What do all crime shows have in common? Besides ominous music, clues that crop up at very last second and detectives who miraculously never get shot, those favorite TV crime fighters typically bring along a partner to work the case.
Just as every Special Agent Seeley Booth needs a "Bones" (Temperance Brennan), a partner accompanying you on a business trip can help protect the company against the countless things that could go wrong. A partner or a trusted colleague can cover for you if something unexpected happens, offer a confidence boost and show the client that you care enough to bring backup. Of course, not every entrepreneur has that luxury.
Here are a few factors to consider before you head into a meeting for a business presentation:
1. Unexpected problems. There’s always a chance that you might become sick or be called away. Ask yourself this question, If this meeting doesn’t happen, will I have a second opportunity?
My partner and I traveled to London for an important meeting. He usually leads the discussion and demonstrates software, but a death in his family called him home unexpectedly. Rescheduling wasn’t an option, but fortunately I was there to take over.
Having a partner accompany you might also help ensure that you won’t forget to mention key points in your presentation. Another person will see things that you don’t, which makes him or her a source of valuable information when closing a deal.
2. Determine the stage of negotations you’re in. The closer you are to closing the deal, the more important it is for things to run smoothly. For a business presentation, you’re usually going to be in one of three stages:
The preliminary meeting introduces your company and offerings to a prospective client. It’s usually safe to appear alone at this stage unless the meeting is very far from home. The follow-up meeting is the time the prospective client has asked you return and introduce your offerings to additional decision-makers. This stage can be unpredictable and often benefits from the presence of a second person. At the closing presentation, bring a full arsenal of support because this is your last chance to make a good impression before the client makes a final decision.
While it’s good to have someone with you at all types of meetings, it’s more important at stage two and absolutely critical at stage three.
2. Have a secondary backup for technical issues. Always have access to a secondary Internet connection with proper data download speeds and be sure all data and presentation materials are available in at least two locations in case your equipment's hard drive fails.
Even if you think you have everything under control, an unexpected snafu might derail a meeting at times.
I once attended a follow-up meeting confident that the client just wanted me to introduce my company's technology to more decision-makers. Once I got there, however, I found out that the company wanted me to install it on its internal servers and have the system up and running.
But my support team back home did not know I would require downloads and licenses. If I had brought a partner with me, he could have coordinated all these technical components while I gave the pitch. Instead, I spent an hour chasing down people while the client waited.
3. Make arrangements with the home office. Be sure your support team at home knows your schedule so it’s standing by during critical meeting times. The farther you travel from your home base, the greater the risk of not having access to the people, collateral, knowledge or the resources you need.
4. Have a backup plan. In the event that you have to cancel a face-to-face meeting, make sure you have access to some kind of alternative, such as WebEx. Guard against the unexpected. When a deal is at stake, don't leave anything to chance.
As an entrepreneur, every meeting and every penny matters. Just like you wouldn’t go into an abandoned building in pursuit of a suspect without some backup, don't enter a business meeting alone. While it's never going to amount to a life-or-death situation, the negotiations for a deal sometimes feel like it, and it’s nice to have someone looking out for you.
Related: 7 Power Tools of Persuasion