Breaking the ice with new customers as a financial advisor can be stressful, but it shouldn't and doesn't have to be. It can and should be an experience that any business owner looks forward to.
It gives you a chance to do what we try so hard but never really achieve through social media or other marketing -- putting a human face on your business and gaining a customer for life.
Meeting a customer is one of the best ways to keep a customer for life.
Make the First Impression Count
Customers are just like you: They place enormous emphasis on what they think of you right off the bat. Remember what your old school guidance counselor told you about your behavior when you go in for a job interview? The same rules apply when meeting a customer for the first time. Dress well, look them in the eye, give a firm handshake, speak clearly, be polite, but don't over-flatter. You want to make the impression that really counts. Take a first meeting with a customer seriously. If you blow it, it could be the last time you ever see them.
Make a Connection
A first meeting with a new customer or client isn't the same as a first date, but it's close. Make a connection. Engage in conversation and -- just like a first date -- listen instead of waiting for your turn to talk. Ask questions that allow them to tell you about themselves so they leave with the impression that they just spoke with someone who is interested in who they are, not just what they can offer. Find common points, but be sincere. If they mention their love of sand art, don't pretend to be into it if you're not. You know how you can tell when someone is blowing smoke at you? So can they.
Speak Like a Human
In an automated world filled with robots where people used to be, a human presence is refreshing in business. You're not a cop. Don't say "vehicle" if you mean "car." It's not a blank document. It's just printer paper.
Writers have been told since time immemorial to write the way they speak. Why? Because it comes off natural and believable. Speak the way you speak -- the new customer wants to believe there's a human behind the company, and there is. Don't be afraid to let him out. Don't mistake this as a plea to be too informal. Don't use slang or coarse language, but don't automatically jump into business jargon either.
When you meet a customer, make a first impression count.
Tell a Story
Without sounding too rehearsed, think of a story about you and your new customer's mutual business to which he or she can relate -- preferably one in which you failed and learned something. With light self-deprecation, you can put them at ease and let them know that you're someone who has been there -- that you've paid your dues, have made some mistakes, learned from them and are willing to admit it. If you think it's appropriate -- and be VERY careful here -- don't be afraid to inject some humor.
Meeting a new customer for the first time can be a truly awesome experience. It lets you know you're doing something right and gives you an opportunity to expand your business one person at a time. Be natural; be yourself.
You don't need to play the role of a businessman -- you are one. Remember that.
Photo credits: Flickr user Eric Cuthbert.