A first date or initial meeting with a prospective client isn’t just about making a good first impression, it’s a chance to find a potential long-term relationship. That first encounter is as much an opportunity to show who you are as it is to get to know someone else. To make the most of a first date or meeting, avoid these 4 blunders that are sure to kill a relationship before it has a chance to begin.
Have dating amnesia.
Everyone has experienced rejection, betrayal, and disastrous first dates. It’s part of life. Some people easily shake off bad experiences keeping faith good things will come their way. Others let negative experiences define their futures. Hanging onto bad experiences causes you to have low expectations on future dates and only serves to set you up for failure.
In business, you may have thought a meeting with a prospective client went well, but they ended up going to a competitor. It’s part of doing business. If you go into future pitches with lingering past resentment, you’re never going to give 100%. Prospective clients will sense your pessimism and paranoia and may perceive your guarded behavior as insincerity or dishonesty. Unwittingly, you may create a bad situation when there isn’t one.
Sometimes things don’t work out for reasons you never would have guessed; be gracious and leave the door open should things change in the future. Since new dates and clients haven’t wronged you, grant yourself dating amnesia. Don’t let negative experiences with people in the past affect how you treat people in the future. Go into each new relationship with positivity and enthusiasm.
Don’t monopolize the conversation.
The only objective for a first date is to get to know someone and hopefully have fun. But, you can’t get to know someone if you’re doing all the talking and none of the listening. If your date is shy, ask questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no to encourage them to share. Asking questions and attentively listening to the answers shows your date you are genuinely interested.
On your initial meeting with a prospective new client, take a few minutes to get to know them personally. Make a point to remember any details they share for future reference. If they are considering a move to you from a competitor, find out what needs are not being met and consider how you can (and must) be better. If the client is new to hiring a business like yours, ask them if they have any questions about the process.
Go into a first date or meeting prepared with some questions you would like to ask and a few topics for discussion. Should the conversation not flow well in the beginning, you won’t have to struggle to find things to talk about. After your date or meeting, follow up with a mention of their favorite sports team, refer to their pet by name, or forward an article on a topic that you discussed. Connecting on a personal level, regardless of the outcome, shows sincerity. If communication is key to a good relationship, asking questions and listening early on is a great way to start.
Don’t talk about your exes.
This bit of advice is shared ad nauseum, yet more often than not people nervously ramble about an ex on a first date. No one wants to hear their date talk about past relationships when you’re there to see if the two of you are compatible. If you speak highly of your ex, you may make your date feel insecure, and if you trash your ex, your date will wonder if you will speak of them the same way should things not work out. Either way, talking about an ex is not a very mature or respectful thing to do, and if you’re on a date, you’re both single now so look toward the future.
In business, it’s a bit different. You certainly don’t want to say anything disparaging about a past client to a prospective client for the same reasons. But, as a general rule, it’s also best not to say negative things about clients at all. Sure, we all have had clients that make us nuts, and griping to co-workers can be a way to blow off steam. Don’t make a habit of complaining about a client or joking about them at their expense even if they’ll never know. Consider, too, how difficult it is to shift from complaining about one client to sounding gracious and engaged when another client calls. Always maintain a culture of appreciating your clients at the workplace. Without them you wouldn’t be in business.
Also, keep in mind clients may have varying expectations of privacy. While one client might love you mentioning them by name and how their daughter just got into an Ivy League school, another might see that as a gross breach of confidentiality no matter what business you’re in. Certainly, there are times when referencing a client is helpful in providing solutions to others, but speak in hypotheticals without revealing names and personal details. As you build relationships with clients, make sure they know whatever they share with you remains confidential.
Put away your phone.
Have you ever been on a date with someone who spent half the time on their phone? Did you think to yourself, “Why am I even here?” Or, are you the person who can’t do anything without their phone in their hand at all times and feel compelled to check text messages, emails, and social media accounts incessantly? When you are on a date put your phone away. Your phone is a wall. No one can get to know you when you’re staring down at your screen, and you certainly can’t get to know anyone if your attention is divided.
When you meet with a prospective new client, make sure your phone is off and not within reach to avoid picking it up out of habit. If you’re in your office, it’s also a good idea to turn off your computer’s monitor so you can’t be distracted by any emails or messages that might pop up. Keeping your phone away and monitor off allows you to give your prospective client your full attention, indicating to them you value their time and want their business.
The possibility of a new relationship, personal or business, can be an exciting time and the beginning of something great. Give yourself the best chance at success by being optimistic, engaging, present, and attentive.