Meeting with prospects is a key part of running your business...

11 Tips for Low-Stress, Effective Meetings That Turn Prospects Into Clients

“Hello. I’d like to talk to you about some writing I need done. When do you have time to discuss it?”

Enter the butterflies. The thoughts swirling around in your head. The excitement.

It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time, your tenth, or your hundred-and-tenth… when a prospect wants to talk to you about a writing project, it’s exciting.

It also can be terrifying. A source of anxiety. Stressful.

But, not if you have a strategy… a game plan mapped out ahead of time. Today, I’m going to share how I handle meetings with prospects so they’re low-stress, yet effective, at turning those prospects into paying clients.

You can take these tips and turn them into your own game plan, so you, too, can handle these meetings with ease.

Tip #1:  Develop the proper meeting mindset.

Meeting with prospects can be intimidating, when you feel like there’s a lot riding on the outcome. Prospects can sense this, and it can undermine your credibility. Instead of thinking about how much you need the prospect to say yes, try to approach the meeting as a means of discovering if you even want to work on this project for this prospect.

Try my mantra:  No pressure here. Let’s just see where this goes.

Say it to yourself right before the meeting. It may sound corny, but it helps!

Tip #2:  Prepare prior to the meeting.

I rarely schedule same-day meetings with prospects. I don’t want to seem too “available,” after all. But, I also want some time to prepare. Before the meeting, I look at their website and check them out on social media. I do a Google search.

I don’t spend a lot of time on this, just in case they don’t end up hiring me. But, I want to know something about them before we talk about their project.

Tip #3:  Listen first.

After the social pleasantries are out of the way, I generally start the meeting by saying something like, “So, tell me about your project.” And then, I stop talking and let them tell me. I may ask a few questions to clarify things or to keep us on track, but this is their time to tell me why they’re thinking about hiring me to write for them.

Tip #4:  Record the meeting.

While they’re talking about the project, I take notes. But, I also ask permission to record the meeting. If it’s a video meeting (I like to use Zoom for these), recording is a simple matter of clicking a button. There are call recording apps you can use if the meeting is happening via a phone call. And, there are iPhone and android apps you can use to record an in-person meeting.

I use my written notes to help me remember pertinent information during the meeting, but it’s reassuring to know I’ll have the recording to help prepare a proposal, and even to use when working on the project, if they hire me.

Tip #5:  Curb your enthusiasm… no verbal vomit.

If this prospect is someone you really want to work with, or if the project is an exciting one, it’s common to have a lot of ideas about how you can help. When this happens to me, I have all kinds of possibilities running around in my head.

But, the combination of enthusiasm, eagerness to help, and a touch of nervousness about it all can produce what I call verbal vomit. And, it’s not pretty.

Instead of spewing out every possibility running through your head, take a breath and look at your notes. This is why we listen first. What’s most important to them? Address that first and save your other ideas for after you’ve earned their trust.

Tip #6:  Always stay positive.

You don’t have to be all rainbows and unicorns, but meetings go much better when everyone is positive. Your prospect is hopeful about their new project, so don’t rain on their parade. If they have unrealistic expectations, be professional about setting the record straight… but in a diplomatic and positive way.

And, NEVER talk badly about whoever wrote their existing copy… it could have been THEM! Even if it wasn’t, your negativity will reflect more poorly on you, not the other writer.

Tip #7:  Confirm your understanding of what they’ve said.

It’s important that you’re both on the same page about the details of the project, so you can give an appropriate proposal. And, the easiest way to ensure this is to simply ask. I’ll say something like, “So, if I understand what you’ve said, you’re looking for ___.”

This shows you’ve been paying attention, and it gives you an opportunity to correct your notes, if you had any details wrong. It also helps your prospect be very clear in their expectations. Win-win!

Tip #8:  NEVER quote a project fee during this meeting.

They’ll ask for a price. Expect them to, so it doesn’t catch you off guard. But, politely let them know you never quote a fee during the first meeting. I simply say I want to make sure I’ve thought it all the way through and will present them with a proposal outlining what we’ve discussed along with fees involved.

If I get any push-back, or if they’re insistent on getting a quote right then, I remind them that hiring a writer isn’t like going to the store for a loaf of bread or a bottle of wine you can simply take off the shelf. That usually gets a chuckle and eases any tension about waiting for the proposal.

I also tell them when they can expect that well-thought-out proposal from me… usually one to two business days. And then, I make sure I deliver that proposal when I said I would.

Tip #9:  Avoid the overwhelm.

There’s a saying in sales that a confused or overwhelmed mind does nothing. So, if your prospect seems overwhelmed by your discussion of all you can do to help them, take a step back and suggest starting small with something that will give them an immediate win or reassure them of your talent and skill.

For example, if they want to set up lead-generation funnels (landing page, lead magnet, and five autoresponder emails) for four different target markets, you could suggest starting with just one. Or, if they want to send a weekly email newsletter for the next year (52 email newsletters), you could suggest starting with just four for the first month.

Many times, this kind of suggestion is enough to take the pressure off, and they’ll end up just going with the full project anyway. But, even if they take the smaller start, you’ve gotten your foot in the door.

Tip #10:  Set expectations for working with you.

After they’ve had their turn to talk about the project and you’ve clarified all the details, take just a few minutes to explain what they can expect working with you to be like. I outline the next steps of when they’ll receive my proposal and what will happen if they find it acceptable, including when they’ll get a first draft and how many revisions are included.

Tip #11:  Respect their time… and your own.

I typically set aside 30 minutes for an initial meeting with a prospect. And, I’m up front about telling them this is my timeframe for the meeting. If we haven’t covered everything in that time, I’ll say something like, “Well, we’re at the time I’ve allocated for this meeting, and it looks like we still have a few other things to discuss. Do you have time to continue now, or should we schedule a second meeting?”

This does a few things. It sets the expectation that your time is valuable. It positions you as a professional. And, it establishes you as a person of your word. All of these are helpful in establishing a positive working relationship going forward.

Bonus Tip:  Change your wording!

We writers work with words every day, so let’s do what we’re good at. Instead of “initial meeting with prospect,” I call it a “discovery session.” We’re both going to discover if we’re a good fit to work together.

You can call it something that feels good to you. Make it something you can look forward to instead of getting stressed out over.

While most writers I know would rather hole up in their office and write than meet with prospects, we have to turn those prospects into clients if we want to get paid to do the writing we love. Use these tips to make your meetings more effective and less stressful.

And then, you can settle into your office and get to work writing.

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Michele Peterson

I'm a Freelance Direct-Response Copywriter specializing in web content and social media. I help clients attract new prospects, get new customers, and retain existing clients with engaging web content and strategic social media. I'm a Master Networker, having attended 400+ networking events in the past 3 years. AND I'm a proud Baseball Mom, Wine Wife, and BBQ Daughter who loves Christmas, Disneyland, and rescue dogs.

One Comment

  • This is very useful Michele! I’ve saved it and will be employing your terrific checklist at my next opportunity.

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