The Introductory Prospect Meeting

{Spurlock, 2013. Business Development: A Practical Guide for the Small Professional Services Firm} 

Key Concepts

Be clear on what you are trying to accomplish in your meeting.

The first meeting will lay the groundwork for a long-term relationship.

Develop a plan for client meetings, and involve others that can contribute.

Ask the right open-ended questions, and uncover how your firm can be of service.

Listen and talk.

Develop a Client Capture Plan. Use the information from each step in the process of turning this prospect into a long-term client. 

Additional Tips

Your first meeting conversation is the basis for a continuing relationship.

Practice what to say and do at the right time.

If the person asks a question, understand why they are asking before you answer.

Never interrupt. Wait until the speaker completes their thought.

When the person talks about issues and concerns, she likely wants them to go away.

Each issue that surfaces provides an opportunity to impact their business.

Uncovering and discussing a problem many times leads to other issues.

Listen for aspirations and dreams, the excitement of growth and possibilities.

Goals and aspirations are future-minded topics and drive the relationship to a higher level more quickly. Help them see how you can be a part of achieving those dreams.

Face-to-face meetings are important.

Make sure to work through all the steps to create a strong relationship.

Know Who Can Help You Make the Sale

Gauge each person’s influence level:

An individual’s organizational impact on a particular department.

A person’s position and experience level.

People directly impacted are more likely to have a say in decisions.

When a person stands to gain as part of a personal priority, she will likely have a stronger say. The person feels a personal stake in the outcome.

Internal politics. Align with the person who has the most internal advocates.

Develop a Capture Plan

List all the key players, a description of the potential projects, the time frame involved, your thoughts on how to approach it, the team members you want to involve, and any facts to win the job.

Outline what the BD process looks like for the prospect.

List client issues and concerns.

Use the capture plan to gather all information and outline and schedule follow-up activities.

Prospective Client Capture Plan

Sector. Date Completed.

[] Company/organization. Address. Contact. Title. Phones. Email.

[] Our manager for this client (include others that may be involved)

[] Conduct research (learn about the prospect; check the website, news items):

other office locations; other people we need to meet; services they need; news items; potential opportunities.

[] Conduct internal research (gather knowledge of who has contacts or previous experience at this company)

[] First meeting plan

Introduce yourself and the company; direct them to our website

Preplan open-ended questions

Offer to conduct a lunch and learn (try to set a date as soon as they seem interested)

Send any additional information based on your conversation

Set future meeting

[] Add to the newsletter mailing list

[] Conduct a general services presentation

[] Send handwritten “thank you for your time” note to each person attending

[] Identify project opportunities and add to the tracking sheet. Time frame. Potential revenue.

[] Send more detailed SoQ or additional follow-up information

[] Schedule next steps and followup

[] Schedule lunch meetings with key individuals (list them and the scheduled dates)

[] EXISTING Client – we already know the key people and their needs:

Schedule regular contacts. Conduct satisfaction interviews. Offer technical lunch and learn (on a subject of interest to them; use project case studies)

[] Who else do we need to know in the organization (would the contact be willing to make introductions?)

[] Determine potential new work opportunities

[] Periodically send articles or information that may be of interest

[] Schedule to meet regularly – quarterly, monthly. “Drop in” for a visit if the company allows it. Walk around and meet others while in the building.

[] Networking. Regularly attend networking events and conferences this client attends. List potential events and dates.

[] Invite them to a social event that fits their interest (golf, fishing).

ACTION ITEMS and Additional Notes: ___

The purpose of the introductory prospect meeting is to lay the groundwork. Your goal is to form a trusting, long-lasting relationship, so the decision-maker thinks of you when he needs services you can provide.

Form trusting relationships based on face time, constructive, and of value to both you and your prospective client.

Value can be assured by mastering the art of effective meeting conversations.

Gain a deep understanding of the client’s needs.

With good questions, get them to do most of the talking and focus on what’s important to them, how they feel, and how things work in their organization.

If you are doing all the talking, you are not learning much about the prospects, their problems, and how to take the relationship to the next level.

Planning the Conversation

Pull together key people in your organization and brainstorm; sit down and plan what you will talk about and in what order. Who are you meeting with? What do you want to learn? Plan your questions and the general direction of the conversation. You will come across as a professional, showing respect and value for everyone’s time.

Research by visiting the company’s website and each individual’s LinkedIn page. Have an idea of the issues, but plan to be flexible and follow the path laid out as the conversation unfolds.

Have a clear goal in mind of what you want to achieve. Aim for a constructive client conversation, and think through the possible outcomes of the meeting.

Is this a discovery meeting where we will get acquainted and see where it goes?

Is there a specific project we are targeting? What do we need to know about it?

Is this a current client who has voiced concern and to whom I might offer new services?

Am I asking for introductions to other departments?

Is there a competitor already in place? Do we need to show how we can do a better job?

What will be the next step? How can I position myself for that meeting?

What actions do I need to take before the next call?

What are my strengths and weaknesses going into this meeting?

The first step and the purpose of this first meeting are to identify a problem or issue. It is not a single step, but a gradual evolution of knowledge gathered one piece at a time. Be the tour guide and ask the right questions to clearly define the problem for you and the prospect.

Once the problem is clear, gather additional information about it. With each new piece of information, perception and understanding change.

Options become apparent. Allow flexibility. Follow-up can uncover new opportunities.

Create an Agenda

An agenda helps everyone with the meeting’s focus.

Why did this person agree to see you in the first place?

What is the person trying to do with the business?

What are the company’s goals?

What challenges is the company likely to be facing?

Setting the Tone of the Relationship

Appearance creates perception. Speak and appear professional, and dress one step above how the client will be dressed.

Never lie or stretch the truth. Always treat the prospect with respect.

Becoming too friendly too soon can create suspicion and distrust; give the prospect plenty of time to get to know you.

This meeting is focused on the client.

Personal Chemistry

Relax and be yourself. If others are with you, introduce them and explain their roles. When other people attend from the other firm, understand the responsibilities of each so your remarks to each can be tailored accordingly.

As you arrive, remind your prospect of any connection you might have, and exchange a few bits of get-acquainted information.

Reconfirm the time the prospect has available for this meeting.

If the time were cut short, it would be best to use this short time to get acquainted but get a commitment for another time.

Do not hurry through this most important first meeting.

Take Your Time

Follow the other person’s lead and gauge when to start talking business and how much small talk is enough.

Let people know you realize their time is valuable and appreciate it. “I know your time is valuable, too, so I will be direct.”

Make the Connection

Building real rapport means that the prospect feels you are tuned in and care about what he has to say.

Listen to what the prospect values and show interest in his interests to build trust. Most people are self-focused. Recognize and capitalize on that tendency. It helps you gather information about the individual about how to relate effectively.

In this first meeting, the prospect instinctively decides if they like you. Most buying decisions will be based on how the prospect feels about you. Your positive interactions are what build a positive connection.

“How familiar are you with our company?”

– You gave this person a brief overview when setting up this meeting, and chances are they visited your website, so there is no need to go into details.

If you’ve been asked to come in and present your company capabilities, the meeting requires a different format than you use for the first meeting.

This meeting is about the prospect and learning about the prospect’s situation.

“Tell me about your responsibilities.”

“On the website, I noticed your CEO values … What does that mean for you? How does that impact your job?”

“What type of project does your group manage?”

“How does the (current issue such as the economy, regulatory driver, or political event) affect (or has affected) your operations?”

Discovery Period

Rapport has been established. Now, uncover the prospect’s issues and concerns. Your goal is to find a specific problem or project for which you can provide a solution. The tendency is to think about what clients need concerning your services, but at this point, you are just trying to make a connection and uncover the true needs. Many of the true needs may be unspoken.

You should not be selling during this first meeting. Gather information.

Uncover their real issues and concerns, and you have grounds for offering your service solutions in a way that will benefit the client. You will always be working in the dark unless you can uncover the real issues.

Uncover needs, opinions, values, priorities, and sensitivities.

Ask your question and then stop talking while the other person answers. Never interrupt, and only ask another question once you are sure the other person has told you everything he wants to say.

Guide the conversation to help the prospect recall relevant and useful information. If the prospect wanders off, gently guide them by asking another relevant question or repeating the same one differently.

Some information may be subtle, so ask for clarification; listen closely and then, naturally, probe and clarify for a deeper understanding:

“Can you tell me more about that?”

“What do you mean?”

By probing further, you encourage the client to provide more information. Some things may surface that she has not thought of previously.

Ensure the prospect sees the benefit of providing you with the requested information.

Use the client’s language and industry terminology:

“What are some of the issues and concerns you will be facing this year?”

“What are you doing about …?” (When you ask this question, the prospect understands that your company can do that kind of work.)

“Can you give me some background on your situation? How did it start? How long has it been going on? What will happen if this does not get resolved?”

“What is your personal interest?” (Find out where it hurts personally.)

“What would you like to see happen?”

“What did you like about your previous consultant?”

“What went well on your previous project?” (By asking this type of question, you’ll learn what the prospect values and what she does not like.)

“When does the project need to be completed?”

“What is the budget range?”

Ask about project parameters that can be of value – size, number of people, etc.


Make the most of this valuable time and use time efficiently. When you reach the end of the time, begin to close. If the prospect wants to continue, let him guide you on when to end the meeting.

Closing questions: 

“What would you suggest as our next step?”

“Where do we go from here;

How often should we follow up with you;

Would you like a proposal on this project;

What is the decision-making process;

Are you considering other firms;

Who are the decision-makers;

When will the decision be made;

When would you suggest we follow up with you again;

Are there others in the company we should know?”

Ask for an introduction to others this person would suggest you meet.

Prepare for multiple meetings to ensure forward movement. Think through the logical outcomes of each of those meetings.

Plan and schedule for follow-up. Ask when and how to follow up. Confirm action items. Set a date for the next step.

Thank your contact and the others for their time, and show appreciation for the value of the information they shared.


Be truly interested. Hear what the other person is saying. Be aware of the message of your body language. Lean forward and focus on the speaker. Take notes; it’s your way of showing the information is important to you. Nod occasionally to acknowledge the significance of the information. Smile and use appropriate facial expressions to show empathy for what is said.

Observe what is not being said. Observe the other person’s level of eye contact and body language. Visible changes in tension and emotions tell about the emotional level of the issue.

Slow down; balance talking enough to educate and asking questions to gather the necessary information. You do not need to show your expertise.

Help your client to tell her story. Everyone loves to talk about themselves and to tell their story. If not given the opportunity to do so, your client will feel ignored, overwhelmed, or unheard. Focus on how you can help rather than what you want to say. Focus on helping the client succeed.

Moving to the Sales Phase  

Present the business case for your offered solution and allow clients to sell themselves. Help clients see the gap or difference between where they are currently and where they want to be.

Clarify the value and impact of working with you because prospects cannot always know the true value at the beginning. Don’t assume the other person understands; make it clear to her.

Methods to clarify impact:

Financial. How much cost is saved by doing nothing; what is the cost of not doing it right the first time; what is the impact of not doing anything?

Emotions. Speak to the person; explain the peace of mind, promotion, and job security this decision can bring. While you must be able to show the financial impact, ultimately, people buy with their emotions.

Impact versus the alternative. Discuss how your service is superior, and give examples of previous projects. Never speak negatively about the competition. Know the alternatives.

Contribution to ROI.

Consequences of not moving forward. What will happen if the prospect does not move forward? Probe for consequences of inaction.

Examples. Build credibility, and discuss the impacts you’ve experienced yourself.

Make it tangible. Depict what is going to change when your service is engaged. Paint a picture or tell a story. Show tangible value articulated in dollars, efficiencies, and a resolution.

Paint the picture of the new reality and its value. How it is best for the customer based on your knowledge of their issues and concerns. Start the process by creating a situation that encourages creative thinking. Ask insightful questions and then be silent. Give the prospect time to envision the future.

Later on, when you present your proposal, use those pictures and images that come up as the client describes the envisioned future. The goal is to paint a compelling picture of your client’s new reality of a successful project.

In the solution stage, you craft an idea and articulate how you can help; stay focused on the prospect’s needs and resist the urge to offer everything.

When the relationship is new, you can break the solution into smaller phases or projects rather than jumping in too big at the start.

After the Meeting   

Upon completion of your visit, send a thank-you note for the person’s time and include any information you promised to send.


Schedule your next action or follow up with this contact. Follow up as long as it takes to either get an opportunity or to determine no opportunity exists.

Focus your time where it is most beneficial.


Enter any identified project into a TRACKING SYSTEM.

Enter leads into a LEAD-TRACKING SYSTEM.

Be Persistent

Make follow-up contacts. What counts as a contact? Anything that keeps you top of mind; phone calls, voice mail, meeting at a networking event, mailings, articles, face-to-face meetings.

Keep up with this prospect until at least nine contacts have been made.

Don’t Be a Pest

Know what will be of value to the prospective client; anything of value to the prospective client is good follow-up material.

Ask how often you should follow up and take her lead on how often to call. Ask politely and make it clear you don’t want to be a bother but want to be of service and support; the prospect will tell you.

Stay in Touch

People may not always think of you or remember the services you can provide; continue to tell them as often as possible. Use notes to help with future interactions. Business-related topics, personal hobbies, or subjects of interest; think about the person’s position in the firm and things that interest her. Add follow-up ideas to your schedule.


Most people you meet will need to hear about your capabilities and the benefit you bring several times before it sticks. Use visuals for impact.

Be Concise

Be direct, and don’t assume the other person understands what you mean. Ask for feedback periodically, and check your message is coming across as you intended.

Different Personality Types and How Best to Relate to Them

Introverts tend to give short, concise responses; probe for additional information. Stop and wait for an answer, don’t jump in to fill the silence, and don’t finish their sentences. Relate at their pace.

With someone who does not know when to stop talking, say something like: “I know you are busy, and I don’t want to take up too much of your time.” Then ask your next question.

Some like to feel in control, while others may be timid. Find a way to relate to each personality type on their own terms.

Address everyone and make eye contact, no matter their position. Be courteous and show professionalism.

Avoid criticism of competition. Say something good.