With the borders of the virtual marketplace expanding by the minute, we can communicate with almost anyone in the world. Our opportunities to reach global customers are increasing, but it’s easy with this ‘virtual convenience’ to forget the art of a face-to-face meeting. Just like these snails meeting in the grass, courtesy of artist Paper Sparrow, we have to slow down and keep a few things in mind.
As creative entrepreneurs specializing in handmade crafts, it’s important for us to be as authentic as what we make. While face-to-face meetings aren’t always necessary, there’s bound to be a time when your customers' needs call for them. Here are a few key points to remember when meeting in person.
1. Respect their Time
We all lead busy lives, and taking time out to meet a customer face-to-face might throw a wrench in our usual click-and-send routines. When setting up a meeting with clients, we need to remember that their lives are probably equally as busy, so giving them ample time to arrange their schedule shows respect. Expecting a customer to drop everything and meet with you the next day is not only presumtuous, but unrealistic. For a local customer, it’s polite to give at least a week’s notice before your desired meeting date (and of course longer for customers from out of town).
2. Arrive Early
Arriving at your meeting place early gives you time to organize yourself before the client comes. It’s much better to be already situated and organized when the client comes in, than have them waiting for you when you arrive to set up your things. Being organized right from the start will give the client more confidence in your professionalism.
3. Come Prepared
Make sure you have a pen and paper, or your laptop to take notes. This shows the customer that you are keen and want to remember what they're telling you. Aside from showing the client that this meeting is important, taking notes will help you remember key points long after the meeting is over.
4. Give your Full Attention
Most business people today want to be reached at all times, so we all carry cell phones. When meeting with clients, turn off, or at least silence your cell phone. Taking a call mid-meeting is rude, and shows your customer that they aren’t your top priority. When meeting with a customer, you want them to feel like they are the most important person you are dealing with – don’t give them any reason to doubt that. Another way to convey to them that you’re focused goes back to what you learned in school about interviewing – maintain eye contact.
5. Be Yourself
Don’t try to be someone that you’re not. When you meet with your customers, give them a glimpse of who you are. People like to buy handmade because they’re dealing with real people who have real stories – don’t distance yourself from that. Customers will appreciate you more if you share some of who you are with them. Just like your products, you should personalize your meetings. Don’t just keep it strictly business – relate to the person you're meeting. Find common ground and build trust.
These are just a few of the things that I keep in mind when meeting with clients. Do you have any tips to share for successful meetings? Do tell!