Harvard Business Review Blogs recently published an article by Anthony Jan with some excellent tips for those looking to make a good impression on your first meeting with a potential client, employer or other business encounters. This got me thinking that first impressions are vital, but it’s the last question you ask that’s remembered.
Anthony Jan provides tips for preparing for an important meeting which I have paraphrased here:
- Internet Research – search for information on the company/organization and importantly, the person you are meeting with. Remember facts about your contact like where they come from, their school, university, last job, interests (etc.) – search for any common ground between you that can build your relationship;
- Find An Image of Your Contact – having a picture of your contact before you meet them not only helps you recognize them as they approach, but somehow makes that first contact easier. You might find having an image can also help when you call a person for the first time;
- Network Knowledge – who in your network is already connected to this person? Tools like LinkedIn or Facebook can help you find this out and once you do, ask them for background information on your contact and even provide a testimonial about you to the contact.
- Know Your Objectives – work out before you go into a meeting what you want to achieve from the meeting. If you haven’t called the meeting and are not sure what your contact’s objectives are, try asking them “what do you want to achieve from our meeting today?“;
- Don’t Over Play Your Cards – just because you have some great information, doesn’t mean you need to reveal it. You’re not there to show how much you already know about them, but to ensure you achieve the objective of the meeting.
Being a DISC Profiling Practitioner, I would quickly add that knowing your behaviour and understanding that of your contacts will help you build rapport and achieve your objectives effectively – but that’s another topic. For today, I would like to add one more ingredient to the mix – questions.
We can make a great first impression, but be mindful that it’s the last thing we say that people remember and, it’s often the last question we should ask that we fail to.
Early in my career, I asked a prospect why they hadn’t bought from me after what had seemed like such a positive meeting – I had convinced them that my solution exceeded their needs, provided a great return on investment AND made a good first impression. What they told me still makes me kick myself – “because you didn’t ask me too.“
Effective questioning has been a vital part of making an impression and influencing people since Socrates‘ day. Knowing what you want to achieve and asking questions to lead people to that outcome is a must have skill. But the best sales people, negotiators and people influencers also know that the most important question of all, is that last one you ask!
By John Belchamber, Invoke Results