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Chit Chat and the environment (sounds like a good name for a 70's band) Sales Presentation and Building Business Relationships
by Graham Bennett
One of the things I bang on about is that the feeling of new business meetings with existing or potential clients can be strongly influenced by the environment in which they take place.
If the clients sit on one side of the table and your team sits on the other side, directly facing, this can sometimes make the meeting feel a little like a face off (literally).
If the meeting is taking place at their venue, one doesn't always have much influence over the environment. The environment may have been established beforehand by the client, and it is a meeting room that you are invited to, and invited to sit in - in a particular place.
One thing I like to do in such a situation, if I'm not specifically told where to sit, is to quickly place myself and my colleague on opposite sides of the table so as to break up this 'facing off' dynamic. People can often feel intimidated by an environment - particularly if it seems grandiose, stuffy, overly corporate, or lit in an uncomfortable way for example.
Particular environments may have bad memories for us, and may affect the confidence with which we 'hold' ourselves in the meeting.
Business Pitch Meetings
Sometimes business pitch meetings are set up with the expectation that projected material will be needed on screen, and this can dictate the whole arrangement of furniture in the room.
This has happened to me twice recently. It serves to achieve a physical separation between us and the potential client - a dynamic that doesn't fully suit my (or our, for that matter) preferred style of delivery - not to mention the devastating blow it delivers to the opportunity for chit chat.
Talking about chit chat, particularly with relation to Building Business Relationships, as well as a Situation where you are making a Sales Presentation, is that it's often the initial chit chat that sells you to a client before you've even got down to the nitty gritty of the detail.
It tends to be "you they buy"
Although 'the devil is in the detail', it tends to be 'you they buy'.
So the ease with which you can just show up to the meeting as an authentic "you", rather than the you who needs to go straight into pitching or negotiating mode, can really help establish rapport and to put the client or potential client at their ease.
In our Building Business Relationships course we run a series of rapport building skills, the first of which is simply offering up some small dose of personal disclosure, as opposed to asking lots of questions.
This can be surprisingly difficult for people to do as an exercise, and brings into focus how often we resort to questions in order to get to know people better - e.g.
How many years have you been here?
Have you always been on the 14th Floor?
You manage to keep fit then?
This is obviously perfectly feasible initial chit chat - however we tend to find that anything more than three questions on the trot can begin to feel like an interrogation. An alternative framing of the above, avoiding questions, could be (in my particular style) :
It's quite novel for us to go up 14 floors to meetings, because for the last 10 years we've been on the ground floor at our place
We've just expanded our office space sideways
I have to keep fit by walking up the escalators regularly at Angel station
They're quite steep and long!
Each one of those small offerings of disclosure can potentially invite the other person to tell you something about their situation, which you might have found out by asking the question instead - however the person doesn't necessarily feel put on the spot.
It can seem somehow slightly more generous to offer something of yourself instead. And it doesn't have to be very much - when we talk about 'personal disclosure' the concern is we're going to pitch in with something like:
'Oh my granny just died, so I'm feeling a bit depressed at the moment...'
'my doctor told me I need some colonic irrigation, so I'm going to go easy on the biscuits if you don't mind!'
Impact Factory runs tailored Sales Presentation and Building Business Relationship Skills Programmes
for anyone who wants to improve building their business relationships
Chit Chat in the environment (sounds like a good name for a 70's band) -
Sales Presentation and Building Business Relationships
Freephone: 0808 1234 909
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