Professional presence on-the-go
8 Ways to Make a Positive Impression on Your Customers
Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes
As the old saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” That’s a useful bit of guidance for everyone, but it’s especially important for small business owners who provide service in a customer’s home, such as builders, electricians, house cleaners, dog walkers, personal trainers, and plumbers.
“The home is sacred territory to people, and a lot of folks get nervous when workers come into their house,” says small business marketing advisor Debra Murphy. “You have to present yourself well and earn their trust.”
Making a positive impression can boost business with potential clients as well as referrals to friends, neighbors, and family.
Want to make a great impression on your customers? Follow these simple steps to polish your professional presence.
1. Dress like a pro.
Wearing the right clothing tells clients you’re professional, you pay attention to detail, and you respect your customers. That doesn’t necessarily mean dressing up. Most service providers are fine with a neat pair of pants—think business casual—and a T-shirt or polo shirt with a company logo.
Wearing clothing with your company logo not only projects a professional impression, but it reinforces your brand and separates you from your competitors.
Remember, customers make snap judgments based on what they see when they open their front door. Researchers have found that people form lasting impressions in as little as one second or less. Before you ring that doorbell, make sure your clothes and grooming are up to snuff. And don’t wear or display anything that could alienate customers, such as political images.
2. Watch your posture.
Good posture exudes confidence and professionalism. You don’t have to stand at attention, but you don’t want to look slouchy or hunched. Hold up your head, pull back your shoulders, and stand up straight.
Remember that your nonverbal communication can say as much about you as your speech. “Without your saying a word, a potential client begins their assessment,” says small business coach Jackie Nagel, founder of Synnovatia. “And much of their decision to pursue your services is based on how they feel about you.”
Good posture can be especially helpful if you feel a little nervous before customer meetings. Researchers have found that holding yourself in a confident, positive pose can help you feel less tense by lowering the level of stress hormone in your blood.
To relax before a meeting, take a few deep breaths while you’re waiting for your customer to answer the door. Inhale, hold for a count of three, and exhale to a count of three.
3. Be friendly.
Although you undoubtedly already know the importance of being friendly to clients, it’s a customer service basic that bears repeating: Greet your customers with a smile. This simple action is so powerful that business coaches advise sales people to smile even when speaking on the phone, because it makes the voice sound friendlier.
Even if you’ve got years of experience with clients, remind yourself to make those first few seconds of a meeting count. Make eye contact and greet your customer by name with a firm handshake. Introduce yourself and offer a business card that provides your name and your company’s contact info. Be polite, using the words “please” and “thank you.” Wipe your feet and offer to remove your shoes before entering the home. Simple steps, but when you’ve got a million things on your mind, they’re easy to forget.
And of course, whether you’re meeting with a potential customer or an existing client, show up on time. Arriving early or late creates a negative impression before you even get to “hello.”
Breaking the ice with small talk is fine, but focus on the positive. Rather than complaining about how bad the traffic was on the way over, compliment customers on their attractive garden or adorable dog. “Don’t talk about yourself,” says Murphy, owner of Masterful Marketing. “Talk about the client. Show that you’re interested in them.”
4. Ask questions, and listen to the answers.
It may be tempting to jump right into a sales pitch or details about your services. But it’s best to learn about your customers’ needs first. “Ask a lot of questions,” Murphy suggests. “What are they looking to have done? What are their challenges? What are the constraints? What experiences have they had in the past?”
By paying close attention to what clients say, you not only gather context that allows you to address their specific situation effectively, but you gain their respect. “It’s an opportunity to show you care and to build a relationship,” Murphy says. “Business is about relationships.”
If you’ve been called to fix a problem—you’re a plumber summoned to repair a broken furnace or air conditioner, for example—be empathetic as your customer describes a chilly night without heat or a sweltering weekend without AC.
Avoid distractions while you talk with customers. Silence your phone and give them your undivided attention.
5. Explain your services and fees clearly.
Once you have a full understanding of your customer’s needs, clearly explain what services you can provide and how much they will cost. If possible, offer a written explanation—such as a brochure, flyer, or presentation sheet—that explains your services and processes in detail. Give a written explanation of fees during the visit, or offer to email or send one as soon as possible.
Choose your words carefully, and remember that the lingo that you use every day in your business may be unfamiliar to your customers. An electrician knows what a ground-fault circuit interrupter is, for example, but many homeowners don’t.
6. Practice your presentation.
Meeting with customers and maintaining a professional presence on the go is a challenge for many people. If it doesn’t come naturally to you, do what you’d do to improve any other skill set: Practice.
Ask friends and family to role-play with you and critique your performance. Network with other small business peers and offer to work together to help each other improve presentation skills. The more you practice, the more automatic and authentic behaviors such as smiling, shaking hands, using good posture, and communicating clearly become.
7. Be professional even when you think you’re alone.
Many in-home service providers work in empty houses. But professional presence still matters, because you never know who’s watching.
“Most often, we only see our human clients at the initial consultation,” says Alix Marcoux DiLorenzo, owner and founder of Homeward Bound Professional Animal Care. “However, from day one, in order for our clients to experience the same level of care Homeward Bound has become known for, our employees receive extensive training where they are taught not only to pay attention to the tiniest details, but that they may be seen whether someone is home or not.” Some customers have home security cameras, and neighbors often keep tabs on local activities, so it’s important always to project a professional presence.
8. Finish up strong.
After you provide your service, take advantage of the opportunity to ensure customer satisfaction and ask happy customers to refer you to others. Before you leave, take a few easy steps that can end the visit well:
- Ask customers if they’re happy with the service you provided. You hope the answer is yes, but if it’s not, find out why and figure out how to remedy the situation.
- Request feedback. You can learn a lot about how to improve your business by asking customers for feedback. Offer a customer-survey postcard that can be mailed back to you or a business card with a link to a customer satisfaction survey on your website. If it feels appropriate (and you’re confident that your customers are fully satisfied), invite them to review your service on social media sites such as Yelp or Angie’s List.
- Ask satisfied customers to refer you to friends and family. “Referrals are the least costly form of marketing,” Nagel says.
- Make referrals simple. Present customers with takeaways that make it easy for them to keep track of your contact information, such as a customized refrigerator magnet, key chain, or wall calendar. Send a follow-up email a few days later thanking them for their business and reminding them that you welcome their referrals.
- Say thank you with a handshake and a smile. It’s the best way to leave a great impression and to make your customer want to call you again in the future.
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