First impressions: make them count when meeting new clients

Three designers discussing about new project in meeting hall. Group of executives meeting in boardroom.

First impressions can be make or break for freelancers meeting new clients. Here’s how to make a great first impression, so your client relations go from strength to strength.

The first time you meet a new client, you want them to leave the meeting feeling like they can’t wait to begin working with you. Giving a trusty first impression and having a good rapport with clients is essential for a freelancer or a start-up’s success.

Here are six things you can do to show off your best side and assure potential clients what you can offer from the get-go…

1. Make sure your handshake game is strong
Your handshake (and, of course, your smile) is the very first impression your client will have of you. You want your handshake to exert confidence and friendliness, and to reflect your capability to get the job done.

Practice it and make sure it it’s strong enough to do so, but without being too overbearing. No one wants their arm to feel like it’s being used to pump water from a well. Our fool-proof tip: maintain eye contact, grip your client’s hand firmly but gently and maintain contact for a second.

2. Set out your “thesis”
When writing an essay, you have to be able to explain what your whole piece is trying to say in one or two succinct lines. This golden kernel is known as a thesis, and creating an impressive one is still essential when you’ve long left university.

Whether you’re meeting a new client at an organised meeting, or potential clients at an event, make sure you can succinctly and effectively explain exactly what you can do for them, and why you could impact their business positively. Setting out your intentions and abilities in a clear-cut and self-assured way will help clients understand what you do and build confidence in you from the very start.

Portrait of investment advisor businesswoman sitting at office in front of computer and consulting with young professional man.

3. Dress to impress
Whether we like it or not, first appearances definitely matter, and that includes what you’re wearing. Of course, it depends on what industry you work in whether you have to don a suit or if a suitably smart jumper will suffice, but dressing neatly is always key. Women often choose to wear minimal jewellery to keep from causing distraction, and men might make sure they’re clean-shaven, or that facial hair is well-groomed.

4. Open your ears, not your mouth
Real-life “Mad Man” David Ogilvy often quipped how keeping quiet and listening to potential clients as they talk won him some of his biggest accounts. Showing someone that you’re interested in what they have to say – be it work-related or just a personal anecdote – is extremely helpful in securing a client. People love to feel heard.

Naturally, you’ll want to talk as much as you can about how great an asset you can be to them – but take a leaf out of Ogilvy’s book, and let them take centre stage. Once you’ve shown them respect and won their trust, then you can have your say.

5. Keep your eyes on the prize
The prize being, in this instance, your client. Don’t scrimp on eye contact when laying out your plans for working together. Maintaining a healthy amount shows your sincerity and helps build trust – but studies have shown that keeping eye contact also shows you to seem smarter.

However, it’s important to break eye contact every now and again, too, so that you don’t risk seeming too imposing or even intimidating.

6. Be yourself – vulnerabilities and all
It’s tempting to blow your own horn throughout your first meeting with a new or potential client – you want them to have total faith in your abilities, after all. But it’s been found that being completely honest and human is more endearing and allows your client to trust you more easily.

So, continue to be your own biggest cheerleader, but don’t be afraid to admit you’ve dropped your pompoms once or twice.


Posted by The Secret Businessman