Recently, I called on a person who had just started a new business. Very early into our conversation he told me that one of things he was having problems with was relaxing and showing confidence in his initial meetings with his clients. In his field, the first meeting often determined whether he would get the business or not, so this was very important.
Of course, this is often the situation, no matter the field in which we work. He said he was surprised that he was so relaxed during our conversation. He even noticed that he had unfolded his arms; something on which he’d been working. I told him that, like him, I was in the business of being a professional stranger meter. As a consultant, I have to be able to walk into a new setting six or seven times a day and within minutes make the person with whom I’m meeting feel comfortable and confident enough with me to share the information I need. I shared briefly with him that much of this comes from having extreme confidence in myself without making the person feel like I’m talking down to him. My first goal is to break down any barriers I see, including folded arms, leaning back while in conversation, negative tones in the voice, and other subliminal distractions I might notice. To me, it starts with a positive statement at the beginning of the meeting, usually about something on their wall or desk. After all, this is where they spend the majority of their time and
where they remind themselves about the “best things” in their lives – kids, hobbies, business awards, etc. I listen to their language and try to match their inflections in order to put us quickly on the same conversation level.
I try to position myself directly across from the person I’m interviewing and strive for solid eye contact throughout the conversation. Folded arms say to me that they’re on the defensive. So the faster I can get them to relax with me, the quicker they’ll open up with the information I want.I always want them to be the stars of the meeting, but I have to be a co-star so that I can build the language bridge. As consultants, our clients often position us as experts and while this is helpful in procuring an appointment, I try to let them position themselves as the experts in their business through the use of open-ended questions and comments like, “That’s very interesting.” “I didn’t know that.” “Why is that the situation?” “How can you change the situation?”
Leaning forward towards the client tells them I’m very interested in what they’re saying and helps them to release their anxiety about the meeting. It also helps if I offset the desk or other physical barriers which maybe between us. And there’s nothing more powerful than a genuine smile during a conversation.
Even if you’re in a situation where you’re the third party in a meeting, keep in mind that the client is always subliminally checking out your language as well. Even if you don’t need to be taking notes, doing so shows them how important the meeting is to you.
The more positive your body language, the more relaxed and confident the client will be with you.
We strive to provide quality service while maintaining productive growth for our clients.