When you meet with a new client for the first time, you have a chance to create a powerful, dynamic first impression. And psychological research shows that first impressions are extremely influential, ultimately setting the tone for your relationship, sometimes for years to come.
Obviously, if you make a small slip up, there will likely be plenty of time to make up for it – and first impressions aren’t everything. But leading with a stronger first impression has significant (and indisputable) benefits.
So how do you make a reliably better first impression with your new clients?
Table of Contents
Choose Your Clothes and Accessories Carefully
One of the first things people will notice about you is the way you’re dressed, so choose your clothes and accessories carefully. For example, dressing in a perfectly tailored suit with a set of Oxfords is going to make a much better impression than dressing in a polo shirt and a pair of khakis. You should also think about the accessories you bring; whipping out a handmade leather wallet to pay for a meal can reinforce an impression of class and wealth.
Generally, the better your clothes fit you and the higher quality they are, the better. It’s also important to practice effective grooming, so before your meeting, be sure to check yourself out in the mirror and take care of any issues that might compromise your image.
Know Your Audience
Next, know who you’re working with. You’re meeting with this client for the first time, but you likely already know a few things about their position and personality. You can change your dress, your tone, and even some of the things you say to better suit this person individually. For example, if this person seems very casual and has a good sense of humor, you might intentionally wear a comical tie or be more willing to crack a few jokes during the encounter.
Hold a Confident Posture
From beginning to end, it’s important to hold a confident posture. That means standing or sitting tall with your shoulders back and making consistent eye contact. If you hold yourself more confidently, your words will have more power and conviction behind them – and you’ll naturally be seen as more competent as a result.
Shake Hands Firmly
Whether you like it or not, a simple handshake can speak volumes about your character. In a world of remote and hybrid work, you may not have the opportunity to shake hands with your new client when you meet them for the first time. But if you’re meeting in person, make sure you give a firm handshake with two pumps – and practice a bit beforehand if you’re not used to this.
Smile and Laugh
Human beings are social creatures, and we’re naturally wired to get along with people who seem affable and friendly. Accordingly, you should smile throughout the encounter and laugh whenever it’s appropriate to do so. It’s hard to force yourself to laugh without seeming insincere, but if your client makes a joke or if something funny happens during the meeting, it’s important to at least acknowledge it.
Practice (But Not Too Much)
There’s nothing wrong with practicing what you want to say before the meeting. Depending on how important this meeting is, you may even do a dry run with someone else role-playing as the client. But be careful not to practice too much; if you rehearse your lines too frequently or repetitively, you could end up coming off as robotic or insincere.
You should spend as much time as possible during the meeting actively listening to the other person. In an effort to promote yourself and lead with a good first impression, you might be tempted to talk every time you get the opportunity. But in reality, you’ll probably make a better impression if you stay relatively quiet and empower the client to do the speaking. Make eye contact and nod to show that you’re listening whenever they speak – and ask thoughtful, open-ended questions to encourage them to open up even more.
Be Your Sincere Self
People appreciate sincerity. While you might be tempted to adopt a new, more confident and more professional personality to make a better impression, this can ultimately make you seem bland or fake. You’re probably better off just being yourself, albeit the best version of yourself. Don’t hesitate to show off what makes you “you,” whether that’s a keen sense of humor, a quiet stoicism, or an excitable streak.
Fortunately, making a good first impression isn’t that difficult, and it gets easier with experience. Once you’ve practiced these strategies repeatedly with a dozen or more different clients, it’s going to come naturally to you – and you’ll make better impressions wherever you go.