When you’re a small business, then grabbing every opportunity for success is vital. There are some clients you may never be able to satisfy enough to cinch them, but there are plenty that can be much more attainable, if only you’re able to make the right first impression. There are a few major mistakes that are easy to make when you’re talking to or presenting to new clients or customers for the first time that can spoil the whole prospect. Here, we’re going to look at some ways you might be making a terrible impression and what you can do to fix it.
Not looking the part
Being a small business owner is no excuse to not present your most professional self. Nor is it an excuse if you work in a creative industry. If you show up to a meeting in a graphic t-shirt and a pair of jeans, you’re not sending the right image. Dress for success at the meeting. If you’re having it at their office or yours, then full business wear is recommended. If you’re meeting in a restaurant or cafe, you can make keep it smart casual. It’s better to err on the side of too smart than too casual, however. Looking slovenly is never going to do you any favors in a business meeting.
Lacking basic etiquette and welcoming
Be sure to smile. At the meeting, you want your client or customer to feel welcome and appreciated. Take the time to greet them, to welcome them, and engage in a little small talk before you get down to business. It sends the wrong message if you’re cold, clipped, and trying to rush them. It makes it feel like you’re not really considering their needs at all, which should clearly be a feeling that you want to ignore. If you’ve never had a meeting before, then be sure to brush up on a little business etiquette. In this area, ignorance is rarely an excuse for failing to play your part well. People expect you to be a professional, so it’s up to you to act like one.
Not tidying the store or office
If you’re worried about the impression you make on clients, then make sure you’re not letting the office make a bad first impression for you. Take the time to tidy it up or hire a commercial cleaning company to take care of the place for you, instead. Any clutter, grime, or noticeable dirt is going to make it look like your standards aren’t too high and that you don’t care much for details, either. Similarly, if you run a storefront, keep it clean and consider investing in a little visual merchandising to put your most aesthetically pleasing or in-demand products at the front and center. We are visual creatures and we can pick up on what stands out as looking unprofessional rather easily.
Making it tough to get in contact
If you want your clients to feel like they are cared for and valued then, both before and after any meetings, you should ensure that they have a consistent means of getting in contact with you. If you don’t have a way to reliably call you or at least get a message available to you on the website, then it can make it look like you don’t care if they have anything to say or ask, which is clearly not the right impression. A virtual receptionist can help with this if your team is small and you’re unable to field a receptionist of your own. On the website, an AI-driven chatbot can field some of the most common questions and help take messages you can respond to, too. Responding promptly is a must, however.
Not presenting a professional business front
Small businesses, unfortunately, have to face a stigma that larger ones simply don’t need to worry about. People tend to believe they’re less professional because they aren’t as established or as grown as some of their competitors. Sometimes it’s important to do what you can to dispel that notion. For instance, you may choose to make sure of a virtual headquarters if you work from home. You don’t want to give a home address and phone number as a means of getting in touch of you, and a virtual headquarters can offer both a way to get in touch and also a more professional looking address that helps you create the veneer of a more established and prestigious business.
Coming unprepared for a meeting
The meeting with your customer or your client is your opportunity to make the strongest impression yet, to make points that speak directly to their needs and close a deal. However, if you’re coming unprepared for that meeting, it can make you look very unprofessional. For instance, you want to make sure that you’ve taken the time to research the person or the company that you’re meeting with. Bringing up recent successes or developments is an obvious way of showing your hand, but it proves that you’re ready and willing to see things from their point of view. Don’t forget to bring a few notes that you can speak on about the benefits of your services, as well. You don’t want to fumble an answer if they ask you what you can do for them. That should be an easy answer.
Setting unrealistic expectations
Underpromise, overdeliver. That’s a mantra that a lot of small businesses follow and for good reason. There’s no advantage at all to overpromising and overplaying your hand. Either you’re going to run yourself ragged to meet those expectations and not get too much praise in return since you’re only doing what you promised or you fail and you let the client down, likely to never have their business again. Be realistic with your expectations about what you can do with your client and be prepared to undersell them a little but not too much. You want to surprise them by overdelivering but you don’t want to sell yourself so low that the offer isn’t really all that enticing.
Keeping it too strictly business
It’s a business meeting, so you want to be professional. However, it’s important to take the time to indulge in some pleasantries. There are clear professional boundaries you should never cross with your clients, but you can be friendly with them and even become friends with them. An emotional attachment makes them all the easier to retain in the long-run and building professional friendships is an important part of the networking and development of any entrepreneur. You don’t have to give them special treatment or bend over backward for them if you do become friends with your clients, but you can at least make them feel welcome and appreciated.
Not listening to them
One of the biggest and most common mistakes is rehearsing your pitch so much that when it comes time to sell them on your business, you recite word-for-word, without any flexibility. It’s important that you adapt your pitch to their needs. You want to speak directly and specifically to their pain points. That means that you actually have to hear them. If you haven’t practiced active listening, then now might be a good time to start. A lot of us listen, but we don’t store information from conversations as consciously as we should. Active listening will allow you to pick up and recite details, then apply your offer to those details. Needless to say, speaking specifically to client needs, though a bit of a hard sell, is an impressive way to show you’re taking their needs seriously. Otherwise, it becomes obvious that you care about getting a sale more than fulfilling their needs.
Forgetting details of the meeting
If you’re practicing active listening, you should remember more of your meetings. But you’ll never remember everything with the power of your mind alone. Customer relationship management platforms can help in this regard, storing details of past client meetings so that, next time you meet them or even if another member of staff meets them, they can read the notes and come prepared. You want to make every client feel like the center of your attention. A CRM suite just helps make that process a little easier for everyone involved. They have a bunch of benefits for making the lead maturing process much smoother, too.
Not devoting your attention to them
It’s an easy mistake to make, but it’s one that can ruin a meeting. If you don’t turn off your phone, it can be a little annoying. Most clients will understand that you forgot to turn it off, however. But if you’re actively checking your phone at any point during meetings with them, you can kiss their custom goodbye.
As mentioned, there are some clients who will always find something to complain about and it’s important to know when to not chase them. However, the tips above can help ensure that you