Time is money. When meetings go off course your time being wasted. Projects receive less attention than they deserve. Here are 5 things to keep in mind so you can turn meeting chatter into focused and productive client interactions…
1. Small Talk
Small talk is necessary in many situations. For example, if you are just starting to build your relationship with a new client or prospect then it’s fine and normal to talk about the weather, sports, news and so on to warm things up. In fact, this can be a very important part of strengthening your relationship with your client.
2. Keep It Under Control
Once you’ve developed a strong working relationship with your client you should start to guide every meeting to the business matters as quickly as possible. If the purpose of the meeting isn’t to get to know each other then stop gnawing at the bone and get to the meat.
3. The Value of Focus
Remember, clients hire you because of your expertise and what you can do for them. They know you need to actually ‘do work’ to get things done. By showing them that you want to spend your time with them focused on the business it demonstrates your desire to get them results.
4. Give Direction
Just because your client is paying you doesn’t mean they should be the boss. They too need direction. If you allowed your client to do everything their way…well then they wouldn’t be any farther ahead and wouldn’t need you, would they? As we talked about in a previous post on ‘Making Your Opinion As a Consultant Count‘ it’s okay to stand up and go against what your client wants – in fact they respect that. If the meeting is floating around, especially if there are several people in the room, it’s your job to make your voice heard (in a polite way) and get the meeting back on track.
5. Straight and Friendly
To get the attention of the people you are meeting with, wait for the break in the conversation and prepare to make your move. As soon as one person finishes their sentence dive in and use one of these:
- “Okay guys, let’s get back to …”
- “We should probably move on to ….”
- Hold up a piece of paper with your notes and say “Next we should talk about…”
- “Sorry guys, but I only have until 2pm today so would be great if we can….”
I’d avoid saying things like this (unless you’re very close with your clients):
- “Yo! We need to get back to…”
- “Hey! Lets’ focus on …..”
Well, you get the idea, right? If you’re thinking that it’s better to stay quiet and let your client run the show…think again, that would be a mistake.
Extra Point: It’s Case By Case
Sometimes you just need to listen. I remember sitting down with a client and feeling more like her psychologist then her consultant and advisor. She had a lot going on in her life and it was affecting her business as well. I could tell she needed to vent.
In that case my job wasn’t to push for business talk…rather to listen to her and support her so that she could refocus herself, feel better, and as a result her business would benefit.