First client meeting: how to choose a location

I’ve been on an “introduction to business” type of course, and the lecturer there asked me this question: when you do meet the client, after they have agreed to do look at doing business with you, where do you meet?

The course was for businesses in general, and he asked me as an example; “you’re outside my house. How do I know who you are? What is going to make me let you in?” That was one thing I have not considered. Actually going into client’s homes? That’s door-to-door salesmen territory. By my nature, I am not a salesman.

I have been trying to search for answers, but most of what I have found was how to deal with the actual meeting itself. Not how to choose where to meet.

My first client I met through somebody else, and [the somebody else] chose the location and the time. It was in a coffee shop. It was neutral ground; was neither their house or location of business, and it wasn’t mine. I liked that.

So, I’m asking how do you choose where to meet the client for the first time? Have you ever been in a client’s house/place of business, have they ever been in yours?

Edit: wasn’t sure if this goes here or in business. If it’s meant to be there, please move.

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Do you have a real business?

Business office?

Do your clients have real businesses?

Do they have business offices?

I freelance, and have no business office, just my home. So almost all my meetings with clients are at coffee shops. They are fine with it and almost seem to expect it. (And I am irrevocably hooked on vanilla lattes now).

I would never meet at my home and never at the client’s home if it is a first meeting. I think that would probably give the client the upper hand, and it is probably best if I were the one directing how the meeting flowed.

I met my first client years ago at his place of business and I came away feeling like I had not accomplished nearly as much as I wanted to and that I had lost control of the meeting…

Why do you say that?

Are you saying being at a coffee shop keeps you in control more?

I’m saying the coffee shop is neutral territory so we both start out in the meeting on even footing.

When I met my first client at his place of business, he already had the advantage, and I still needed to convince him that I was the one he should hire to redesign his site. This did not work well, because he was the type of client that didn’t really know what he wanted, and didn’t really understand the world of websites very well, but he ran the meeting.

BTW, he still hired me. :laughing:

Seems to me meeting in homes would be OK for family and friends, but not otherwise.
*Warning, working for family and friends is rife with potential problems

Meeting in a cafe or restaurant (or golf course?) etc. would be OK if a “casual” atmosphere is desired.

But if you want to appear professional, having at least a small rented office would be preferred.
IF the cost of renting would be offset by your income and tax deductions.

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So what is your question?

If going to a neutral place like a coffee shop works, then keep doing it.

I would have thought going to the client’s site would be more empowering - especially if you don’t have your own office - but to each his own.

My opinion?

My Office

Advantages: I control the enviroment and mood. I can make sure that I have everything I need to get the sale. I am supposed to be in power and control of the situation. My customer can’t be distracted by his phone ringing (well, the mobile only which should be less frequent than his phone on his desk)

Disadvantages: The client can check the way I do things and “what’s behind the scenes” (no necessarily true because I am supposed to control that). If he doesn’t like the enviroment (from decor to how people greet him), it can be dangerous

His/Her office

Advantages: My client is comfortable in his enviroment. It may be easier the his guard is down and might be more willing to listen.

Disadvantages:` I depend on what I carry with me to present whatever I need. He can be easily distracted with phone calls, urgent matters or work stuff. It may be hard to finish the argument.

Caffe (or hotel cocktail bar or whatever)
Advantages: It is neutral ground. It can be more relaxed.

Disadvantages:` Noise around. May not be very productive. Easy to get carried out with too much chit-chat. Not very professional looking. You still need to carry with you whatever you need to present and you may have more curious ears around you that you would like to have litsening… and maybe commenting which, even if the comments are nice, can be distracting and not what you had in mind

So, whenever is possible, it would be his office or my office. In my case, because I have no office, I’d rather have his office.

Yet, if I want to discuss something serious and he’s willing, I’ll try to bring him to my own office (even if I have to rent it for the day) so I can make sure that we won’t be interrupted because there will be no secretary telling him “you have an urgent phone call”

I would never go to a home (exception made that it is his office and the family is not around) because, again, he could be easily distracted with… family… and who says not to family? So any power you have in your argumentation will be lost in a thousand minor interrumptions. The message will not get across

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@mikey_w - I have no question. I thought I was responding to the OP’s question with my experience. Isn’t that what he was asking for - people’s opinions?

BTW, @Mittineague. Your explanation is very thorough - leaves lots to think about.


My apologies - my mind is out for the day and I thought you were the OP!! :blush:

Thank you for the replies.

At the moment, no to #1 (so far I’ve done a few jobs for people) and no to #2. My clients will have businesses (they’re starting to look to go on their own), and their business office I would guess would be the place they work.

A similar situation as I am in. :slight_smile:

When won’t a casual atmosphere be OK? I thought it would help both parties to relax.

For costs, that’s something I’m going to do more research on. There are probably places that hire rooms out for meetings, so I’ll look them up.


For your office, can clients really be put off doing business with you because of the decorations? :neutral_face:

As for the client’s home that’s one of the reasons why I don’t want to go there, because of family. Nothing personal to them, but for business I’d want to keep them out.

I also work from home.

This is a small community and people generally know each other, or at least know of each other, so it’s a bit of a specialised situation. Office premises are pretty much non-existent here, so folk don’t really expect me to work out of an office. I’ve met clients at my house (mostly community groups, etc. where neither of us has business premises) and in the local hotels. I’ve also met a number of them on their premises, which can be helpful in certain circumstances.

I tend to do quite a lot of small sites for holiday accommodation - self-catering, bed & breakfast, etc. On the whole, the owners have no idea what they want, just that they need a site (or a makeover of a very old site) because everybody else has one. So they’re relying heavily on me to advise them what to put in and what to leave out. It that case, it’s really useful to be able to look around and ask questions about the business, suggest which views should be photographed, etc.

I’ve also conducted business with clients in other parts of the country entirely by e-mail. Once they get over the initial surprise that I can’t use a telephone, this has never seemed to deter anyone. (In each case, these clients have come either because they’ve seen one or more of my sites, or somebody has recommended me, and I don’t really need to sell myself to get the job.)

Can someone be put off for the decorations in your home? Yes
Can you be put off for the decorations in their home? Yes
Can someone be put off for going a bar? Yes (be it the noise, the decoration, bad service…)
Can someone be put off for the decorations in your office? Yes. It would be a bit strange if you use neutral decoration but someone will.

Let me put you an example. If your decoration includes lots of modern art and you client is a bit tranditional, he may think that you don’t have the type of creativity he needs. The other way around, too traditional, can be true. Too neutral, they may think that you have not creativity or that you can’t take risks…

Same with bars or anything.

At the end of the day, you have to be able to read the person that you have in front of you. Some may think that meeting at the bar (at least, for the first meeting) is cool.

Now, for serious work meetings, I never go to a bar, maybe a hotel bar, because of the noise and because it is more productive in a qutie place.

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