“So why are you here?”

“So why are you here?” is too often the opening salvo from someone you are having an exploratory interview or pitch meeting with. If this is just their need to assert seniority, then smile and award them the round. But if in fact you have gone into a meeting and:

1. They don’t know why you are there
2. You don’t have some idea of why they’ve agreed to meet you and what they might need…

…then you should probably not be having that meeting yet.

So here are three rules:
1. Know what they want from the meeting.
2. Know what you want from the meeting.
3. Work at making it a dialog and not a monologue.

This last is the most important rule. Don’t launch into a one-way pitch; be curious about their needs and be ready to respond to them constructively. You can get better traction if you’ve thought through in advance what might be their motivation for seeing you: are they doing it as a favor to your referrer? Do they hope that you can fix a particular problem? Or perhaps they think you have potential and they might want a piece of it in the future?

Have in mind a list of the questions you want answered. Asking smart questions will gain you respect and garner you valuable information. So why not start out by asking the direct question you want answered and taking it from there? Ideally you’ve teed that question up in the exchange that led to the meet, so the fact that you now have face-time indicates a reasonable chance you’ll come away with something of value.

Here, to get you thinking, are some examples of things you might want:

    To find out how you can be of help – and help them accomplish their goal for meeting with you.
    To learn who would be most likely to be able to connect you to the kind of work you want to do and to get a referral to that person.
    To find out what keeps the person up at night – so you can offer to alleviate this with your relevant services – directly addressing his point of pain.
    To find out if they know anyone at company x to whom you could be referred; and by the way do you know what is going on at company y?
    To discover how they structure projects and what they look for when hiring, so you can craft your own tactics accordingly.

You should never have to wonder how to move one of these conversations forwards because you should have always prepared yourself to get the dialog going and to keep it moving the way you want it to go. Good luck.