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Positive impressions lead to lasting connections

Name one experience more intimidating than an initial client consultation. Most people would say public speaking. I would disagree. Perhaps it’s because I am in a profession where people bring their lives and livelihoods to me on a daily basis. There is no other experience as fraught with excitement and nerves as when I shake a new client’s hand and ask them to have a seat. These are three tips I have found especially useful for client conferences or consultations:

1. Help the client prepare beforehand, if possible.

When a new client calls your office for the first time, it is paramount that whoever answers the phone is friendly and inquisitive. The more information you can get before meeting the client, the more you can prepare. In my line of business, it is often helpful to send the client a list of resources prior to an initial meeting so they are prepared for the discussion. This “priming” of the client depends on your business and the client’s needs, but many attorneys use these questionnaires ahead of time to prepare clients for an initial conference.

2. Make the client comfortable.

Everyone talks about putting clients at ease. They say, “Be friendly. Offer the client a drink. Chat about the weather.” None of this is bad advice but what’s most important is to be authentic. Your client wants to know who you are as a person. They may not want your entire life story or to hear you wax poetic about your last fishing trip. They want to feel like they are building a relationship with you. It’s a daunting task, but the reward is that each time you succeed you have created the opportunity for future business. A client who likes you and your work will come back and they will refer others.

Authenticity is a term that has a bit of buzz with self-help gurus but it is not a difficult concept. Authenticity is essentially recognizing your own strengths, personality and interests—and using them to your advantage. One of the mistakes I initially made was trying to mimic my senior partner’s style. In my head, his way was the right way and I had to somehow master his way. Obviously, that’s not true. There is no right way to conduct a client conference. Certainly there are some general guidelines for etiquette and what you need to discuss. If you can establish an authentic rapport with the client, the conference should achieve all of the goals you set out to achieve.

3. Follow up with the client.

After a client leaves your office, it is possible they  will forget a good portion of what you discussed. It is important to always follow up. As a lawyer, this usually means sending a letter with a draft document enclosed. For salespeople, receiving a summary of the conversation and pricelist can be helpful to clients who need to decide on their order. Whatever pertinent information you want the client to remember should be reiterated to them via phone call, e-mail or letter. If the sale is complete, send a short letter thanking the client for their business. It is important to make sure the client remembers their experience with you as well as other important information.

Take some time this week to sit down and question what you or your business could be doing to better prepare clients for initial consultations. Ask yourself if you are delivering a “spiel” or being authentic with a client. Look at your policies for what you do once a client leaves your office. This advice may seem elementary, but if you practice it, you will see an improvement in your client interactions going forward.

About the Author

Cheree Hatfield
Associate attorney, Stowell & Geweke, PC
Cheree is an associate attorney at Stowell & Geweke, PC, LLO in Ord, Nebraska, practicing primarily in estate planning. She graduated from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2013 and received a BA in English from Creighton University in 2010.

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