If you’re bringing on a new client or prospect, you need to make a good first impression. That impression could influence whether or not they feel confident in their decision to work with you, and could set the tone for your professional relationship for years to come.
As the adage goes, you only get one chance at a first impression; that’s because if the first impression is bad enough, you may never get another, and because your first interaction with a new client will establish a foundation that all future interactions will depend on.
Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to make sure that first interaction is perfect.
Choose the Right Medium
First, make sure you choose the right medium for your first business interaction. Even if you plan on working together remotely for the foreseeable future, it may be a good idea to meet in person if you’re interacting for the first time. In-person interactions have the benefit of tone, body language, and extra accommodations, which can all lead to better communication and more opportunities to bond. If that’s not possible, a video conference could give you many of the same advantages.
Next, do your research, and be as prepared as possible for the meeting. You need to come across as someone who does their due diligence, and who knows what they’re talking about, and you can’t do that unless you do some work upfront. Start by looking up information about the client, getting to know them and their business the best you can.
Then, make a plan for the initial meeting. If this is a standard kickoff meeting or orientation-style meeting, you may have a blueprint you can follow to succeed. Otherwise, come up with a detail, point-by-point agenda for the meeting, and prepare talking points for each section of the discussion.
Get Ready to Send a Gift
If you can, get ready to give or send your client a gift—either during your meeting or shortly thereafter. A corporate gift like a gift hamper will serve not only as a token of your gratitude and a demonstration of your values, but also a reminder of your brand. Choose something high-quality and, if possible, something related to your client’s interests or industry. It’s also a good idea to get the timing right; you don’t want your gift to seem like a bribe or seem insincere.
Perfect Your Image
If you do end up meeting in person, spend significant attention on your personal image. For starters, that means covering the basics, like dressing professionally in well-fitted clothes, and tending to your personal hygiene and grooming. It also means being prepared to respond with respectful and attentive body language, and making eye contact throughout the meeting. Strong handshakes and smiles go a long way, too.
While this may be a formal business meeting, don’t pass up the opportunity to be friendly and speak informally—especially at the beginning of the meeting. Ask your client how they’re doing, and make small talk about your personal lives. See if they have any hobbies, like if they follow any sports or have favorite recreational activities. Find some points of commonality if you can—these can instantly make you seem more likeable.
Allow Plenty of Conversational Space
Throughout the meeting, especially when you start talking about business, give your client plenty of conversational space. Allow plenty of pauses after your comments and questions, so they feel they have plenty of time to think and add their own thoughts to the conversation. Plus, most people like talking about themselves and their business; if you let them talk, they’ll think more highly of you.
Answer Every Question You Can
Your client will likely have lots of questions for you, so make sure you answer them as specifically and completely as you can. This will build their confidence in you, so long as you have good answers. If there are any questions you can’t answer, explain why you can’t answer them, and commit to getting the answers.
Send a Thank You Message
After the meeting, send a thank you message to your client, no matter what. Show appreciation for their time, and answer any questions that were left unanswered at the end of the meeting.
Once you’ve established a powerful and positive first impression, you’ll be able to start the relationship properly. Follow up that first impression with subsequent positive interactions; follow up on all your promises, remain in active communication, and always put the client’s needs as one of your top priorities. If you do this, your clients will be much more likely to continue doing business with you for the long haul.