How to Make a Positive First Impression with Potential Clients and Customers

If you're the owner of a small or medium business then you'll know how important it is to make a good impression when you meet potential clients and customers for the first time. Of course, you will have done extensive research before the meeting, but it's a proven fact that the judgments people make in the first 60 seconds ultimately determine their decision on whether they end up working with you or not. Here are some hints and tips that will turn your meeting with potential customers and clients from a hit and miss into a promising business opportunity:

1. How do you dress?

Do you and your team dress in a professional fashion? Depending on your type of business, dress codes can vary, but if you're meeting someone for the first time it's always better to err on the side of professionalism. This doesn't necessarily mean you have to wear a full suit and tie, or traditional button-down business attire, but even if your clothes are on the more casual side, they should be relatively new, clean, and crease-free, and not look like you've just pulled them out of the bottom of your wardrobe.


2. Use the client's name frequently

Frequent use of the potential customer's name will help make them feel welcome and more at ease. Inform any member of staff who might come into contact with the client over who they are and how they are to be addressed. If you can, reserve a space in your company car park with your potential client's name on it, and place a welcome sign on the reception desk.


3. Hit the right tone

If you're in the habit of playing background music in your reception area, make sure you hit the right tone. Again, the type of music will vary depending on the average age of you and your staff, and what your company does, but you're better off keeping it light. And don't forget to make sure it's not playing too loud.


4. Turn off the TV

It's not uncommon for small and medium businesses to have TV's running in reception areas and even in large, open office spaces. Usually, the televisions are set to news or business channels. This can be jarring and might create the wrong kind of atmosphere, not to mention impact your client's focus and may even interfere with the corporate message you are trying to convey.


5. Decorate your premises

It's worth investing a little time and money into decorating your office in a professional fashion. Painted and wall-papered surfaces should be kept clean and up-to-date, and carpets should never be allowed to show threadbare. On the day of the visit, it doesn't hurt to splash out a little. Nothing over-the-top, but a new work of art, flowers, etc. can give your premises a fresh and welcoming appeal.


6. Clean desk policy

If you're going to be sitting behind your desk with the client or customer on the other side then it's good to make sure you've completely cleaned the top of your desk before the meeting. Sure, some people will argue that a desk piled high with papers and folders is the sign of a busy worker, and this may be true. But the tactic can also backfire and leave the client with the impression that you are unorganised at best, and downright untidy at worst.


Following the above tips will give you a head start in making a great impression on your potential business partners, clients and customers. They will have placed you and your business in a favourable light and put your visitors in a positive mood.


It goes without saying that there is one thing that you should never, ever do when meeting potential clients and customers for the very first time. Never go into a meeting unprepared. Take at the very least ten to fifteen minutes to prepare. Take a moment to look at the person's LinkedIn or Facebook page, or re-read the email exchange that led up to the meeting and recheck the notes you made at that time. Think about which questions you should ask to get the meeting started. Make sure you know a little bit about their company or industry so you can speak with a degree of confidence, and go into some detail about who they are and what they do.


Successful meetings are about much more than asking questions


Besides being a great opportunity to get to know each other, a good meeting can also be an exchange of ideas and opinions. It's a chance to have a real dialogue, and an open conversation which in the end has one very simple objective; to see whether or not there is an opportunity to do business together somewhere in the near future. Meeting new clients doesn't have to be more complicated than that. You probably won't close that huge, six-figure deal right there and then. But what you can do is find some common ground which both of you can use as a foundation for a future collaboration.


Your meeting with clients and customers should be the highlight of their day


All of this, along with the basic and obvious points of never keeping a potential client or customer waiting, or leave them sat on their own staring at your decor, ensuring a steady supply of tea, coffee and other refreshments, plus making them feel like their visit is the main event of your day, can go a long way to ensuring a positive outcome to any meeting.


First impressions are important in all kinds of situations, professional and private. But especially as a small business owner, the outcome of your first meeting with potential clients and customers could give your company the boost you have been looking for. If all goes well it might lead to a bigger turnover, more sales, and better profit margins at the end of the fiscal year. In other words, it could make or break your business, so it's definitely worth your while to go that extra mile and get it absolutely right.

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