As a New Business Person, Can you Close at the First Meeting?

Answers to a reader's new business question
by Todd Knutson

first meetingA reader from Finland recently emailed a few questions, which I'll answer over the next few days. The first is, "When you're selling something as intangible as advertising, how can you close at the first meeting?" This is surely the hope of every ad agency new business person, so how realistic is it?

There are ways to do it. Here are two:

  1. Have unique product offering not found anywhere else. It must be something that will significantly improve their sales - today - and be easy and fast to implement.
  2. Find a champion in your target company. They may or may not be part of the decision making process, but definitely must know what the real need is and be able to help you develop a simple and clear strategy that hits the dead center of their "need bullseye". They must passionately believe that your firm will be successful, and be willing to risk their reputation by recommending you.

As #2 indicates, however, knowing what the issue is when you arrive for the first meeting presupposes that you've done a significant amount of pre-meeting work to understand your prospect and their business needs, not to mention nurturing internal relationships, and turning one into your champion.

To assume that you'll have a phone conversation, set a meeting, attend it, and walk away with a project is wishful thinking.

Think about it from the perspective of your prospect: how likely would you be to award a five-, six-, or seven-figure project to someone you just met? Is one meeting enough to get to know them? To trust them? To know their reputation? To risk your career on? I wouldn't. Would you?. So, why expect your prospect to react differently at your next first meeting?

Perhaps like an episode of Mythbusters, we should say that when selling marketing services, the odds of closing at the first meeting are pretty low.

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