First Client Meeting and the Time Management Dilemma

Project Daisy, Part II.

Last week I met the potential client I mentioned in ‘New online store prospect‘. Let’s call her ‘Daisy’*.

The meeting went well in the sense that I think I came across as professional and well organised and helped the client to clarify her needs.

I followed the meeting up with a proposal based on what was discussed, and Daisy came back a few days later and accepted it. I am now just waiting for the signed contract and up-front part of the payment and expect to begin the work tomorrow morning. Yay!

 
Business meeting = a political game

The meeting itself though, although it went well, left me drained and on edge for a couple of days… which is typical. Meetings are hard.

They are easier as team work. My husband calls the good teamwork ‘to play good cop / bad cop’**. I am the bad cop because I ignore all the sales fluff and bullshit artistry (as diplomatically as possible) and cut directly to the point.

However, when I meet a potential client by myself then I have to play the good cop AND the bad cop – help the client and be as friendly as possible, and in the same time look after my own interests. A self-contradicting and demanding situation.

 

artified chess board image, looking gloomy

x

 
A business meeting is a bit like a game of chess, except you have to be on your opponent’s side as well and many of the pieces are hidden from the start. Also, there are always pieces missing… information gaps, budget gaps, all sorts of gaps.

Here is my somewhat messy analysis of the meeting structure and how I tried to cope with the aspects of meetings I find most challenging, namely:

  • Time management
  • Pricing
  • Non-verbal aspects of the conversation

This is the first of 3 posts inspired by the meeting. Each post will focus on one of the above aspects, and this one is about time management.

The last post will focus on non-verbal communication, which is the aspect I find hardest to cope with in meetings. It is also the most difficult topic to write about, partly because of the level of writing skills required to capture non-verbal tension with words, and partly due to the privacy dilemma.

 
Agenda = time management plan

A good agenda is my key time management tool. It is also a good way to look well prepared. My agenda outlined:

  1. Project brief template.

    The project brief template was a list of what I needed to know to propose a relevant ecommerce package and create the right type of content: desired look and feel of storefront, pages, style of copy writing, desired ecommerce features, traffic and storage capacity needs, expected sales volume

  2. Cost overview.

    My brief estimate of fixed and variable costs involved in the set up and maintenance of an online store such as hosting, set up and payment processing fees.

  3. Preliminary quote.

    The premlimlary quote was the number of hours I estimated would be required to do the job x hourly rate. The hours were specified on tasks: such as set-up and adjust the online store, write and edit web pages and product descriptions, tutor how to run and maintain the store, SEO and support.

    The quote was based on what we had discussed on the phone – a template online store with an Ecommerce host, similar to what I did for Max*.

I think the planning was fine. However, the meeting didn’t go according to the plan.

Daisy turned out to be a sharp lady who knew very well how to play the business game. She didn’t really know how she wanted her online store, though, so she used the meeting as an opportunity to sort that out.

 
Time waste VS trains of thought

The meeting took almost two hours. I tried to keep it on track / in progress with my agenda, but had to accept that the process can’t be rushed and over-controlled. Most of the time was spent talking about Daisy’s current website platform and products and perusing the look, content and admin panel of her website via a slow Internet connection.

People do need to circle their options while they ride relaxed on their different trains of thought in butterfly-like conversation patterns. The time must be managed simultaneously, though.

 
artified image of train tracks with a butterfly

 
The dilemma is familiar. Max, the client I previously set up a template online store for, likes to talk and share anecdotes from his history as an entrepreneur. His glimpses of insight are interesting – he has imported and customised product ideas for 40 years. However, they are also subjective and anecdotical and only vaguely related to the task at hand.

Max’s trains of thought tend to zig-zag through shifty landscapes, maybe or maybe not headed for relevant stations, while I politely try to cut through the talk and re-task-focus the conversation. I want to avoid meetings like that and the exhaustion that follows them.

Objectively, the meeting with Daisy went better than meetings usually do for me. She wants the best deal as possible of course, but shows a good grasp of transactional fairness and boundaries. We are friendly, but we are not friends – this is business.

 
Read more: Journaling Project Daisy.

 
——–

*As usual all names are changed, and details are heavily camouflaged.

**He strongly exaggerates. I don’t behave rude to people or try to make them uncomfortable, I am just being objective and task-orientated. Directness can unfortunately make some people nervous, so that’s why I ideally need a nice accommodating team member to balance me out in a meeting.

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4 thoughts on “First Client Meeting and the Time Management Dilemma

  1. andrea

    *sigh* It’s SO enervating, trying to keep track of time/ agenda/ observe others/ strategize and plan/ direct them/ coordinate their needs vs reality. Argh!

    Meetings like those remind me of the old printing-shop sign:

    Time. Cost. Quality.
    Choose two.

    andrea

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  2. MarlaGottschalk

    Client meetings are very challenging for me as well. It is difficult to balance the need to collect critical information with the flow of conversation. It’s tough, very tough to stick to a time “budget”.

    Thanks for posting – Dr. Gottschalk

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