Ensure Customer Meetings are Effective

“Be a pro at what you do. No one shows-up to meetings of the Unsuccessful Skydivers Club.” – Ryan Lilly

Businesses invest a large amount of resources on their customers for a variety of reasons. Of the resources, time is possibly the most precious. A lot of time is dedicated to meeting customers and it would in the best interest of a company to ensure that customer meetings are effective. There must be perceivable benefits and some tangible results from each meeting, in order to justify the resources used. Customer meetings are effective when they have a significant ROI for all the resources your company uses to conduct them. In addition, customer meetings are effective when they prove to be opportunities to increase and expand the value of a business. When customers leave a meeting in a happy state of mind, it would usually translate to more business and in the long-term they would be happy to recommend it to others, provide positive feedback and support the company’s endeavours of a strong relationship.

For a company, customer meetings are effective when there is a positive indication to pursue the association by committing resources and time, culminating into a sustainable and profitable relationship. Since every customer meeting would involve some amount of investment, both in terms of time and effort, it would be critical for the company to ensure customer meetings are effective each time. So what is the secret to effective customer meetings? Does your company follow any particular process to ensure that every customer meeting proves to be fruitful and produce tangible results? The onus to ensure that customer meetings are effective begins with the company – go into the meeting ‘armed’ with information. Gather whatever information possible about the potential customer and seek answers to at least the most obvious and simplest questions about them. Appearing knowledgeable and interested in a customer is a great way to get the customer to trust your company and when they do leave the meeting in a positive frame of mind, you can be sure to have had an effective meeting.

Ensure that there is a structured and fixed agenda to ensure that customer meetings are effective. Putting together a list of things to discuss, would give your meeting a direction and you would be able to keep the focus on the needs of the customer. If you have a list of questions, it would be good to take printed copies of the same for distribution to every attending member. This would allow the customer to read them before the meeting, make notes and be better prepared to answer the questions and offer some value-added information. For any meeting to be effective, it is imperative that everyone attending has a clear understanding of the agenda and what results to expect at the end of the meeting. In fact, it would be prudent to spend some time with the customer before the meeting to clarify the understanding of the agenda and to ascertain what the customers expects to achieve from the meeting. Customer meetings are effective when both parties can see some value from them and are able to contribute in a positive manner.

The success of a meeting depends on the attendees. Therefore, to ensure that customer meetings are effective, a company must find out who would be representing the customer and what role they would have. In most companies, the buying decision is rarely the responsibility of a single individual and so it makes sense to understand the roles and expectations of each attending member representing the customer. Ensure that the people representing your company should not exceed the number of representatives from the customer and would be equipped to field any questions the customer may have – appearing well informed and intelligent is a prerequisite to ensure that customer meetings are effective. It is important to allow the customer representatives to speak first and introduce themselves. Your company’s representatives must listen attentively and adapt their style of communication to that of the customer.

The adage – “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”, holds true for customer meetings too. To give your company a head start and to ensure that customer meetings are effective thank the customer at the outset for making time to attend the meeting. By doing so, your company would be letting the customer know they are valued and you would do your best to put them at their ease. Customers expect to have peace of mind when associating with a company and the more effectively your company can do this, the better your chances at getting a lifetime customer.

As mentioned above, a structured agenda would set the tone and pace of the meeting. It would be important to have one member from your company responsible to keep the meeting on track by focusing on the agenda points alone. This would ensure that customer meetings are effective since they would not extend beyond the time limit and would keep the customer’s points of interest as the focus. Customers are always short on time and by respecting their time you would be displaying respect and value for them – customers would find it easier to trust your company.

While your representatives could be bursting with enthusiasm and the fervour to sell, to ensure that customer meetings are effective, do not overwhelm the customer with too much information at once. Once you have presented an idea, allow the customer time to ‘process’ the information and respond. Provide satisfactory answers to any questions they may have and then proceed to give more information. If the customer seems unwilling to accept more information, offer to send the rest of the information via the channel of their choice or suggest another meeting for the same. Keep the meeting short and aligned to the mood and attitude of the customer in order for it to be effective.

Every member attending the meeting – from both parties – must receive equal importance. Speaking only to the decision maker on the customer’s side, could come across as rude and alienate everyone. It would be important to speak to all those present in the room by making eye contact and giving each person equal attention. This holds true for your company’s representatives too. Doing so, will keep everyone’s attention and will let them know that you consider them to be a vital part of the entire relationship – you never know which of them could positively influence the decision maker!

However well you prepare for a meeting, there could be potential hiccups and objections. In order to ensure that ensure that customer meetings are effective, plan ahead for them. By listening carefully, it would be easy to pre-empt concerns and doubts – by answering those proactively, you could actually create a great impression on the customer. The customer’s ‘team’ could try to lead your team to criticize or divulge information about a competitor – ensure that you do not fall into that trap.

From your experience of dealing with customers, there would be a number of other things that can be done to ensure that all your customer meetings are effective. The idea is to show the customer that they are important and that your team has the expertise and knowledge to help their business to grow. Show them that the relationship with your company would create value for them that would be sustainable and that you would do whatever it takes to ensure that the relationship remains for a long time and is successful and profitable for both.

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