The Walk to the Door (Issue 421)

In which we are reminded to prepare for the "meeting after the meeting." They've had a lovely evening together. Dinner, sparkling conversation, and a play, topped off with cappuccino and a deeply chocolate dessert, shared and savored. They're returning, now, walking up the path toward her front door, both minds spinning.

His, wondering what he could say or do at this point to elicit an invitation to come in. Hers, considering how to conclude the evening at the door step with just a hint of greater possibilities in the future.

If your humble correspondent’s experience is any indication, she’s been planning her strategy for at least an hour. He, on the other hand….

It is sometimes thus in business meetings and sales calls.

We and our clients/prospects have established rapport and connection. The agenda is “done;” the pressure is off, protective shields lowered. During this few minutes’ walk to the door, the larger group breaks down into pairs or threes, or we and our prospects are together, alone, moving through the building. Frequently, clients and prospects are willing to talk about stuff, “one on one” moving through the building, that they weren’t willing to speak about during the meeting.

We can guide the conversation to the personal (“What are you most looking forward to in your vacation?”) or offer an inducement for further conversation (“Hey, if you’d like, I could introduce you to Ms. so-and-so; she’s one of our clients…”). We could take the conversation in a totally different direction (“You know, I’ve just had a thought that, perhaps, we could come back to next time we talk…”) or explore points discussed in the meeting (“When you said you could be open to a different approach, what were you thinking?”). We can fix a problem (“You know, I have the feeling that I completely missed your point when we were talking; I’m sorry, and I’m wondering if…”). Lots of choices.

Who plans for this? This is just supposed to be “OK we’re all relaxed now, we’ll just ‘relate,’ right?

Um, no. That’s the “Going up the walk, if I look really sincere now and blah blah blah, then ‘bingo'” strategy. As the dudettes know, that’s usually not when and how that decision is made.

Just as we plan call objectives and prepare ourselves with lines of questioning, facts, and futures for our main meetings, so could we plan and prepare for the walks to the door. Your humble correspondent has learned this the hard way by saying some of the stupidest things he’s ever said during nervous or over-relaxed walks to the door at the ends of evenings or at the ends of meetings.

Sure, it’s likely that we’ll change our plans for post meeting walks during the meetings; we’ll hear or observe things that influence our choices. However, to do no advance planning leaves us hoping that we’ll be able to work magic during the last 15 yards to the door. Magic favors the prepared mind.

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