>> Thursday, September 17, 2009
Aron Sora asked: I have a meeting with my client for my first Engineering class. It is a real client, nothing is simulated, do you have any tips for meeting with a client for the first time. It is a community service project, but it is real. I get my project in 1 week and the first meeting is in 2.
I will tell you what I would do, but I caution you, client schmoozing and customer relations aren't my forte. However, I do tend to have very good relationships with my NASA customers because I do good work efficiently, I can almost always figure out what they really want, I'm reliable, and I'm honest. Fortunately, I have a number of readers who know a great deal more about public relations, so, with any luck, they can add appreciably to what I'll put here.
Here's what I would suggest:
Be confident. Selling yourself is no time to be modest (or conceited). If you think you can't do it, the client will too. Remember, you didn't get where you are because you are incapable. You have to trust in yourself or no one will ever do so. Know your own worth.
Be honest. People do respond to this. Do not pretend to knowledge or ignorance you don't have. If you know something, speak up. If you don't, listen and, if challenged, admit to what you don't know without excuses. Everyone is ignorant of some things and ignorance can be cured. It's only for those who refuse to admit their ignorance that it's persistent.
Be respectful but not fawning. Yes-men and toadies come across as insincere, probably because they are. Be respectful and polite, but straightforward and honest. Don't compromise your values, but remember, you're there to help him or her.
Listen. Whether you're talking over an existing assignment or getting direction, listen. Too often, this is the step missed. Someone reads a proposal, thinks they know what the customer wants, and hears nothing when the customer gives specifics and details - then delivers something the customer doesn't want. Listen. When I think I understand what the customer wants, I often repeat back my understanding (not the same words) back to the customer. That way, if I've missed something or misunderstood something, he can correct me.
If you're presenting, don't rehearse. Unless you're an accomplished actor, rehearsing sounds rehearsed and appears insincere. Instead, know your material. Better to hem and haw a little but be able to answer questions or explain points then to be smooth, but clueless if they ask a question.
If you're presenting, be straightforward and clear. Keep it simple but not patronizing. Know the details behind the bullets you present. I'm an advocate for letting the substance sell it rather than using buzzwords and emotive language. On the other hand, I'm not a salesperson. Also, get someone you trust to go over it for unclear language, spelling and syntax.
I hope that was the kind of advice you were looking for. Hopefully, my wonderful commenters will chime in with more.