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Monday, August 15, 2011

Don’t Wreck Your First Meeting | BNI

I was sitting in a hotel lobby playing with my phone and jotting down notes from an email. Pretty much I was making time for my next appointment to happen. As usual, I show up at least 10 minutes early to make sure I’m ready to go. The clocked ticked by 10, 15 then 20 minutes past the hour we were suppose to meet when I realized they were going to be a “no show”. While I sat there I had called and sent off an email letting them know I was waiting with no reply. At that slightly sizzled moment, I was inspired to write an article on the absolutely worst things you can do on a first business meeting. Here are 4 things that you must not let happen.

1) NO SHOW. Completely missing a meeting because you forgot, wrote the wrong appointment date or had something better to do, will completely discredit you with the person you were to meet. I don’t think there is anything you can reasonably do to recover from this one except to write a loving apology note and hope it will do some damage control from them bad mouthing you every opportunity they have. If an emergency happens, call your contact immediately to explain and offer to meet them anytime, anyplace at their convenience. You might get a second chance.

2) SHOW UP LATE. You are allowed up to 5 minutes late when you are running behind schedule but you have to call your contact to tell them you are going to be late. Later than that and you will run into the potential problem of lowering your perceived professionalism in the eyes of others. If someone is irritated that you made them wait then your message and purpose for your meeting will not have the best outcome. Simple solution; plan for potential delays and get there early.

3) OFF COLOR HUMOR. I have a knack for making people feel at ease and comfortable. But in the past, some people have mistaken this for a “green” light to throw out some slang, off-color remarks of a racial or sexual nature or actually tell me vulgar joke. No matter how comfortable and connected you feel during the first meeting, it is never advised to go down this path. Conversing with your potential referral partner or client like you might do with your golf buddies could potentially blow up in your face and again reflect very poorly on your integrity. Keep your “filter” in check to make the best impression.

4) ONLY TALK ABOUT YOURSELF. Recall the purpose of your initial business meeting. You may be there to sell a client on your products or services, connect with a potential referral partner or expand your professional network with someone who is well connected in the community. Don’t use this opportunity to dominate the conversation and only talk about yourself or even your services. You will bore people and send out the message that you only value yourself and not them. I always recommend starting off with asking about what they do, what their business is about, what they think about the industry, etc. Show interest in them, take notes and interject your views and knowledge as the conversation flows. The scale should be tilted toward them and eventually it will come back toward you because they will also realize they have been doing all the talking and want to know more about you. This will be the perfect opportunity to promote what you have to offer.

You have successfully scheduled a meeting with someone that can expand your career and grow your business; the effort of finding them and asking for an appointment is complete. But there are still some big pitfalls which have to be avoided if you want your connection to be as successful as possible. Don’t ruin your hard efforts with one careless mishap.

Lester Salvatierra is a Finance Broker and Director of First U.S. Finance ( He helps small to mid-size companies get the money they need to lease or finance new equipment and special projects. He is also a BNI Area Director in Ventura County, CA. Ph: 805-217-9896

With over 5,500 active chapters, and over 100,000 members throughout every populated continent worldwide, BNI is the largest and most successful business referral organization in the world. BNI was founded in 1985 by Dr. Ivan Misner and the organization, which allows only one person from each profession to join a chapter, offers members the opportunity to share ideas, contacts, and most importantly, referrals. Last year alone, members of BNI passed 6.2 million referrals, generating 2.6 billion dollars’ worth of business.

For more information on BNI, please visit or call BNI Headquarters at 909.608.7575.

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