Concluding the meeting skillfully is essential to determining the course of action. If the prospect has set an appointment time, it’s important to keep an eye on the time and conclude the meeting, or at a minimum note the time a few minutes before the meeting should end. If the client is really engaged, he or she can extend the meeting time, but it’s not good to have the client look at her watch and say the time is up.
Three to five minutes before the end of the meeting, indicating the time is nearly up, you should bring the meeting to the close with a few more questions. Ask about following up, about others in the organization who might benefit from knowing about your firm. If there is any way you can be of help to the prospect, identify that and state how you’ll offer that help. It’s also helpful to ask for permission to stay in touch (if you’ve determined the prospect could be a good client). Find out what the client-to-be prefers in the way of communication, such as email, or an occasional call.
Thank the client and leave. Don’t linger. And don’t bring up new topics at the end of the meeting. And never say, “Oh, I forgot to ask…” When the meeting is over, let the meeting be over.
There’s something beautiful about questioning skillfully. It turns you into an adventurer, explorer, detective, analyst, reporter, investigator. Questions are engagement tools, and I don’t just mean, “Will you marry me?” Asking a question engages you. Perhaps with another person. But it could simply be with the world, with thought, with your contemplative self. Questions have the power to connect, because questions beckon answers, igniting conversation. Questions give answers a reason to exist. Questions are necessary, and when offered as a gift, even if they are unanswerable, life is engaged. Questions make life interesting, don’t you agree?
One of my favorite quotes is by Rainer Maria Rilke. He encourages a young poet to learn to love questions. I encourage you to embrace questioning, too.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into
the answer.” -Rainier Maria Rilke