It’s hard to overstate the importance of making a strong first impression on potential clients. Studies show that people form opinions of others in just 27 seconds. And these impressions, accurate or not, can determine whether they’ll become a customer.
Executives must exhibit the quality and reliability of their brand through everything they do when meeting a potential client. Here are 10 tips on how to do that.
1. Research Your Potential Client
One of the most crucial yet easily overlookable steps in meeting a potential client is researching them beforehand. Professionals should know a client’s company size, target market, specializations, values, and what problems they face before meeting them. This knowledge will help give more relevant answers to their questions and demonstrates investment in the deal.
Clients’ social media pages are an excellent place to find these details. On top of providing a consolidated place for general information, their posts will reflect their company values and atmosphere. Looking up their personal social media pages will provide helpful information for making personal connections.
2. Be Punctual
While it may seem obvious, it’s worth stating that punctuality is essential. Arriving ahead of time demonstrates care and concern for the meeting, suggesting the company will likewise prioritize clients while doing business with them. Conversely, arriving just on time or late suggests a company doesn’t care about them.
Punctuality can affect workplace morale, so clients won’t want to partner with businesses whose employees arrive late. Remember that there’s such a thing as being too early, too, as it suggests a lack of other responsibilities. Arriving 10 to 15 minutes early is ideal.
3. Look the Part
Just as with a job interview, appearances play a critical role in a business meeting’s success. Executives should appear clean and professional and prepare their apparel in advance. Some clothes materials have specific care instructions that can take more time than others, so this preparation is crucial.
Appearing clean and professional are not the only considerations here. Executives must match the occasion and represent their business well. On top of avoiding informal dress, they should avoid being too formal. They should also choose colors carefully, appearing welcoming and friendly without assaulting the eyes.
4. Impress Upon Arrival
An executive’s apparel isn’t the only part of their appearance a potential client will notice. Arriving in a clean, well-kept vehicle will help impress people before the meeting begins. On the flip side, an old, dirty, or poorly maintained car could reflect poorly on a business’s attention to detail.
Professionals should clean the company car before the meeting and look for any signs of wear. With some issues, like small cracks or tears in leather seats, they can fix them themselves, but others may require a professional’s touch.
5. Find Common Ground
When the meeting begins, look for common ground to form small talk around before getting into the meat of the conversation. By making these connections, professionals come across as friendlier and present themselves as an actual person, not just an agent of a business. Clients may be more willing to work with someone they have something in common with.
Looking through a potential client’s social media beforehand can help find these areas. Conversations about these topics don’t have to be extensive or too in-depth, but showing familiarity with them signals care and humanity.
6. Ask Questions
Potential clients won’t want to go into business with someone they don’t think is interested in them. Executives must show that they’re engaged in the conversation, and one of the best ways to do so is by asking questions. Asking questions demonstrates active listening and interest, which clients will appreciate.
It’s important to remember that not all questions need to be asked. Asking potential clients to repeat themselves often or asking the definition of common industry terms or concepts may have the opposite effect of what executives intend. Instead, ask for elaboration on specific details or about common concerns in the industry.
7. Mind Your Body Language
Another way to show engagement is through body language. Research suggests that 93% of people’s first impressions have nothing to do with words but with things like tone, appearance, and body language. Consequently, business leaders should be mindful of what their posture communicates when meeting potential clients.
Leaning forward slightly and keeping arms open will come across as engaged and welcoming. Other small but impactful gestures include maintaining eye contact, smiling, and nodding when the client is speaking. Things to avoid include checking the time, crossing arms, slouching, and looking around the room when listening.
8. Take Notes
Business leaders should also consider taking notes in every potential client meeting. Writing down key conversation points can inform future business actions, but perhaps more importantly, it demonstrates an attention to detail. Note-taking suggests the subject at hand matters to someone, and clients want to feel like they matter. And they do.
While it may be easier to take notes on a phone or laptop, it’s best to use a physical medium in this context. Typing can look a lot like texting, which will leave a poor impression. Taking notes by hand removes that uncertainty.
9. Keep It Light
It can be easy to get wrapped up in the business side of things in these meetings, but they should remain light. While remaining deadly serious throughout the conversation may seem like it makes one appear more business-minded, it can be intimidating. Clients would likely much rather do business with someone they feel comfortable around.
Smile, tell stories, and make the occasional joke to break up the seriousness of the conversation. These steps may seem insignificant, but they’ll make the client feel more comfortable. In turn, this comfort will create a positive impression when they look back on the meeting.
10. Follow Up
Finally, executives can strengthen the impression they leave on potential clients by following up after their meeting. Follow-up messages show the conversation had an impact and open the door for further communication.
Follow-ups can be as simple as a personalized thank-you note, or go a step further, like sharing an article that pertains to the conversation. They don’t have to be elaborate as long as they communicate interest, engagement, and appreciation.
Strong First Impressions Are Essential
Meeting a potential client is a lot like interviewing for a job. Executives must take the opportunity to communicate their value through their words, appearance, and actions. By following these steps, leaders can reflect their business’s values and talents in these meetings, bettering their chances of making a deal.