Did you know, research says that, people decide whether they want to do business with us or not within 3 – 7 seconds of meeting us. This is based on their assessment of the handshake, attire, our approach and words used in conversation or introduction.
Hence based on above we could lose a prospective partner within seconds and in the minutes that follow we may just be sealing that completely.
As Freight Forwarders most of us attend a lot of conferences each year. The participants are mostly comprised of Business Owners and even have some organizations represented by their Key Staff.
1-2-1 meetings are the main components of these conferences where the organizers allot 10-15 minutes for participants to meet each other through a prior fixed scheduler. As much as we all may have our own experiences and styles of approach, I have made an attempt below to share some pointers on “What to do” and “What not to do” to have an effective 10 minutes 1-2-1 meeting.
“BEST PRACTICES – WHAT TO DO”
START WITH THE END IN MIND: In most cases, you would already know ahead of time whom you are about to meet as the scheduler was fixed and the list available well in advance. The meeting was either called by you or the other party. In either case, you could have a Goal in mind as what would you want as an outcome from the meeting from a list of possible outcomes. The possible outcomes that you could aim for are as below:
- Convert the Partner as a Client (in other words – get them start sending enquiries /nominations/routing orders to you)
- Convert them into a Prospective Supplier (in other words – you currently don’t have a strong partner to support your enquiries and they could be filling that gap).
- Get them to send you Sales Leads
- There is a Strong chance of future collaboration by way of creating productsbetween trade lanes – LCL Consolidation / Air consolidation etc.
- Could there be a possibility of them giving business to someone else in your network?
- Could they be a good reciprocal partner for someone else in your network?
The last 2 possibilities are usually not thought off. If the meeting is with a Partner where either you have no business currently and do not see any possibility for whatever reasons, we generally tend to switch off. In such cases one hardly pays attention to the meeting. However, if you pay attention, you may be able to create some opportunity for fellow members in your network.
ESTABLISH RAPPORT FIRST: As mentioned in the opening remark, within seconds you could be putting someone off. It’s very important to have a pleasing approach and keep rapport building in mind. Each person is different and likes to be treated in a way that makes them feel comfortable. People come from different culture, different upbringing and different behaviors. “Have a Platinum Rule Approach”*
Golden Rule – Treat People the way YOU want to be Treated.
Platinum Rule – Treat People the way THEY want to be Treated.
A good way of establishing Rapport quickly is by showing interest in them. Something you like about them or their country. Maybe you could even ask the meaning of their name? or how they got into this business? It is an established fact that the most important person that everyone likes to talk about or hear about is themselves. It is important that when you show interest in knowing more about them you must pay attention and listen
Intently to them. Do not ask a question for the sake of it and stop listening.
After Rapport building if you both feel the need for more time to discuss about the possible opportunities, a follow up meeting can always be mutually agreed during a coffee break or at the after parties. (Some interesting Ice Breaker Questions are attached in Annexure A)
THINK GIVING: Most people attend a 1-2-1 meeting with a view to sell their products/services. Have you ever thought, if everyone approaches with a selling attitude who will buy?
Imagine how you felt during the 1-2-1s that you have experienced in the past where the other party shares a Brochure and goes on describing their services and infrastructure with you. At what point did you stop listening to them?? Whether an organization has the capability or not, these days one sees that everyone is offering all the services. Very rarely do you see someone having a Niche or having a specialized focus. Hence a conversation could be structured in such a way that once rapport building is done in 2-3 mins, you could move with an honest approach of discovering each other’s Niche or strength. This way you can either have some mutual collaboration or consider creating opportunity for someone else in your network.
The more you think – “how can I support the other person or someone else in my network”, the faster you will win the trust of people in your network and also stay on top of their mind. In the future, when they will have a requirement in your region, who do you think they will turn to?? YOU.
You could also let them know that you promote some key partners who either refer you business regularly or use your services in your Monthly Newsletters which could trigger their interest to work with you.
HAVE A STRUCTURED APPROACH (IN MIND OR ON PAPER): Often we see people getting carried away talking something irrelevant or getting too personal thereby losing their 10 minutes easily. It is always recommended to have a proper structure to what generally you would like to know about the other person and their organization. Initially, it is recommended to have this structure in writing (in printed format) so it will help us take notes, till we get used to it and have the structure memorized. A sample format is given in the Annexure B.
There is a Popular Saying – “If you fail to plan, you Plan to fail”
Taking note of some key facts such as the date of establishment of their organization, their birthdays and any other important dates will help you to reach out to them with personal congratulatory messages and stay on TOP of their minds.
BE HONEST, SAVE TIME: If you feel for some reason you do not see any possibility of having a business relationship with the other party, save each other’s time and tactfully mention this. This will help you both be open to exploring other avenues or you could just go for a coffee together. Instead of putting up with explaining services provided by each other’s organization you could have a lighter conversation and cultivate a better relationship.
Moving on to the “What NOT to do” pointers. Some of them have been indicated previously and could even be derived from the “To Do” ideas as opposites. Yet, I have made a short list of points below which are strictly to be avoided in order to have a fruitful 10 minutes meeting.
AVOID DISTRACTIONS: Do NOT be distracted during the meeting especially when the other person is talking. If they notice, which they will, it could be disrespectful and could even spoil the chances of a good relationship. Respectfully listening to the other person in itself will lead a stronger relationship. If possible, we must Nod our head in acknowledgement of what they say and also see them eye to eye. Not listening carefully could also lead to loss of possible opportunities.
“Listen to understand and not to reply”. Do not show impatience for them to finish so you can start. In case for some reason they take up the whole or most of the 10 minutes and you feel it’s important to share your story or services, schedule another meeting soon during coffee break or during after party.
NOT BEING READY: Do not search for your notepads and pens to take notes while the meeting is already on. Not only will this lead to being disrespectful, it could also reflect poorly on your image and you may lose out on vital information to say the least. Keep everything ready before the start of the meeting or start the meeting only when everything is set even if you have to take 1-2 mins before starting.
AVOID BROCHURES AND TOO MUCH COMMON DATA: Avoid showing your brochure and explaining the services unless there is something Niche. If there is a Niche service, you provide, take the guest directly to that and start explaining. This could easily arouse their interest and look for ways of cooperation.
AVOID “GRP”: Three Taboo Topics in any networking arena are “Gender shaming” “Religion” and “Politics”. These are topics, best avoided, as everyone may have their own views and one must be respectful of the same. It is best to keep your views to yourselves and not allow the same to ruin the possibility of doing some great business. When it Is possible that our own family members may not agree to our views on these topics, we cannot expect to find people matching our views all the time. It is best to stay away from SRP.
In conclusion, I would like to summarize by saying focus on cultivating a relationship rather than finding a customer. You will have more success and at the same time feel good.
I am sure the day is not far when we will be doing our conferences face to face instead of online. I know life is really boring not being able to shake hands with fellow partners. And when we do meet, the information shared in this article could come handy.
Wishing you all Successful Conferences in the future.