You only have one chance to make a good first impression. If it’s a social situation, you may get the opportunity to let the real you shine through over time and undo any negativity from your first meeting. In a business environment, however, there’s always the chance that a potential client may take their custom elsewhere if they don’t see what they hope for when they meet you. That’s why it’s important to get those first encounters right.
While you’re undoubtedly an expert in your own field, it may be that clients come to you for different services. If possible, before your initial meeting, do your homework and find out what you can about the client’s needs; that may involve setting up a system whereby someone might fill in a questionnaire before they receive an appointment, allowing you to be thoroughly prepared.
If you’re meeting someone at your own premises, be sure you have a clean, comfortable and welcoming environment prepared. Would refreshments be appropriate? Are toilet and washing facilities clearly signposted? If you have an appointment to meet someone in another location of your choice, make sure it is somewhere you can talk in comfort and without distractions.
I would hope that you always present a professional exterior to the world while you’re representing your business. This is doubly important when a potential customer sees you for the first time. Depending on the type of company you belong to, you should wear clean and appropriate clothes and be well groomed; even if you do a manual job, you should make sure you have clean nails when you extend a welcoming handshake to the client.
Even if you’re having the day from hell, your client doesn’t need to know about it. Something as simple as smiling as you greet them can make all the difference and put a person at ease. Studies show that the action of smiling can make you happier and more relaxed as well, which is a good frame of mind for meeting with a potential customer.
There’s little more off-putting than being aware that you don’t have someone’s full attention while you’re speaking to them. Focus on your customer! Make sure they know you are listening and considering their needs. It may be that your experience allows you to realise a need they are likely to have before they know about it. If you are completely attentive, the big picture should become apparent, allowing you to make suggestions about how the customer could achieve their goals, which will make them more inclined to use your services.
Unfortunately, there’s no way of controlling everything that goes on around you. You can’t force a person to give you their custom any more than you can force them to like you, but by making the most of those factors you can control, you can lay the groundwork for a good business relationship. You will only make one first impression, so put in the effort to make it a good one.
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