Making the best first impression possible is essential to building strong and long-lasting relationships with new clients.
Meeting clients for the first time is probably the most important part of the relationship. The client is trying to decide if you and/or your firm is the right one to represent them. You are trying to understand the client’s issues, earn their confidence, and establish a basis for working together.
By not putting your best foot forward you’re making a bad first impression, you’re ultimately making your already challenging job even harder.
After all, you are not going to easily build trust with someone who thinks you’re a jerk.
As my Dad has always told me, you only get one chance to make a good first impression. So to help ensure your relationship with that new client gets off to a roaring start, here are 6 simple tips that you can use to make a great first impression when meeting new clients in your office.
Prepare Yourself Before Meeting.
As you walk through your office suite or 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.
Also, before you walk into reception put on a smile. Even if it’s forced. Your smile is a tool! Plus, body language experts tell us that those who smile often appear confident, friendly, trustworthy, and open. Which are all pretty good qualities for a lawyer too.
Look Professional, Be Punctual
For better or worse, people do make snap judgments about your competence by the way you’re dressed and the way you conduct yourself. Dress professionally, be friendly, look people in the eye, give a firm handshake and be on time for meetings.
Punctuality not only shows professionalism, but it is also a sign that you respect other people’s time. And as someone who bills by the hour, showing that you respect your time and others will leave the impression that you’re serious about what you do and are someone who can be trusted.
Get Them Talking
Get that client talking immediately. People like to talk about themselves and respect those who will take the time to listen. 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 or uneasy person isn’t going to be easy to work with.
But you also need to make sure you start the conversation the right way. Don’t start with questions like: “How are you doing?” That’s too much of an open-ended question can lead to a very negative answer, setting a gloomy tone for the rest of the meeting.
Offer a Drink
Instruct your reception staff or the staff of your shared law office to offer your clients water or coffee when they come in. Even if they were already offered a drink before you greet them by the receptionist, always offer one in person. It’s a simple 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.
Honesty is Key
Every client comes through the door with a certain level of hope and expectation. Part of your job is to manage their expectations without crushing their hope. That sometimes means telling the honest truth, even if it involves telling them something they don’t want to hear.
But it’s better to be open and honest from the get-go. People will respect you more for telling them a hard truth than a sugar-coated one, and this is especially true when it comes to legal matters. More often than not these potential clients will hire you anyway simply because they trust you to be honest with them.
Be Their Guide. Literally
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 office suites or shared law office space, they don’t. 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 to making an incredible first impression.