THE LACK OF PREPARATION CEDES COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE EVERY TIME

Yet amazingly over the last couple weeks, I had conversations with two leaders of rather sizable professional services firms who shared anecdotes about upper level consultants who were headed to upcoming business meetings…one with a new prospect and the other with a colleague from a past work experience.

In each case, when asked if the billable professional had thought through the meeting in any way, shape or form, they basically said “no.” One said they didn’t want to look too prepared and come off as “selling”, and other said that “we are just catching up,” so no need to burn the extra cycles.

Frankly, I was blown away by these responses.

I don’t know about you, but thankfully I am pretty busy. I have my business to run, clients to service, prospects to engage, and a personal life to live with twin, teenage girls and a spouse. I consider my time to be EXTREMELY valuable. So if I am meeting with someone, anyone — a friend, past colleague, prospect, new client contact, networking connection — I make sure that I have done the appropriate amount of preparation for that interaction, dialing up or down the level preparedness based on the formality and what is at stake in the conversation. Oh by the way, I expect the same from those I interact with!

HOW NOT TO BUILD RELATIONSHIPS

I had a young lady in my office recently who was in transition. She was introduced to me by a friend who used to work for me. He spoke very highly of her, and I was happy to make time. She showed up, professionally dressed, had a nice presence about her, solid communicator, and then this: “Dave, thanks for meeting with me. Before we get too far, I want to get to know you a bit more. Could you tell me, what does Gray Matters Group do?”

What would be your reaction to that question? For me, it was a drop the microphone moment. As the receiver of that question, I took as a clear sign that she was not invested in this meeting or relationship. I had gone out of my way to move things on my calendar to meet with this young lady sooner than later, and she said what? On the flip side, how invested do you think I was for the balance of the conversation? How hard do you think I tried to inventory my network in an effort to tee up possible introductions for her? Not very. She was relationally “dead to me”!

ARE YOU A PLAYER OR PRETENDER?

My friends, it’s so easy to make excuses why not to do this…”I am too busy,” “I have client deliverables to complete,” “I need to meet my utilization targets.” In the services sectors, where technical competence is becoming more and more commoditized, it is the little things that make the difference. People can sniff out quickly if you are invested or going through the motions…a player or pretender.

In addition, good preparation helps to accelerate the conversation. By not having to take a ton of time to rehash information that is already known and in the public domain, one can start to go deeper, sooner. And in my mind, the more robust the conversation, the more value for all participants.

TAKEAWAY

Preparing for business interactions is a game changer when done well— and show stopper when not. Don’t short this critical exercise! You will be damaging client relationships and your career.