If what follows doesn’t make any sense to you, then please feel free to stop reading and go back to what you were doing. If what I describe makes your toes curl, then I know we're on the same wavelength – in that your care about how you and your business comes across to a prospect – first impressions count and all that.
So that was it. I’d done my research, I’d ‘honed down’ the options using a mix of savvy intuition, a website visit, Facebook, reviews and YouTube – all the usual stuff we do to shortlist a service or product provider.
I arranged an appointment 5 days in advance to see this ‘trusted advisor’.
On the day, I met with ‘Josh’ and we headed over to a café. Sadly, his office was being used by another company for a webinar. Clearly flustered with his workload, Josh found us a table and immediately started talking about his company and what they had done for other clients. He carried on talking about other work in his field. And again, searched for more examples of work (on a very weak internet signal so we both sat in front of a blank screen for a while. Awkward). He told me how he works, and what he thought the next steps might be. I made several attempts to describe the vision in my head, Josh briefly nodded and directed me back to the timer on the blank screen.
After just 30 minutes we scurried out to the car park - but, determined to give it my best shot at getting some credentials from him, I asked him how he got started. I got a sentence – which was really interesting and peaked my curiosity – but damn, we’d run out of time.
Josh agreed to send me some more ‘food for thought’ and off we went on our separate ways. Josh back to his hijacked office, and me not really understanding what had just happened.
Sadly, Josh hadn’t looked at my website. Or anything. This made me feel disappointed and unimportant. He didn’t know what I did. If my experience of the ‘Josh approach’ left me feeling bruised, then it just might have the same effect on someone else (in fact I KNOW it does – it’s a real pet-hate for many people).
With 5 days to plan, I was expecting Josh may have had 5 minutes (that’s a minute a day – manageable huh?) to just take a look at my website maybe, a bit of content – just to get a feel, a view on the brand and business he was going to be meeting.
What happened to the customer research prior to the meeting? What happened to the pre-meeting build up to confirm and excite? What happened to the early ideas that might have been shared to knock the competition out of the running? What happened to a bit of ‘this is why you should work with us’ chit-chat? What happened to NOT having any technology in the first meeting, instead just listening and engaging?
And what happened to the immediate follow-up email, sent out on the same day to reinforce the bond we’d made and demonstrate what the relationship might be like should we work together?
In my years of working in some of the most professional advertising agencies in the UK, it was my job to ensure the integrity and impact of our first meetings with potential clients. I was a control freak yes, and a detail nut of course – but I tell you what, I can proudly say we always went above and beyond to create to very best first impression we could.
Because why? Because if you don’t you have wasted your website build budget. You’ve wasted all the content you’ve posted on YouTube. You’ve wasted the money you spent on your logo. You’ve wasted the headed paper and the fancy office décor. You’ve wasted all the hours you’ve spent blogging, and networking and, and, and… do you see what I mean?
First impressions can make or break your business – they are a key ‘selling’ moment, and there are so many subtle cues that need to be considered.
And so why do many of us typically do what Josh did? Firstly, self-awareness…if you’re not aware of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of you, then you cannot address your weaknesses. And the second enemy is time. Poor Josh was so busy working in his business, doing stuff for existing clients. Rather, as the business leader, he should have been focused on the future – the customers he doesn’t yet have and ones that will help his business to grow.
It’s not difficult to do the bare minimum of prep - look at a website, read a few blogs, look at the FB page and check out the story behind your prospects business – walk in their shoes. To do this – 30 minutes I reckon.
And there is a world of automation that you can use to benefit your sales conversion and save you time. How about an automated ‘nurture’ email sequence prior to the meeting that is begins to sell for you, whilst you get on with other things? 10 minutes to set up – use it time and time again.
Can I just say, I liked Josh, and I could sense that he was buckling under the weight of a heavy schedule, but that he loved his subject, and that he was good at it. For this reason I every intention of working with him – which makes it all the more frustrating that they didn’t get the first date right! Another prospect might not be so forgiving.
Step out of the hurly-burly of running your business and just reflect what it feels like to be on the receiving end of you.