Common Mistakes: First Impressions
February 11, 2010
You never get a second chance to make a good impression. Regardless of what services you provide, you do not have a business if you do not have clients. This is why giving good service might be the most essential part of your business.
You have to:
- Make that client connection
- Gain their trust
- Assure them that no matter what, you are going to give them your best
- And, ultimately (once the job is over), they should feel like they had the best experience ever
In order for clients to feel this way, I have learned the most important questions to ask are, “As happy as you are, what could I have done differently?” and “At any time did my company drop the ball?” (I have gotten more than an earful in answers to this question over the years.
Some responses were: “My calls were not returned quickly enough,” “We needed more of your time, ” and, “We want to keep the flowers fresh forever”–which, of course, is an issue I can’t help with. I suggest after events are over to donate the fresh flowers to nursing homes.)
I also learned the hard way that you have to be exactly who you are. Do not pretend to be anyone else. For instance, my offices in New York are in Midtown in a rather modest, commercial section of the city. As you go up, you take a rather small elevator (sometimes it feels claustrophobic) to the top three floors of the building that open to a very open lofty space with a lot of natural day light and exposed pipes in the ceilings. There is nothing slick about it.
The first impression that I’d like my clients to have is that we are who we are. We are artists. We are real folks from all over the world–Brazil, Laos, Thailand, Greece, Mexico, Singapore, Panama, etc… Even though we are in a high end business, and are visited by royalty, celebrities and groups of very creative clients, I feel they understand what we are about once they see our unpretentious surroundings. (I could be wrong, they might also be thinking, “What a dump.”)
A couple tips to keep in mind when meeting your clients for the first time:
- It’s more important to make a strong connection than a sale. (I have made the mistake of discussing money too soon.)
- Give them as much time and attention as they want. (In the past, when I have been busy, I have made the mistake of making clients feel rushed and lost the job.)
And here’s the most important thing to realize from all this: NOT ALL CLIENTS ARE RIGHT FOR YOU. If, in the first meeting, your gut is hurting do not take this job. This might be one of the biggest mistakes I have made in the past–a mistake that cost me not only money but many sleepless nights.
I wonder…Even if you needed the job, what are some tell tale signs that might keep you from accepting a new client?