The initial consultation with a client can be awkward and uncomfortable, especially if you feel like the two of you aren’t quite clicking. It’s essentially an interview – for both of you. Each person needs to decide whether they want to work with the other. And much like a first date, it can be hard to read the cues to know if the other person is “into you.”
There is no surefire way to make a client want to hire you, but there are a few best practices that can greatly increase your chances. This first meeting is the time to present yourself as professional and likeable. Here are some tips for making a good first impression at your initial client consultation.
Make them feel comfortable
First, establish your expectations for the meeting. I like to begin my first client meetings by letting them know this is a casual conversation simply for us to each learn about each other. I purposely don’t take out a pen and paper, until the conversation has reached that point. Rather, I’ve found it puts the other person at ease to feel like they’re talking to a friend and not being interviewed. This is an important step toward developing a meaningful relationship with a client.
Prove you’ve done your research
I know I said you should set the expectation of the first meeting to be a casual conversation, but that’s not a free pass to come completely unprepared. Make sure you do your research ahead of time so that you can ask targeted questions that will help you get to the point of the matter. If you leave a meeting with more questions than when you arrived, you didn’t do enough research to ask the right questions – and you’ve just made more work for yourself!
Share relevant experiences
If the opportunity naturally arises, you should reference other clients you’ve worked with that had similar challenges, and how you successfully overcame them. Clients like to know that you have experience related to their industry. You don’t need to be an expert, but having a few case studies to share can really earn you some bonus points.
Coming in with too much confidence can push you over the edge – and not in a good way. Clients want to feel like they are in capable hands, but too much confidence can make it seem like you’re downplaying their challenges. It can even make them feel self-conscious that they aren’t able to solve the same problems you’re claiming to be “common” or “easy.” Be humble, genuinely listen to what they have to say, and throw in a little humor at your own expense!
Give them something of value…at no cost
I get it. You don’t think you can afford to offer free advice to a potential client for fear they could walk off with it and never call you again. And that may very well happen. However, in my experience, offering some minimal free advice almost always returns more business than what I would have gained by trying to charge for it in the beginning. Free advice earns you trust, wins you respect and shows the client you aren’t out to try and nickel and dime them. When they see that you really know what you’re talking about, they’re likely to carve out a budget and come back to you for more work.
Leave with a game plan
Finally and most importantly, leave the initial meeting with a game plan. This next move may be on you – to create a proposal or follow-up in some other way. Or it may be on the client to determine their budget or talk with their business partner. Either way, be sure to leave the meeting knowing who is expected to do what and by when. This allows you to follow-up should that deadline pass and it also prevents things from going stale after the progress you made in the meeting.
Do you have another valuable tip to share for how to win over a new client? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment!