Over the years, I have come to learn that our initial interactions with business brands are very similar to the first exchanges that we have with other people. In a few quick minutes or even seconds, our minds take snapshots of the people in front of us, and the same process goes into how we all perceive businesses.
Because first impressions are formed so quickly, it is important for any small business owner or entrepreneur to build an effective strategy for engaging with new clients that will make that first impression a lasting one.
Here are five tips for successful client interactions that will go a long way in making sure you are remembered long after that first point of contact:
1. Preparation is key. Before meeting with potential clients, educate yourself about them and their particular approach to business. Take the time to review and become familiar with their industry, get up to speed on current events, and visit their website to learn more about how they operate and what kinds of challenges they face so that you can offer appropriate solutions. Taking the time to prepare shows respect and generates a far more productive meeting in which your ideas are likely to be well received. As a result of your preparation, you will be seen as knowledgeable and trustworthy, two virtues that are certain to make lasting impressions.
2. Develop trust through consistency. Trust is formed when a consistent and satisfying customer experience is bred from the initial perception of the brand. Again, just as human beings form bonds and trust, the same is true when applied to the intention of leaving a lasting impression of brands on new clients. If you can master the art of being consistent through the lens of the customer from that first meeting through to the final transaction of the initial sale, you will be able to gain a new client who also becomes a loyal follower and powerful brand ambassador.
3. Be an active listener. Active listening is distinct from letting someone talk without interrupting. It means you have the intention of understanding first, rather than simply waiting to reply with a perspective that will be incomplete. Throughout the meeting, ask questions that are pertinent to the agenda of the potential client and use eye contact to show that you are fully engaged with them. Allow full opportunity for potential customers to express themselves and never interrupt or make attempts to finish their thoughts.
4. Know your target audience. Always keep in mind that potential clients will be making an initial assessment of you to see how you can help them. If you can create a “wow” moment by utilizing a carefully targeted approach that solves their specific issues, you will be more likely to nail down an unforgettable first impression.
5. Following up solidifies that first impression. Follow-up messages through direct mail campaigns and phone calls are ways to create continuity in these new client relationships. For example, Jude Arijaje prides himself on following up on his meetings with potential and existing clients for his Philadelphia franchise: “I always leave something behind – a pen, chocolate, candy, scratch pad,” he says. “Once every six months, we do a package and send them to all of our customers.” Something like this goes a very long way towards emphasizing an impression that will last.
Remember to Personalize Your Approach
Ultimately, making a healthy first impression that lasts is an invaluable part of building a professional relationship, but of equal importance is the matter of what you do with that impression from the moment you part ways with your prospects. My colleague Doug Harlan sums it up best: “In much of today’s business world, it seems that ‘Customer Service’ has been put on the shelf. As an entrepreneur, it is your responsibility to see that each customer is treated with importance. Not only providing them with the best way to produce their project, but to also understand the importance of each individual order.”
He thoughtfully concludes, “It simply starts with a smile and a Hello.”
Rich Hornberger is Regional Vice President for Minuteman Press International. He has been part of the Minuteman Press franchise system for over 6 years and is instrumental in supporting Minuteman Press franchise locations in the Philadelphia region.