Making a great first impression with a prospective client starts in the reception area of your shared law office space. Follow these five tips to close more deals!
With dozens of attorneys working in our shared law office spaces, you think that we would see masterful examples of professional courtesy and attorney-client relations.
While this is true some of the time, more often than not, the attorneys we see fail to make the best first impression in the reception area.
You would be surprised to know how frequently attorneys arrive at their shared law office space late, sometimes by as much as a half hour (and we’re not talking about getting hung up on a conference call, we mean that they are literally not in the office).
Then there’s the greeting. Frowns and unenthusiastic smiles. Eye contact is sporadic, and little direction is given to the client in terms of what to do (it’s not uncommon to see a lawyer turn and walk away from the client without so much as a word of instruction, expecting the client to follow like a puppy).
Not that I’m making an excuse for bad behavior, but most of us were trained how to be a lawyer and not a receptionist. Common courtesy with clients was probably something that wasn’t ever emphasized in law school. As a result, how we act now is likely what we modeled from the people who trained us.
Problem is, by not putting our best foot forward in reception we’re making a bad first impression on clients This ultimately makes our already challenging job much harder in the long run.
After all, you are not going to easily build trust with someone who thinks you’re a jerk.
Here are 5 simple tips that you can use to make a great first impression when meeting clients in your office:
1. Prepare yourself before you walk into reception, and smile.
You have had a long, busy, possibly frustrating day. That’s no excuse to take the baggage from your day with you into the next meeting. As your walk through your shared law office space on your way to reception, stop before you enter, take a deep breath (or two) and hit the internal reset button. Your clients trust you to handle their sensitive personal and business affairs. Such affairs deserve your undivided attention – give it to them.
Finally, before you walk into reception, smile. Even if it’s forced. Smiling (even when you don’t want to) releases endorphins that make you relax, lift your mood, and feel more comfortable. Your smile is a tool! Plus, body language experts tell us that those who smile often appear confident, friendly, trustworthy, and open.
2. Make a good first impression.
Step into the reception area, call the client by name, smile, make eye contact and give them a firm handshake. People love to hear the sound of their own name. Use it to your advantage. Making direct eye contact with your client is extremely important during the “greeting” stage of a client meeting. It demonstrates confidence, interest, and empathy, whereas not doing so shows weakness and/or apathy.
A firm handshake is a form of non-verbal forms communication that conveys professionalism and confidence. Clients expect a handshake and failing to give one casts a negative aspersion about the attorney’s personal demeanor. And if you’re going to shake hands, please do it properly – something between a vice and a limp noodle is fine.
3. Get the client talking right away.
Get that client talking immediately. Many clients are nervous when meeting with an attorney, especially if it’s their first time doing so. This unnerving can be compounded by their commute into the city to visit your shared law office space. Getting them to talk right away can take the edge off their anxiety and make them feel more comfortable.
Whether you are trying to close a new piece of business or get information from a client about their case, a guarded client isn’t going to be easy to work with.
Ask them a question about something other than the subject of your meeting. Hopefully, you know something about them that you can ask about – their kids, a vacation, their favorite sports team, something about where they live, or simply the weather or traffic. Whatever the topic, pick something that interests them and/or is easy for them to talk about.
But try to stay away from questions like: “How are you doing?” That’s too much of an open-ended question that may result in you getting a very negative answer, thereby setting the wrong tone for your meeting.
4. Ask if they would like a beverage.
Part of the services your shared law office space operator may offer is to have reception staff offer your clients water or coffee (something we do here at Law Firm Suites). Even if this is the case, if you notice your client does not have a beverage, always offer one. It’s a token gesture, but one that demonstrates that you will take care of their needs. It will also make your client feel more welcome and may settle their fears about meeting with an attorney.
5. Be Their Guide: Kindly ask for them to follow you to your office/conference room.
This may seem obvious, but always tell the client where you are going and direct them to the location. Don’t assume that the client will just follow you. Simply say, “Mr./Ms. Client, we are going to be meeting in a conference room, it’s just down the hall, why don’t you follow me, OK?” Then wait for them to start moving with you. You know your way around your shared law office space, but it’s a safe bet that your client does not. Doing this will let the client know that you are in command of the meeting and that they can trust you to lead them. It’s a subtle but important step.
Sometimes it’s the small things, that should be obvious, that can set one attorney apart from the competition. Having a great interaction with a client at reception is an easy way to do this.