When growing your company, your product or idea is only the first step, and then you need to get it into the hands of your customers. For that to happen, there are meetings-- lots of them-- and for those meetings to succeed, you need to be prepared and professional, much like interviewing for a job.
Taking advice usually applied to rocking a traditional job interview, here are five things you should do before entering any meeting as an entrepreneur:
Just like the interview, the meeting starts before you walk in.
As you surely know from interviewing, If you think the interview begins when you walk in the door, then you are already setting yourself up for failure. Before that interview, you typically would spend as many hours as you can afford Googling the company.
But do you do the same before entering a meeting with an investor? You should.
What is the investment philosophy? What stage does the investor have an appetite for? What is the person you are meeting view as her biggest challenge and how can your solution help?
Walking into that interview or meeting with the confidence that you are an expert on the person will manifest itself in the conversation and will make it very clear to the interviewer that you are thorough and professional. The research alone will give you a massive head start.
You have other options? Put on your acting hat on and pretend this is the last opportunity on earth.
My dad always told me that when applying for a job, pretend it's the last job on earth. The same is true for a meeting with a partner, investor, or journalist who you are hoping will help your business grow.
When it comes to interviews in general, the last thing the interviewer wants to feel is that they are just another option on your plate. You have to communicate the idea that you have been dreaming of this job your whole life and that you want nothing more. Apply that same principle to any meeting and you automatically increase your chances of success.
When you are interviewing, you have one goal and one goal only, to get the offer. You can then choose whether to accept it, but you need to come into that interview as if you want this job more than anything else. That should be your goal in all your meetings throughout the entrepreneurship process.
Transparency is key and honesty is crucial.
Pretending you are good at something you know you are not is just a bad idea. It will come back and haunt you. Transparency about your weaknesses will actually achieve the opposite result than what you might think. It will give you an edge and impress the person you are talking to that they are sitting with someone who has enough confidence and self awareness to admit their weaknesses.
Admitting you don't know something also enables you to learn it on the job instead of spending your time proving to everyone that you really knew it the whole time.
In interviews, you should always err on the side of transparency, and this is the same for when you're pitching an investor or potential partner. Don't overpromise, you will regret it.
Know the lingo because the lingo is everything.
Lingo is funny, but it also core to the workflow. If you don't know relevant terminology, you are going to feel really dumb in that meeting.
Now, the list of industry-specific terms is never ending so you can't know it all-- no one does-- but try to familiarize yourself with the basics. Similar to the above point, when the person uses a term you are not familiar with, ask, be transparent.
The same is true for the world of a partner. Know their universe like the back of your hand and talk their language. It will put a smile on their face.
Follow up professionally.
As always, the process does not end when the interview or meeting ends. Follow up with a thank you and maybe include some notes or questions for the interviewer or partner. Now is not the time to be shy, which leads me to one very important and final point:
Humility is nice, but humility and self appreciation are not mutually exclusive. Be humble but know your value and don't be ashamed to sell yourself and what you bring to the table. Now is your time to shine.