They say you only get one chance to make a first impression. It’s true. On dates, with mother-in-laws and in business. Thankfully, I aced my first date with my husband and we currently live happily ever after. With two cats. One Keurig. No picket fence.
Meeting a client for the first time is also like preparing for a first date – and a blind one, at that.
Just thinking about this new patron gives me butterflies. Clients can have some interesting characteristics. What will they be like? What are their expectations? Will they address me as “Mr.” when they see my name? (Though, I accept all responsibility for choosing to go by Chris instead of Christine)
But then I remember that the fate of my first impression lies with me. So I plan. Carefully, strategically, intelligently – just like I did the first time I met my husband. And what are my secrets of success?
Lesson #1: Don’t wait three days to call your client back. And an email or text message does not substitute for a phone call. Let them know that you have done your due diligence – industry research, competitive analysis and the like – and are excited to meet them.
Pro tip: Be sober. Calling drunk from a bar with a group of your friends never turns out quite how you planned it.
A date doesn’t plan itself; neither should your marketing strategy. Define an objective, set goals and evaluate your progress. Demonstrate through each task that you are prepared and working toward the ultimate goal. Much like a first date, planning is essential (especially if you plan on dining on a Saturday night).
Pro tip: Restaurants don’t reserve themselves.
Sure, the first time you meet can be nerve-wracking. Create an outline of important things you want to cover to focus your time together. It’s helpful to have the next steps planned as well. Let them know when they can expect to hear from you and what you expect to achieve in the next phase.
Pro tip: Unless you are Kanye West, don’t talk about yourself in third person.
What your mother taught you about first date manners will never fail you during an initial client meeting. Don’t be on time – be early. Make eye contact during conversation. And remember to be honest on what you can and cannot deliver.
Pro tip: Holding the chair out for your client is not necessary.
With these four tips, you are poised for success. My last word of advice? When you say you will call, be sure that you call. No one enjoys waiting by the phone, especially your client.