By Peter Sorgenfrei
As a small business owner I end up doing the vast majority of our new business pitches. I always enjoy meeting potential clients, learning about their challenges, and seeing if we (or someone we know) might be able to help them. I always prepare by reading up on the company, the person I am meeting and brainstorming with the team on what challenges the client might be facing. I am a strong believer in Louis Pasteur’s famous quote: Chance favors the prepared mind.
Friday a potential client beat my prep. He had printed out our website (first time that has ever happened), an article I had written on compassion in the auto industry (first time ever too), and he had taken extensive notes on the website print out, underlined passages, and drawn maps of his business, his competitors and his customers (you guessed it – no potential client has done that before). I was (to put it mildly) impressed.
We spent two hours talking about his business, his customers and what he felt he needed help with. He challenged me on my view of the future (Toyota will be fine and will sell more cars and trucks in 2015 than they did in 2009), he asked detailed questions about what insight and information we would bring to the table when others seemed unable to, and we shared laughs and stories about experiences at auto shows, traveling and the like.
Now – he might read this (chances are he will) but that is not why I am writing. He probably has already decided whether or not to hire us. I am writing this to share a best practice. Even if you are the potential client, you are not just being sold to, you are also doing the buying. What I mean is, why would you not prepare like the man I met on Friday? Afterall, you could be spending a fair amount of money on, and time with, this firm you are meeting for the first time. Why not make sure you get as much value out of that first interaction?
As my meeting partner said on Friday when I expressed surprise at how well he had prepared: Well, chance favors the prepared mind….it was completely natural to him that he would prepare as well (or better) than the person he was meeting.