“There is never a SECOND chance to make a FIRST good impression”
So you finally have your business up and running. You’ve made a few good contacts and you have your first meeting to discuss your services with a potential new client. While you may think you’re already prepared for a meeting because you know your business better than anyone, it means nothing if you create the wrong impression on the day.
Your first impression is what will stay with that client, and it only takes us a few seconds to make up our mind about someone. Those first seconds are important, and if you get through those, you need to maintain a professional attitude so that your potential client becomes a regular one.
Tips for making a good impression
Plan ahead and be prepared
- One common mistake when you arrange a meeting is to not allow enough time for it. If you schedule one hour for a lunch meeting, you’ll appear rushed and this will come across to the client as disinterest. Plan your day so that you have plenty of time to speak to your client.
- Research the customer or company. They have an interest in your services, but if you can go in to a meeting knowing what they do and how they are likely to use your products, that shows that you are genuinely interested in them.
- Make a list of any questions you would ask if you were in their shoes and then note down all the answers. While you know everything about your business and services, you can’t afford to be caught out with a question you’re not prepared to answer. If they do ask something out of the ordinary, write their question down and make sure you get back to them with an answer as soon as you can.
- This doesn’t just mean dress well, it’s about attitude as well. While opinions on business dress have relaxed recently, that’s no reason to turn up to a meeting in jeans, trainers and a t-shirt. You are representing your business, so look like you mean business. Dress smartly and your first impression will be the right one.
- Certain mannerisms also help you to create the right impression. Looking professional doesn’t mean looking serious and severe and nodding to everything the other person says. Professionalism means maintaining a friendly attitude, so smile and make eye contact. Always pay attention to what your client is saying and comment accordingly. A business relationship is a two way thing: They are there to hear about your services, and you are there to find out about them.
- Punctuality is paramount. If you turn up half an hour late because your alarm didn’t go off, your first impression is already a bad one. Try to turn up early so that you can welcome them when they arrive. Not only is it more pleasant to have someone waiting for you, but it shows that you are prepared to give up your time for them. If you do find you are running late, perhaps due to traffic, then get a message to them to let them know.
- Never drink alcohol at a business meeting or turn up after you have been drinking. You need to keep a clear head and turning up drunk never gives a good impression.
- Even if your meeting is going well and is relaxed, control your language. Never swear when you are meeting a potential client.
Now that you’ve overcome the first hurdle and created a friendly and professional atmosphere, keep it going. So how should you handle the rest of the meeting?
- You are there to tell them about your products and services, so keep on topic. It’s ok to discuss a mutual interest as long as you remember to turn the conversation back to the reason for your meeting, without being rude.
- When discussing your products and services, highlight the benefits and tailor these towards their own business. Don’t just tell them how wonderful your services are: tell them why. Avoid rambling on too. Your potential customer wants to know how they can benefit from a relationship with your company. They don’t need to know about situations you have in the office, or funny things which happened the other day.
- Some people prefer not to mention any disadvantages their products may have, but sometimes it’s best to prepare your clients for these. When you do this you can also mention solutions to overcome these.
- Mention your competitors, but never put them down. It’s ok to say that you don’t quite have the experience of another company, as long as you don’t make derogatory comments about them while you do so. Your client is there to find out about you, so don’t hide anything.
The right or wrong first impression will make a big difference to the success of your business. Creating the wrong impression will not only lose you that potential client, but it could lose you others too. If the person you met tells other people you behaved badly, they will be unlikely to find out more about using your services.
The right impression can lead to a good business relationship which lasts many years. Other potential clients will soon get to hear about how professional you are, and will want to discover how they can benefit from a partnership with you too.
And REMEMBER! Smile