Closing a client meeting effectively means more than just summarising key talking points and committing to next steps. The good closing is also a time demonstrate your focus and interest in what the client has been saying to you – both verbally and non-verbally. If you are able to reflect back to the client your deeper understanding of their needs, you will improve your client’s commitment and greatly increase rapport. Leaving Time
If you have checked with the client and have an hour-long meeting, be sure to leave 15 to 20 minutes to cover anything important and to close the meeting effectively. After you have built trust, ascertained and confirmed a client’s situation you need to make sure there is time to explore a suitable way forward and seek commitment. It is not the time to launch a hard sell. Rather, it is about motivating commitment and acknowledging that clients buy on their own schedule, when they are ready. This is not about your sales process, but about their buying process.
Stop Thinking, and Listen
“To listen well is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation”
When approaching the close of a meeting, you will need to summarise key elements of what was covered and the way forward. This requires effective listening on your part to ensure you have the data you need to wrap up effectively. Besides lack of interest, the biggest barrier to effective listening is thinking. No one can listen - really listen – and think at the same time. Many things may be going through your mind: a potential solution for the client, examples of what you did in similar situations or the resources you are going to need. All of these thoughts will get in the way of concentrating 100 percent on the person in front of you. Eventually, the client will notice and stop trying to maintain your attention. Do not let this happen. The meeting is the time to concentrate on the client.
Reflect on Subtle Cues
Research suggests that only one portion of our understanding of a conversations comes from the specific words used. The remainder derives from the speaker’s tone of voice and body language. Despite this, when summarising, we rarely reflect back to the speaker anything other than what was actually said. Instead of just focusing on the words, you should show you understand how the other person feels. For example, you might say they are obviously passionate about this project, or that you sense they are apprehensive about the next step. By reflecting in this way, you tell the client you understand something deeper and are inviting them to open up with more detail. This goes a long way to building empathy, rapport and trust.
Once you have explored all the necessary topics and summarised your understanding, there is one more questions to ask: “Is there anything else I should know?” The answer may not reveal new information, but there is no risk in asking – only potential gains. If the client provides new information, then keep asking questions to cover that topic. Just be careful not to use this “anything else” question too early or in a repetitive manner. It is a great question when asked at the right time and in the right way, so do not forget to use it.
Finally, you will need to end on a note of commitment – your commitment. As you summarise next steps and actions you should commit to follow up in the next few days with some additional information – be it a proposal, brochure, article or white paper – something interesting to the client that relates directly to the topics uncovered in the meeting. It always helps to have an excuse to reach out, and this follow-up email will give you that excuse in the following week or two, to reconnect for feedback and extend an invitation to meet up yet again.