Other than reading offices, it is key to always bring and leave something behind. This concept essentially means that, after the first visit when you have the opportunity to study the space and engage in client conversation, you always bring something the next trip, relating to the previous one. It could be a book, a research article, a magazine article, a small gift, a photograph—something small but thoughtful.
The purpose is to pick up the conversation where it last left off. This symbolizes to the client that you not only listened, but were affected enough to continue thinking about the topic, even after the meeting ended. Some time may have passed, but you remember where you left the discussion and are ready to re-engage. A physical reminder of your visit will linger long after your discussion. As you finish your second visit, study the office further and think about the third visit’s ‘leave behind’
Now in adopting this technique, there are several rules relative to what not to leave behind. Obviously, you never leave a gift of such value that the client is uncomfortable or forced to make a judgment decision not to accept it. Having a client reject a gift is a disaster and reflects on your bad judgment. If you don’t know about the client’s gift rules, a good rule of thumb is to never give anything valued over $25, even if permissible. In my experience, most of the leave behind gifts were paper. The second rule, is to avoid gifts with a logo on them, except in the case of a research paper. You do not want the client branded with “your” stuff, especially in the eyes of his peers or subordinates. To be seen with paraphernalia covered in your company’s logo will be perceived as ‘marking his space.’
Early in my relationships with clients, I would bend toward technical or business items. But, as I got to know the client’s hobbies and interests, more personal items relating to those interests were left. The gifts serve to create a wonderful bridge and represent thoughtfulness. Many of my clients can still tell you about some article I left behind.
So, as my mother taught me to never come empty handed to a dinner party, I have never gone empty handed to a repeat client meeting.
© 2014 Robert Uhler and THE UHLER GROUP. All rights reserved.