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When meeting people in person, an opinion about their looks, credibility and even abilities might be decided in just seconds. Once a first impression is made, it can be difficult if not impossible to change it. The first impression may be based on how you look, what kind of greeting you use, and if you made eye contact. Tiny details can make a huge difference.
Experts advise how to make the best impression when meeting someone. There is obvious advice, like to make sure you’re on time and dressed appropriately. You should shake hands when appropriate, and use respectful greetings. But these are minimal standards, and you want to go beyond that. Excellent client relations takes note of those rules; great client relations uses those simple rules as a jumping off place.
Professional vs. Personal
When you consider how you treat all the individuals who interact with your business, you have to remember that you can be professional while still being friendly and personal. Many people cross the line, and either act too serious and professional or too personal and casual. Almost everyone has a concrete idea of how much personal space is comfortable and respecting that space from the outgo will let customers know that you care about their sense of privacy.
Of course, you should learn about your customers’ families if you can, and ask after their children. And it makes you more real if they know how proud you are of your own family. But even if the conversation is initiated by someone else, asking for further intimate details will be invasive in a workplace setting. You can set the tone for great customer service by being open but humble and courteous. Only speak about personal matters at the first meeting if there is information offered, and reciprocate at the same level.
This is one of the most critical aspects of any first impression, and also the foundation upon which all your client relations will be built. Give your new acquaintances your undivided attention, and let them know that you will respect how they decide to proceed whether or not they choose to keep doing business with you. Still, let them know that they can always ask you for help and that you sincerely want the best for their endeavors.
You can compliment their achievements, which also lets them know that you were interested enough in them to find out about how their company is performing. Everyone likes recognition, and a solid base of customer service will recognize the successes of everyone. Be sincere, and give an original compliment that highlights an individual achievement.
Showing gratitude is another way of showing respect. Even when you first meet someone, you want to let that person know how grateful you are just for sharing that time. Whether or not the relationship continues, you can express how sincerely glad you were to get the time to share and the opportunity to offer your services.
It is easy to take it too far, but a sincere expression of gratitude may be the biggest reason a new customer decides to stay with your firm. Expressions of appreciation have ripple effects, too, as customers take their improved outlook on to other relationships throughout the day. This can solidify their feelings of loyalty toward you and your business.
A lot of companies have a script for their employees, especially their salespeople. Even ones that don’t tell their workers precisely what to say often encourage them to stay within a particular set of limited interactions. If you want to have good customer relationships from the beginning, you have to listen, and throw away your script.
Most people want to tell you their story, and theirs is different from everyone else’s. If you start thinking everyone has the same story, you will miss the important differences. More importantly, you will miss out on opportunities to solve problems and help people. The crucial difference that you miss could be the key to addressing issues your customer was utterly unaware of.
And what are we doing if not solving problems? People come to you because they need help with a problem, and you have a reputation for having the solution to just those kinds of issues. There is nothing wrong with needing help, and a client relationship will benefit both of you. If you can’t help, you may be able to steer your potential customer to someone who can.
Service isn’t just a product; it’s filling a need, and making the customer whole and productive. When you are open with yourself about that, you will feel less fear of rejection. Once you are indeed coming from a position of service, your customer will know you can be trusted.
Make the First Impression Your Best
You only get one chance to make a first impression, and it could make the difference between having a new client and just having a bad afternoon. There are basic principles you can practice, so you will leave the impression you want, like active listening and being openly professional and respectful. Running a successful managed IT services business will depend on how well you can meet your goals.
If you know what kind of impression you want to make, you will be more prone to success. While you, may not be able to practice every aspect of a meeting beforehand, you can prepare yourself by practicing these principles in all your affairs. Whether you are eating out at an excellent restaurant, buying tickets at a theater or speaking with your supervisor on a project, you can pay attention to the needs of others and respect the roles they are playing. Not only will this get you ready for dealing with customers, but it will also make you by practice and reputation the person you want to be.
Stuart Crawford serves as Creative Director and CEO with Sebring, FL and Fort Erie, ON-based Ulistic, a specialty MSP Marketing firm focused on information technology marketing and business development. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience pertaining to how technology business owners and IT firms can use marketing as a vehicle to obtain success.
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