PREPARING FOR YOUR FIRST MEETING WITH A POTENTIAL CLIENT
April 20, 2011
So, you’ve convinced a potential client to come in and meet you. You’re excited and very eager to get the job for this wedding, corporate event, birthday party, etc… And even though I strongly believe that we’re not right for every client, and every client is not right for us, of course you still want to put your best foot forward. No doubt you have your own charming methods but a few reminders never hurt.
Here are my tried and true techniques for putting clients at ease and demonstrating my skills as an event and wedding designer:
1. Never, and I mean NEVER, under any circumstances, leave a client (potential or otherwise) waiting. The first time I met Joan Rivers, she had just had a meeting with another event designer who was a very big name. That designer had kept her waiting. Fortunately for me, I was her very next meeting, and you better believe I was right on time. As some of you may know, Joan gave me my first big break that day, and all these years later we’re still friends.
2. Always greet the clients personally when they arrive, and be polite enough to walk them out when they leave. Make this your protocol.
3. Never answer your phone or email during the meeting. Unfortunately, this isn’t easy for me. I force myself to close my laptop and silence my phone to avoid committing this rude gesture.
4. Treat all potential clients as if they were guests in your home. Offer them coffee or tea and have a plate of something sweet to snack on like chocolates or cookies or even fresh green grapes. Depending on the time of day, you could even offer wine.
5. Even if you’ve already spoken at some length with a potential client on the phone, ask again about the logistics of the event and the client’s likes and dislikes. Throughout the meeting, keep the attention on the client. This is your time to get inside the client’s head and try to understand what he or she needs to make the wedding or party special.
6. Ask what his or her dream event or dream wedding would look like. When clients answer this question, I often find myself suddenly inspired, and something just clicks. I never forget to ask this.
7. Ideally, you were able to get some solid information about the client’s event during your previous phone call. Now, you should be prepared at this meeting to give a presentation of your work and services.
8. Always assume that your potential client has a short attention span. Most people do. Your presentation should be no more than five minutes. Get to the point.
9. Learn to read people’s reactions. If they aren’t reacting enthusiastically, find other images to show them. Be sure to explain as well that even if they don’t see anything they like, your job is first and foremost to create something new and exciting that’s uniquely them.
10. Last but not least, money almost always comes up. If at all possible, make NO verbal commitments regarding cost. Tell your potential client that you’ll get back to him or her promptly with a general proposal. Be specific: you’ll have the proposal tomorrow not just soon.
Don’t forget to send a thank-you note, email or even a small gift after the meeting. Write that you enjoyed meeting them and that you would love to have the opportunity to work with them.
Now, a few questions for all of you:
- How do you handle a client who tries to convince you to lower your prices?
- As a vendor, how do you feel about the practice of “up selling” (seducing clients to spend more than what they intended to)?
- Speaking of budgets, does your company accept clients across all budgets, or do you sometimes decide that a particularly small budget is not worth the effort?
Please share your answers in the comments!