Making the Right First Impression

Posted in Client intake

Your Firm’s Most Valuable Marketing Asset

This morning I called one of my clients to set up a meeting. The receptionist, who didn’t recognize my name, was terse (at best), cut me off in mid-sentence, placed me on hold for two minutes, and then sent me to voice mail. The hold time gave me a chance to think about this experience from a different perspective. What if I was a prospective client? How would this initial contact impact my first impression?

Prospective clients are your firm’s most valuable marketing asset. You spend a lot of time and money to get them, and it’s much less expensive to convert them into clients than to uncover new prospects. Everything you do from the initial phone response through consultations and follow-up messaging registers the impressions that will ultimately determine whether you get the business.

Ways to Ensure a Positive First Impression:

  • Answer the phone within three rings. Show that you are responsive and ready. Never allow calls to go into voice mail. If you don’t have the resources to support a dedicated receptionist, consider segregating phone lines so someone can jump whenever the Bat Phone rings.
  • Limit hold time to 20 seconds. Even if you are still trying to track down the right person, pick up the line, thank the caller for her patience, and put her on hold again. No one likes to be put on hold, but you can make the experience much more pleasant by limiting the dead time.
  • Consider after-hours support. Check your website visitor statistics by time of day. If there is a chance that prospects may be researching your services after business hours, consider expanding your phone answering hours. Then market your advantage of “open evenings.”
  • Respond to contact requests within 15 minutes. When a prospect sends an email or submits a contact form, at that moment your service and firm are a top priority. Respond by phone before the priority changes, either because of another priority or a competitor that responded faster.
  • Get contact information. Assume the caller is on a cell phone and ask for contact information in case you are cut off. Better to show your interest by calling back rather than waiting (hoping) for another chance. Ask for an email address as well so you can put that person on your newsletter distribution list.
  • Be on time for the initial meeting. Simply put, tardiness shows a lack of respect at a time when you are trying to earn respect. It is your responsibility to manage both the start and end time of your meetings. If you find that you are continually late, adjust your scheduling tactics to allow more time between meetings.
  • Send a follow-up message. Include a thank you along with any action items, next steps, and due dates. This will differentiate you from others who just wait for a callback. It also creates a logical set of steps for your prospect to become a client.
  • Keep communicating. Purchase decisions–either the final decision or just the decision about your firm–are normally made within a few days of contact. Creatively keep your name in front of that prospect by forwarding a relevant article, following up on an action item, or even just sending another thought about your discussion.

The best way to improve your internal processes is to view everything from the prospect’s perspective. Walk through the steps that someone would take from the initial contact through contract. What would you expect? What would impress you? What would make you more likely to sign on the dotted line? You may be surprised by what you see and hear. And finally, if you can’t measure it, don’t do it.