CEO: The most important thing you can say at a meeting

Next time you meet with a co-worker, client or potential client, or media contact, consider uttering this phrase.

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The most important phrase you’ll ever say in a meeting isn’t “please” or “thank you.” It isn’t “How are you?” to open the meeting or “What are the next steps?” to close the meeting.

The most important phrase you’ll ever say in a meeting is: “How can I help you?”

My father-in-law taught me to show your friendship first. There’s no better way to show that you care about the person you’re meeting with than to genuinely, authentically ask her what you can do to help.

There are two possibilities when you ask how you can help:

1. The person will tell you, thereby giving you an opportunity to help, after which the person you helped will feel compelled to return the favor, and help you.

Either way, establishing that you care and that you’re there to help is a powerful emotional bond. It’s a paradox, I know—you’re not meeting with someone to find out how you can help, you’re likely meeting to get something sold, or bought, or done. But it’s through helping that you’ll gain trust, and eventually, influence.

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