The Importance of Your First Client Conversation
Every event planner knows how important their first official meeting with a new client is. That consultation can make or break your shot at a new contract. What about the interaction that comes before a consultation meeting?
To set up your first client conversation, you’ll speak to a new client by phone or email first. Occasionally you might speak to them face to face at a job fair or if visitors are welcome at your office. These conversations give clients their first impression of you and your brand.
Here are some quick “do’s” and “don’ts” for your first conversation with a new client:
- Do treat them like a person, not as prospect. Be respectful.
- Don’t overwhelm them with too many questions and details in the first few minutes.
- Do sell yourself and your services. They asked, after all!
- Don’t get pushy when it comes to scheduling a consultation.
- Do speak in a friendly way that invites them to ask questions.
- Don’t be too casual or treat the client like one of your buddies.
Check out these ten ways to have a great first conversation with a new client!
1. Prepare in advance
You can’t prepare for a random phone call or email the way you can for a consultation meeting, but there are things you can do to help yourself! What would you say if someone gave you 30 seconds to describe your services and why they’re useful? This is similar to what you’ll do by phone or email in your first conversation with a new client. Think about it beforehand and write yourself a cheat sheet of key points to keep at your desk. Practice your speech in the mirror at home. When that phone rings, you’ll be ready!
2. Get the client’s attention
Besides having your small speech prepared, get the client’s attention by staying up front and clear about what you offer and how you can help them. You don’t want to appear desperate for their business, but you want them to know that you’re interested and willing to discuss options. Without waving your sales pitch in their face like a banner, give them the information needed to feel fully informed at the end of the conversation.
3. Create a good first impression
If you stay calm and confident, you’ll have a better chance of conveying a positive first impression. Think about how small things like greetings and introductions reflect on your image, your brand, and the way you want people to understand your business. Balance professionalism and respect with friendliness and approachability. It’s nice when your clients like you, but remember you’re building a business relationship, not a friendship.
4. Listen or read carefully
Whether you’re speaking on the phone or exchanging emails, really absorb what your clients are telling you. Pay attention to what they want, need, and expect. At the same time, look at what they might not be saying. Which details don’t they know? Which parts aren’t thought out yet? Are they confused about anything? Unless your client is having trouble describing what they need, you should be able to get most of that information by effectively listening to or reading what they’re telling you.
5. Take notes
Jotting down a few key details while you listen to your client is a smart organization tactic. Just avoid getting so caught up taking notes that you miss what your client is saying or forget to make eye contact in face to face scenarios. At the very least, make note of the client’s name and the nature of their event. This will help you avoid embarrassing mix ups later.
Clarification is the second step to listening. You’ve heard the information, jotted down the important parts, and now it’s time to verify and process it all. Of course, you don’t want to ask new clients the same thing repeatedly or they’ll think you weren’t paying attention! You should, however, sort out any areas of confusion right away. Moving on without clarifying details could lead to mistakes and make you lose the contract later.
7. Use your judgment
Think about the client’s attitude and the event they’re considering you for. Is it appropriate and realistic to discuss budgets and pricing in the first conversation, or should those things wait until the consultation meeting? Usually, getting an idea of the client’s budget and giving them a run down of your pricing options is a good idea right away. You might not give them a concrete estimate, however, until you have time to go through the details together at the consultation meeting. Pushing money talk on your client too quickly or aggressively can scare them off, so assess the situation carefully and be flexible.
8. Give and get the facts
Which details does your client already know? What standard information can you give them to consider between now and the consultation? Exchange what details you can and agree to handle all other issues if you both decide to sign a contract. For example, you won’t be able to nail down a detailed planning schedule in the first conversation, but you might be able to roughly estimate how long each step on the timeline to their event would take based on your experience.
9. Stay open to questions
If you and the client have communicated very effectively, they might not have questions at the end of your conversation. Let them know that you’re ready and willing to answer anything, but don’t push the subject if they think they have the information they need. Take a friendly, open approach without forcing details on them.
10. Encourage further action
Sometimes a client wants to leave the conversation open ended and you have to accept that. When you can, however, steer them toward a follow up interaction of some kind. Ideally, you want to schedule a consultation meeting before you hang up the phone or file that email chain away. If the client seems very eager or perhaps unsure but you have a good feeling about it, suggest scheduling a meeting to discuss things in more detail. If the client is adamant that they’ll “call you if they need you”, let it lie. Relying on your professional appeal and hoping you’ll hear from them is better than losing the job all together because you were too pushy.
It’s all about balance!
Effective communication, great listening, and a friendly attitude will get you far. You want to be informative, confident, helpful, and respectful to make a good first impression. Don’t be conceited, but don’t let people walk on you. Try not to overwhelm the client with details, but make sure they get all the information they need. Sell your services, but don’t be obnoxious. If you can impress your clients in the first few minutes, your chances are good for impressing them in your consultation meeting too!