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it’s not what you say, but the way that you say it – first meetings

My mum’s top three favourite sayings, in order of annoyance and frustration to me, as a 14 year old boy who thought he knew everything;

** For those old enough, insert Top of the Pops tune here **

In three – “Because I said so”
In two – “I’m not one of your little friends” ft “don’t talk to me like that”

And in position number one, holding the top spot for a record 137th week,

“It’s not what you say but the way that you say it”

How that used to rile me no end, I would go away thinking that I had made the most innocuous of comments, to find that had been taken and twisted in to whichever way the person at whom it had been directed had taken it. Now of course, the corresponding facial expression may have done nothing to put out this particular fire – but at the time I would plead my innocence until I was blue in the face, and then no doubt go away, take a moment and return with cap in hand and apologize for having given the wrong impression through my words. In truth this was the case on most occasions, where your inner thought escapes through the gaps in your words, and I have always tried thereafter to make sure that I judge a comment before it leaves my mouth in order to assess its comical / sarcastic viability against the audience I am dealing with.

It’s a challenge still if I am honest, a continued problem of the “cheeky Chapie” – to speak first and think later, regretting on occasion just how something may have been miss understood – a lesson too for anyone who doesn’t re read an email before sending, do so!, as here too one must be extremely careful to choose the right words to communicate a point. Often, and for anyone who truly cares about the work that they do, it is very difficult to remain subjective and not take something personally especially when it involves responding to a complaint of some kind.

So, how to translate this during the course of a first meeting with a client……some quick “be careful” points of reference.

Do not promise the world, unless you can make good on that promise – We used to joke with the Sales team, that they promise the world to secure a booking, and we then have to clear up the mess with the client when it comes to making good on that promise – amending a client’s initial creative framework. Whilst we all want to do everything we can to show off the venues in which we work, you have to know its limitations – on service, presentation, Health and Safety – if you don’t, or worse, are dishonest about any element, you run the risk of alienating the client – and with initial trust gone, only headaches await.

How good am I? – Confidence is one thing, but remember that we are only as strong as the team who support us. As such, if you go in with all guns blazing, talking yourself up and then can not deliver – I say no more. Work with your client, and come the end of the event , let them be the judge of just how good you were at your role, ideally surprising them with the care and attention you took – rather than falling flat though an inflated ego.

“I know the queen of Sheba” –  yup, “so do I!” – Don’t name drop. It can work in your favour, but at an initial first meeting, you have no idea who the client knows, or whether they have had a negative experience with this same person – you then look foolish.

Pricing and all the great ideas – Things change so dramatically from one meeting to the next that it is never advisable to give prices for anything at a first meeting, other than those that will be fixed come what may. Better to take note of all the clients requirements, and then come back to them with a detailed proposal. This is especially true for a wedding, clients sometimes wanting a “starting price” and sometimes wanting an all in package for their event.

At the end of the day, and having alluded to this previously, the most important aspect of a first meeting, is the relationship building – the connection that we hope to create with our clients, allowing them to feel confident in our ability, and that we genuinely have their best interests at heart. Once this trust is built, the other aspects of any proposal and negotiation can begin, at which time, the creative ideas you have stored up can be discussed and costed accordingly.

N.B – at 35, and without always thinking – mum is still on hand with her “advice”….Love her for it.

 

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