Why pre-meeting work is vital for successful client meetings
“How many times have you been to a meeting where there’s been no organisation?! Everyone spends the first 30 minutes trying to figure out why they’re there, people are talking over each other, we don’t seem to have a clear set of outcomes.”
Think we can all relate to Vivienne Brownrigg, Co-Founder of The Gap, there.
When Viv recorded an episode of our ‘It’s good to talk with clients’ series, we gained immensely valuable insights into effective client meetings.
Have a listen to Viv’s episode, ‘Being intentional with business advice’ – recorded with Connect4 CEO, Andrew.
Many of us want to take a proactive role in our clients’ businesses, but struggle on the how – particularly, how do we get the most productive outcomes from our client meetings?
Key to The Gap firms’ approach are clearly structured client sessions, with different categories of meetings offered by business advisors. At The Gap, Viv says ‘pre-meeting work’ is vital:
“What if I were to actually send out some ‘pre-meeting work’ to clients – ask them 4 or 5 questions – to find out what my client understands about the financial statement before we go through them together? We might end up having a much deeper meeting, and we would avoid having so many ‘meetings of discovery’.”
What is ‘pre-meeting work’?
Essentially, ‘pre-meeting work’ is solid preparation.
We all intuitively know that preparing for a meeting is the best way to get the most out of it. There’s no point just pitching up. At one time or another, many of us have been the client sitting across from a paid adviser. The most memorable sessions happen when the client feels confident enough to contribute, ask questions and even collaborate in finding the solutions to their problems.
Give this opportunity to your clients. Although you may be the professional offering up your advice and expertise as a service, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t approach your client to put some work into your meetings too.
Before your client meeting, you need to establish where they’re at. We’ve learnt from Viv and The Gap that possibly the best way to do this is by a written questionnaire.
Set your clients some questions to get more information out of them before your meeting. Ask them about their goals, challenges and worries. This doesn’t have to be extensive. Just a few questions will be enough to get the ball rolling, as your clients will have to formulate their thoughts into written answers.
If you can change your perception of meetings to see them less as sessions of “discovery” (as Viv puts it), it will make your time with your client fully solutions-orientated. If your client is passing on their pre-meeting work and you’re digesting the information beforehand, your meetings will be more effective and structured.
Why are structured meetings so important?
- You will save time. Clients appreciate you taking their time into account and, as such, keeping digital client meetings to a shorter time will improve your client relationships. Offering a comprehensive service in a short space of time gives your clients more ‘bang for their buck’ and they will keep coming back to you. Check out another one of our blog posts for more ways to save time in a virtual client meeting.
- You will come across as more professional. As Viv at The Gap has found, assigning pre-work and nailing meeting structure really impresses clients. Being organised and structured gives people peace of mind and, actually, means that they trust you more. Meeting structure will also mean that you won’t sell your services short. You’ll have a clear path to lead your client down, wherever they are in the buyer’s journey.
- You will actually help your clients. It’s one thing being simply available to have one-on-one meetings with your clients. A chat might make them feel supported and comforted. But if you’ve lost the structural purpose of the meeting, are you actually getting anything done for your client? Are you helping them to come to a solution or guiding them effectively in your meeting time? Remember to make the meeting space a productive, collaborative environment – we’ve called our series ‘It’s good to talk with clients’ (as opposed to ‘to clients’) for a reason.
Vivienne’s Top Tips for the best client meetings!
How to format pre-meeting work in your Connect4 pod
Carrying out the kind of pre-meeting work that Vivienne promotes, goes hand-in-hand with the Connect4 ‘pod’ concept.
A pod is always ‘open’, and your clients can jump on at any time. This accessibility allows your clients to know exactly what’s expected of them at pod meetings – past, present and future.
There are so many ways you can assign pre-meeting work with our pods, but here are some of our suggestions:
1. Leave your pre-meeting questionnaire in the ‘Resources’ tab
2. Leave your pre-meeting questions for next time in ‘Meeting Notes’
3. Use your ‘pod description’ to indicate your meeting objectives
4. Record and save a Loom video if you need to give an overview of a document
If you think a document needs elaborating on before a meeting, you’re able to embed a Loom video into your Connect4 pods.
This means that for more complicated concepts – an overview of management reports, for example – help can be easily accessed by your client before your meeting. A run-through of the finances gives your clients the opportunity to attend your meeting informed and ready with questions.
“Imagine how long it would take to get to the heart of those issues, if we didn’t have any sort of pre-work?! This avoids this ‘meeting of discovery’ where, yeah, we’re talking to the client and it’s a great chat and it’s enjoyable and the client feels some level of support. What if we really ramp up that level of support? The clients come away from any sessions with us going, “It’s so good to talk with that accountant!'”
As Viv says above, it’s the winning lottery ticket to have your clients come away from a client meeting feeling really fulfilled by the time you’ve spent together. They’re bound to recommend your services to others. To get the most out of your sessions, set your clients some ‘pre-meeting work’ – you’ll get to the heart of any issues much quicker and your client meeting will be fully focussed on finding solutions.