Ed’s note: This post was written by guest editor Tess Robinson of Smack Bang Designs.
Speed dating. Two words that run chills up my spine. Luckily, I’ve never had to partake in such a terrifying ordeal, but, nevertheless, there’s nothing that makes my palms sweat more than having minimal time to both meet a new person and impress them. Sound familiar? Does your heart rate skyrocket at the mere thought of it, too?
That first client meeting. Man, it’s a scary one. But ultimately, it’s (hopefully) the beginning of a very beautiful working relationship, full of epic work and reaching those wildest dreams. And, very luckily for all of us, unlike speed dating, there are some rock-solid strategies to make sure you impress your date. Read on, Romeo.
1. Do your research
There’s nothing worse than attempting to talk about something you have absolutely no idea about. It takes me back to high school public-speaking competitions where you’re given a topic five minutes in advance and then have to ramble for the worst three minutes of your life. Knowing what you’re talking about, who you’re talking to, what they are about, and why they do what they do before you actually meet the person is an excellent way to get them immediately onside. Everyone loves realising that someone has invested time and effort in order to better understand and appreciate their brand. It’s an ultimate compliment, and will set you on the course for great things!
2. Find common ground
Small talk is like kryptonite to me, an introverted soul that avoids it at all costs. Small talk is definitely not my favourite part of any interaction, but I have found that connecting on a human, rather than strictly professional, level always helps set the tone for a meeting. A smile, a laugh, and an offer of tea goes a long way towards building trust, gelling well, and discovering that you are the perfect fit for one another.
Listening is so underrated. Talking, overrated. When we take the spotlight off ourselves long enough to highlight the person we are talking to, something magical happens! For most clients, their project is their baby. Especially with startups, the topic of conversation is very close to home, and often emotionally driven. I’ve found that asking a lot of questions, and allowing a lot of time for listening, always helps the client feel understood, important and as though you’re truly buying into their brand. I’ve also found that listening to how the client speaks about the brand says a lot about the brand itself. So open your ears and shut your mouth!
4. Honesty, always
As much as it’s great to charm the socks off your client in the initial meeting, nothing is more important than being honest. I’m not saying you need to tell them their initial Pinterest board was horrendous, or that you don’t like their child’s name (P.S. If you know their child’s name, you nailed point No.2). I am referring to being honest about the realistic outcomes of the projects. Timelines, what you can and can’t produce for them, and managing expectations are super important elements to be honest about. If you’ve gone to all the effort to get a client on board, but the project ends up crashing and burning because you promised them a website in two weeks’ flat that you know you can’t deliver, it’s certainly not a win.
5. Keep it professional and productive
At the end of the day, your client wants to walk out of the meeting feeling like they’ve just hit the $700 million Powerball jackpot in having you as their designer/developer/writer. Your client wants to know that you’re a professional, that you’re on the same wavelength as they are, and that you actually care a great deal about how their brand evolves. Being a professional doesn’t mean wearing a suit and being a strange robot; rather, it means being the most outstanding expert in your field. This is a culmination of all the previous points, but overall the client wants to know that you know your sh*t! So go out there and show them that you 150 per cent, without a doubt, no word of a lie, know exactly how to knock their socks off!