reach their goals? These are the types of questions you want to learn the answers to.
But you won’t even get that far if you don’t know the basics. Things like who they are, what they do, and what interactions they’ve already had with others in your firm and with competitors. You wouldn’t show up to a job interview without having researched the company you’re applying to work for, and it’s the same with prospects.
A big part of your research should be spent getting an understanding of how your prospect’s need fits the current market. All potential clients are struggling with a problem or pain point. If you can, find out what these are before your meeting takes place. Showing up with solutions demonstrates your preparedness and expertise.
Make a connection
Connecting with your client on a real person-to-person level should be your #1 goal at this first meeting (with discovery as a close second), which means your chat should not be exclusively business. Look for common interests and information about their family, hobbies, pets, awards, etc. These are some of the best tools for sparking a conversation. If you show an interest in them, they’ll be more interested in working with you.
A relaxed client is a talkative client, and a talkative client will give you everything you need to know to win the business or close the deal—if you know how to ask the right questions. Keep your questions open ended and exploratory, don’t get too detailed or try to pin them down. You’ll learn more from someone who feels you’re interested in them, but not interested in pressuring them.
Your prospect wants to feel sure they’ve made the right choice, confident that their interests are safe in the hands of an expert. The first meeting is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate this expertise by sharing your knowledge of the market and establishing your credibility. Be sure to discuss current market conditions in regards to how they may or may not affect your client’s property. Meanwhile, you’ll be getting a better understanding of their hopes and fears for their investment. This will allow you to provide some insight, address their fears, validate their needs and discuss solutions.
Schedule a follow-up
That first meeting, if it goes well, is not something you want to let slip through your fingers. Build on the momentum you’ve established and ensure you have a next step while you’re still in the meeting. If there’s no obvious reason to meet again, create one by offering something of value, like a broker’s opinion of value (BOV) or an employee commute map.
Want a printable checklist to prepare for the first meeting? Download The Commercial Real Estate Best Practices Toolkit for that and more.