The initial meeting with a new client is one of the most important meetings you’ll have.

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This is where you set expectations, gather inspiration, and establish a positive relationship with the client. Make sure you come prepared!

The Importance of the First Meeting

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It’s difficult to overstate how important the first meeting is with a new client. This isn’t meant to scare you, but it should provide some motivation to get it right. 

There have been hundreds of studies conducted on first impressions over the years, but they all tend to reach the same conclusion: A good first impression paves the way for a strong and fruitful business relationship, while a negative one is nearly impossible to overcome.

According to one of those studies, 66 percent of potential clients won’t give a business a second chance after a bad first impression. And here’s the kicker: This first impression is made within the first 27 seconds (though it extends throughout the entire initial interaction). That means you better come prepared and really nail that initial interaction.

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6 Tips for a Successful First Meeting

As an interior designer, you need to think about ways you can establish a confident, yet personable image from the moment you meet a new client. 

Here are several tips to make these initial meetings even more fruitful for you and your business:

  1. Be Friendly and Inviting

People want to work with people they get along with. You can increase your likeability by being friendly and inviting in the first 27 seconds. This means smiling, making eye contact, extending a firm handshake, and asking how they’re doing. Avoid diving straight into work. Try to develop a personal connection with them first.

  1. Offer a Favor

Neuroscience says that you can get people to like you more by extending a quick favor within the first few moments of meeting someone. It doesn’t have to be anything more – small offers can pave the way for significant goodwill.

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For example, you could offer to get your client a water bottle. Or maybe you ask them if the temperature in the room needs to be adjusted. We’re not talking about moving mountains here. Small, simple offers are all it takes. 

  1. Have a Process

Before transitioning into the “business” part of the meeting, let your new client know what to expect by outlining the process. In other words, tell them exactly how the meeting will go in a step-by-step manner. Not only does this allow them to track in their mind, but it proves that you aren’t just “winging it” – you have a process.

  1. Take Good Notes

Your meeting shouldn’t be a one-sided lecture. This is a two-way conversation. And in order to properly utilize your time, it’s helpful if you can take good notes.

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While there’s nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned composition notebook or yellow legal pad, try using a note-taking app that allows you to securely store them on the cloud. This ensures you have access to notes from anywhere (even if you leave your laptop at the office one day). 

  1. Ask Smart Questions

Good questions are important for two reasons. First off, they allow you to gather valuable information needed to make smart design decisions that work for your clients. Secondly, they show your clients that you care about them as individuals. 

Here are some good ones to toss into your first meeting repertoire:

  • Can you tell me a little bit about each member of your family?
  • How would you describe your current style?
  • Are there any interior design accounts that you follow on Instagram or Pinterest?
  • What would you consider a successful outcome of us working together?
  1. Give, Give, Give!

Novice interior designers – or really any designer that doesn’t have a ton of confidence in their work – often get scared of giving away too much information in that initial meeting. They become worried that the client might steal their ideas and then do it themselves (or hire a cheaper competitor to execute). But don’t let that scare you. The idea alone isn’t worth much. It’s the implementation that makes it valuable. 

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“Yes, you can suggest to a client to build a fountain in the patio of his home, but only you know what kind of fountain it should be to make it look nice,” designer Anna Kovalchenko writes. “If the client doesn’t understand it, maybe you don’t need this client. If he understands it, giving away ideas and showing off your creativity is the powerful tool to win a project.”

The more good ideas you give during a meeting, the more creative you come across. And if there’s one thing people are looking for in an interior designer, it’s creativity. They can go to Pinterest and get a bunch of ideas. They want someone who can develop unique ideas without needing a template or mold.

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Adding it All Up

There’s no easy, one-size-fits-all method for creating a positive first impression. Everyone is different, perceptions are unique, and it depends on a blend of circumstantial factors. 

Having said that, you can dramatically improve your ability to get results by heeding the advice highlighted above. We’ve given you the keys – now go out and drive!