It’s one thing to be doing the creative work and it’s a whole other thing to be presenting it and getting buy-in. You put all the time into the creative and the presentation is an afterthought. How about building it into the project as a phase: the presentation and setting aside time to prep (not the day of the meeting).
Find out who will be there
The first thing is, is to find out who’s going to be at the meeting whether it’s in person on virtual. You want to know who’s going to be in the room and you want to know more than just their names. You may know them and if you don’t, look at their LinkedIn profile and just find out a little bit about them for example who they are in the company and what their role is. You can ask your client for a briefing and run through everyone that’s going to be there. Tell us what you know, what sort of attitude, what role they play. There’s often somebody in the room that’s going to be contentious and you can be prepared for it.
Start with a story
Stories work well to engage people. They help make a connection and when told well, give you immediate credibility and attention. Make sure your stories are relevant and engaging. Try them out on others before the meeting. Humor always has such a great effect as well.
Frame the presentation
You’re there to solve a problem. Begin by reiterating your understanding of the problem. We’re here because…Divide your talk into a beginning, middle, and end and tell your audience what that will be. It’s a well known public speaking tool where you to say what you’re going to talk about, talk about it, and then you say what you talked about. Remember that people process information in different ways. Some are visual processors and some people are verbal. It’s obvious that you will have the visuals but don’t forget about the verbal. It’s just as important.
Be confident with what you’re presenting
Make sure that what that you’re confident in everything you’re presenting, not just, confident about options one and two but not so thrilled with number three. If you don’t feel good about it, don’t show it. You bring a certain energy to the table when you’re presenting and you want to be the energy of we know our stuff, we like where we’re going with this, we’re excited about it.
Talk through your ideas by focusing on what the problem is that you’re solving and how each solution solves the problem. Always going back to the business problem and how you’re going to solve it. Again, keep building in stories that can relate back to your presentation. When we used a similar approach for another client, they doubled their sales in six months.
Look at a presentation as a collaboration, rather than ta-da here it is. Here’s what we’re thinking and we’re looking forward to your input. It’s not you against them. Be a partner and not a vendor.
Tools for languaging
There are a number of tools that you can use with languaging for example the word “imagine”. Imagine what it could be like when the millennial audience grabs on to this. Get them really excited and engaged. Paint a picture. This is how it could work or What if we were to do it this way. Have them Imagine what the results could be like. It’s often hard for clients to see where it could go.
Put on a show
I always think of the TV show Shark Tank. I know a lot of the presentations are silly, but once in a while a group does something very clever and there’s a level of showmanship to it. How memorable are those compared to the people that just go and talk? Think of something clever or unique. These are the things that stick in people’s minds.
Use these techniques and you’ll be different. Collaborative presentations will create partnerships and move you away from the client-vendor relationship. Decision making becomes about the best way to solve the business problem at hand and moves away from I’ll choose number one because my wife likes green. Let me know what Ideas you have!
How I got from graphic designer to business development person
As a kid, I couldn’t get my hands on enough arts and crafts. This led me to study graphic design at Parsons in NY and an internship with April Greiman in LA. After working for a few years in the design business, I decided I knew enough to start my own graphic design business. I had some business connections through my father and I became the person who got new business and my partner, Anne did most of the design work. Our small design firm business lasted about 4 years until I had my first son and Anne was offered to work as part of a team on a large and very important identity project. I was kind of left holding the bag with a studio and expenses and a baby and I wasn’t a happy camper. My friend Heather suggested I contact some of the larger firms around town. She said after running my own firm, it would probably interest them to have me. I sent out 10 letters, was contacted by 8 firms and met with each one. The one that stood out was an interesting French Canadian, Michel who owned a firm called OVE design.
I had no idea what Business Development was
Michel invited me if to do creative direction and business development for him and I said sure. He offered me a $25,000 base salary and that seemed very attractive after the feast or famine cycle of my own business. I actually had no idea what he meant by business development but I thought I’d figure it out. Long story short he gave me his mailing list of 800 names and I called each one and 2 years later I brought in several hundred thousand dollars in new business to the firm. At one point he had to tell me to stop because there was too much new business!
When I started doing Business Development, I decided that the objective was to get a meeting. I was able to get a lot of meetings but many were a waste of time. There was one time that Michel still reminds me of 25 years later when I run into him. I don’t remember what the company was but their office was far away. In the suburbs in a unit at the back of a strip mall. It was an hour drive each way and a 30-minute meeting. We showed our portfolio and they asked for a quote for a logo and said their budget was $2,500. On the drive back Michel said: “Don’t ever bring me to another meeting like that again”. I don’t do units, I do downtown meetings. We still laugh about it today.
That was in the ’90s and things were a lot different. I was really just making it up as I went. It’s now many years later I’ve figured out a few things.
I get it now!
In addition to my business development work, I’ve for 15 years as a brand strategist on large global brands as well as a few stints on the client side as a marketing director and I was the person hiring the design firm and I get it now. I know when and when not to go to a meeting. I know the meetings that will be a waste of time. I know what to say to a potential client to get them interested in working with me, I know their hot buttons I know how to price a project, close the deal and get paid. I also know how to create leverage, ongoing revenue and get more work from the clients you already have.
I know what clients are looking for and it may not be aligned with the things your Business Development person is saying to them. So is your business development person wasting your time dragging you all over the place to meetings that don’t translate to clients?
If the answer is yes, here are a few rules to pass along:
Your role in Business Development is not to get meetings. More meetings will not make you successful.
Have an in-depth phone conversation and be sure to qualify every prospect before you even think about a meeting. There is no point spending 2 hours in traffic to find out the budget is $2,500 and they aren’t even sure that they will go ahead with the project.
Only arrange to meet if there’s a project on the table. Nobody has time for the meet and greet anymore or to see your portfolio.
Clients don’t really care about your portfolio, they care about results that you got for others.
Know the results that your firm got for others (not really talked about in the design business).
In summary, times have changed a great deal since my early days in Business Development. Back then people answered the phone (ok I’m dating myself). Even cold calling worked and that no longer works. New strategies are needed to connect with prospects and stay on their radar. Consistent marketing is a necessity (and I don’t mean holiday card once a year)! The Business Development process has completely changed and if your Business Development Person is wasting your time, take a closer look at what they’re up to!
When you think of the companies you deal with, are they remarkable – in a good way?
It’s probably easier for you to remember which companies are unremarkable. There are many successful businesses that have frankly awful relationships with their customers.
Cable companies are a great example of this, as I recently discovered when I stayed at my parent’s new house in Florida. I couldn’t sleep because of all the electronics in their spare room, so I unplugged it and got my solid 8 hours.
I woke the next morning to a household in absolute pandemonium. It turns out that I hadn’t just unplugged the Wi-Fi, I’d unplugged the whole house. The electronics was their SmartHome Hub. Everything was down: the air conditioner, phone, internet, TV, security alarm, washing machine – the lot.
The whole process of dealing with the cable company was painful; ridiculously long account numbers, getting passed between departments, long periods on hold. I’m sure many of you can empathize. Finally, I’m informed that they’ll send an engineer out to restart the system…in 6 days.
After a lot of back-and-forth, they finally agreed to send an engineer the next day. It was an uphill battle just to get a basic service from a company we were already paying. I was left stressed out from a simple phone call.
When it comes to business relationships, this was definitely at the low end of the scale! But really, you don’t see a lot of really remarkable relationships out there – at all.
Think about it. You’ve definitely had an experience that makes you remember it, in a positive light.
Those are the companies that you recommend, the times you think of when someone asks you about your experience. Have you ever said to a friend, ”Oh, use these people, I had the best experience with them…?” I’m sure you have…
Use my free worksheet to start creating remarkable relationships with your clients – download it here!
What’s a Remarkable Client Relationship Anyway?
When someone goes out of their way to create an exceptional experience, you’ll remember it. Here’s a story I heard recently about exactly that:
My friend, Bob, gets in a taxi to catch his flight home from Houston airport. As soon as he gets in the cab, he notices a copy of the Wall Street Journal on the seat. The driver turns around to Bob, greets him formally, points out that the newspaper is his to take on the plane if he wishes, and invites him to help himself to a cool drink from the cooler.
This quickly turns into the best taxi Bob’s ever had. When they arrive at the airport, the driver helps him out, directs him to his check-in desk, and hands over his card, saying,
“I’d love to be your driver, whenever you’re in Houston. Whenever you’re here, give me a call and I’ll pick you up at the airport.”
Thinking about the experience later at home, Bob Googles the average cab driver’s salary in Houston. It’s around $20k. So, he emails the guy to thank him and commend him on his service and asks him how much he makes. It turns out, perhaps unsurprisingly, that this taxi driver makes $150k a year! All of that from regular clients, who call him when they’re in town.
So, this clever taxi driver is making 7x the average salary, simply by providing a great service and building remarkable relationships with his clients.
Creating a remarkable client relationship doesn’t mean you have to perform some back-breaking client service. Far from it. Less can often be more
Take one of our BA members, who was dropping off his car at an airport carpark. All the stresses of finding a spot to park, along with the general travelling woes we can all get, was making the experience pretty awful.
But then, when the shuttle arrived to take them to the airport, all these were completely mitigated by the attitude of their driver. She went so far out of her way to improve the experience of her passengers that it changed their entire trip. She even hugged everyone as they got off the bus, wishing them a safe flight and a ‘see-you-soon’.
Now, that’s a remarkable experience. And if you think about it, it really didn’t cost very much at all, apart from a bit of energy and love. Those little extras really can go a very long way. How often do you find yourself talking about an airport car park in a positive light?
Southwest are excellent at doing this exact kind of thing. They take it as a matter of pride to hire people who are exemplar at customer service.
And when this naturally creates remarkable moments with their customers, they’re great at talking about it too. Even something as little as one of their pilots waving back at a little boy becomes a life-long memory (and a great viral marketing video!):
How to Create Remarkable Relationships With Your Clients
What does an exceptional/remarkable experience look like for your clients?
With my own business, I try to create systems that make it easy for my clients. It used to be that everyone would be looking for the Zoom link before a group call. Then I started sending reminder notes with the link the day before. Problem solved. That’s just one point of contact but there are many.
Try to write down what kind of experience you want your clients to have with your company. Write this down and fill in the blank: ”I want my clients to have an amazing experience that…” You decide.
From this vision, you can start creating a system that you and your team can follow, to help ensure your customers have the best experience.
Whether that’s a birthday card, a ‘welcome kit’, a ‘feedback survey’, or simply reminders to touch base regularly with clients, it all helps. If you’re unsure of where to start, examine each stage of your customer’s journey and ask yourself, ‘how can I make things easy and even fun for my clients here’.
Once you’ve committed to a vision of a great experience, and put systems into place behind it, you’ll be well on your way to creating remarkable client relationships.
One of the most important processes for creating great client relationships is you on-boarding; how your clients are initiated as customers.
You want to start thinking about how you can make it easier for yourself and your team make every client interaction memorable, creating a great relationship from step 1 onwards.
Start with a ‘touchpoint’ analysis for your business. What are the touch points for your business? Can your prospects and clients find you when they want to? Can they call you? Are you creating an easy and comfortable customer journey?
Sometimes bad clients aren’t bad, they’ve just never worked with a creative before and need you to help you guide them. To remedy this, you could create a project schedule, so they understand where the project is and where it’s going at all times.
Often you may find things you think they know all about, they actually know NOTHING about. Take the time to explain the work and the process and they will really appreciate your honesty and transparency. Maybe even let them glimpse your working process, and they may appreciate the skill what you do even little more.
Create Real Connections With Your Real (Human) Clients
Sometimes, just reaching out to people on a human level, genuinely being interested in their lives and listening to what they are actually saying is remarkable.
Even if you’re not going to end up taking on a project, it can’t hurt to take 5 or 10 minutes to help someone out. Giving your advice and taking the time to engage with people and figure out what they need is memorable. You’ll probably find that approaching your prospect meetings like this gets you referrals, even if it’s not from them!
The most important thing here is connecting with your clients on a human level. I always phone or Skype when interacting with my clients about anything remotely important. Not only can they reduce the confusion and time taken on a task, they also help to make the relationship real, as opposed to just a business one.
Once your clients are ‘through the door’, think of ways you can do something unexpected for your clients, things that make them enjoy working with you – things that make them say, ‘wow’.
Even something seemingly small and un-businesslike can help build these relationships. When you take the time and thought to send someone something, even a card, sharing an article, asking after their family, you’re creating that remarkable client relationship.
Get As Much Feedback As Possible
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, and implement it! Embrace all your negative feedback because it will help you to improve. Pay attention if things get a negative reaction. What can you do to make it a better experience? Often those that give negative feedback which is resolved turn into your most satisfied (and vocal) customers.
How many meetings do you take your portfolio, or a presentation of your work along to?
Why are you still bothering?
If you want to increase the number of new clients you get, you need to change your approach to first meetings with clients. And here’s why:
When you spend your first meeting with a potential client presenting your work, you’re only talking about yourself. And the only person who wants to talk about you is you (and maybe your mom). Sostop.
Instead, purpose your meetings towards getting your prospect to open up about themselves, their business, and their challenges.
With a little practice, you shouldn’t find this too hard, and you’ll win lots more work using it.
Below I’ve put together three questions that you can use to keep the conversation on track and get the info you need for a winning proposal.
If you’re interested in learning more about winning clients at your first meeting, I’ve put together the ‘First Meeting Success Formula’, which you can grab a free copy here
Question 1: Where are you now?
This is a great question to start off with. You should have some idea about what the company does before the meeting, so the object of this question is to get more detail about it from an insider’s perspective.
It works best if you give them a little more context to start off with, for example:
“I see that XCompany has tripled in size over the last two years, that’s quite impressive – how did you achieve that?”
You want to get a sense for what the client has tried, what has worked and what failed, so that you don’t waste time. It’s useful to gather some of their likes and dislikes, anything that could help you personalise your proposal.
You should also to look out for information on how the company works, their size, budget, brand style, day-to-day challenges, and expectations.
All this gives you the context in which to frame your proposal.
Question 2: Where do you want to be?
Now you want to start to bring the conversation towards the project at hand.
This second question helps to put the it into to the context of the business as a whole – why do they have a need for this project? And why is it important to them?
It may also bring out some other areas you could help in, which are not directly connected to your project. These can be a powerful tool in winning you clients.
You should give them a specific scope, or time-frame to keep it relevant to your project.
“Where do you want your website to be 6 months from now?”
Your prospect may say something like,
“We’re trying to double the time visitors spend on the site by December”.
Later, you can refer back to these in your proposal as tangible benefits related to the wider business.
So instead of the quite uninteresting, “I’ll design you a good-looking new website”, you can say:
“I’ll design you a website that’s optimised to increase the time visitors spend on your site.“
Do you see why the second might be more compelling to a potential client?
You’re not just giving them a product, you’re giving them a real benefit to their business.
By taking the things that you know they want and demonstrating you can help them achieve it, you’re massively improving your chances of winning the client.
You can get your free copy of my guide ‘The First Meeting Success Formula’ for more great tips on winning business by clicking here.
Question 3: What challenges are in the way?
In reality, this question often naturally becomes entwined with the answers from question two, and you should encourage this.
The aim is to get an idea of what issues they’re currently having, or expecting to have, with a view to how you can help.
This could be wider company goals, such as profit or growth, or specific challenges related to the project itself.
You may discover that their sales are falling because of high website bounce rates. Or it may be that they can’t hire a full-time staff member due to budget issues.
Whatever it is, you may be able to use it as leverage in your proposal, as with the answers to question two. Except that question three should help you to establish the immediate issues they’re having.
Imagine your client has just answered question two with,
“We’re trying to double the time visitors spend on the site by December”.
You follow up with question three framed as,
“What obstacles can you see to doubling the time visitors spend on your site?”
Their reply may be something like,
“We’re getting a high bounce rate from mobile users.”
Later in your official proposal you can bring all their answers together:
“I’ll design you a website that is mobile-optimised, which will reduce bounce rates and help increase the time visitors spend on your site.“
This is so much more powerful than simply proposing a design to a client.
Shut Up and Listen
These questions can become an incredibly powerful technique when used properly.
It’s not hard to see why.
You’re getting your potential client to scope out the project for you, and tell you why it’s important to them. With that information, you can put together a winning proposal almost every time.
One of the keys to a successful client meeting, and using these questions effectively, is to just shut up and let them talk.
Don’t be afraid to clarify things you think may be important. But let them talk!
As they do, narrow down their answers into THREE main objectives you can relate to the project. When they’re finished, repeat these three objectives back to them.
Get them to confirm that those are their most pressing issues. And then use that as your base to scope out the project with them right there and then.
Once you have it, you’ll leave your preliminary meetings with the bulk of your proposal ready!
Would you like to know more about winning clients at the first meeting? If you do, I’ve put together a mini-guide you can download for free here.
Want to know the next steps to writing a winning proposal? Download your FREE Guide to First Meeting Success here.