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Created on 22.07.2019

How to make a superb impression on your customers

Is dealing with customers part of your job? This may be quite the challenge from time to time, but then again there is nothing quite as exciting as regularly meeting new people, which is what makes your job so special. Of course, this does come with a great deal of responsibility. Customer meetings are essential to many companies. They involve placing orders, presenting projects, discussing budgets and making important decisions. These things are often the result of gut feelings and instincts, which is why it is so important for meetings to go really well, and there is a lot at play here: how you dress, how you behave and how you prepare.

Show conviction right from the outset

We all know that a decent handshake coupled with friendly eye contact is an integral part of a greeting, however not many people know much about the effect their voice can have. Yet this is just as crucial when it comes to first impressions. Perhaps you had a strong cup of coffee before your meeting, which will have quite an effect on how your voice sounds. Nerves will also make your voice sound higher than normal. A croaky greeting certainly won’t help you gain your customer’s confidence, so you ought to actually test your voice before you meet the customer. If you do notice problems with nerves or your voice, these tips below will really help you.

Make strategic clothing choices

There are two things you need to think about before your meeting: time and appearance. Punctuality and a neat appearance are the absolute basics of etiquette. Your choice of attire should be a confident one. Nowadays, there is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach that can be applied to every line of work. Instead, you will have to familiarize yourself with the dress etiquette of your own profession. Ask an experienced colleague for advice if you’re unsure or you just need a few tips. Here is an overview of the main business dress codes:

Business casual

Men should wear a suit, the bottom button undone, with a plain, light shirt (possibly with a subtle pattern) and dark shoes to match their belt.

Women should wear a suit and blouse (either with trousers or a skirt). The skirt should be knee-length. Wear flats or pumps. Low necklines and overly short skirts are best avoided. Jewellery and accessories should be subtle. This is what business etiquette suggests.

Business attire

Men should wear a dark suit with a plain tie, combined with a light long-sleeved shirt, black shoes and a black belt.

Women should wear a dark suit and a light blouse (either with trousers or a skirt). The skirt should be knee-length. They should wear leather pumps.

Smart casual

Men should combine dress trousers or dark jeans with a jacket, along with a polo shirt or a regular shirt. Light, suede shoes are acceptable.

Women can choose between a skirt, dark jeans or dress trousers, combined with a jumper or a blazer. The rules are vague on this style, so choosing the right outfit requires some instinct. A printed T-shirt is usually not suitable, but it can be a creative statement.

A good start to your meeting

Sales meetings or other business meetings generally begin with an introduction. This is where the people involved go into titles, careers and experience. This could well be quite boring for your customer. What you could try to do, therefore, is start by telling the customer what you personally associate with them and the job. You will have an easier time doing this if you read the latest newspaper articles about your customer’s area of business. But it is important you come across as genuine and empathetic, and not overly chummy, so to speak. A little bit of humour certainly doesn’t hurt. For intercultural meetings, we do advise a bit more caution, though. Still, friendliness and politeness are appreciated all over the world, and you will be expected to show good manners.

As the host, you should try to create a good atmosphere

How do you decide if the situation at the outset is complex and unclear? Most people go with their gut instincts on these occasions. This is why it isn’t just what you say that counts in each customer meeting, you also need to create the right sort of atmosphere. Try to make your business partner feel as comfortable as possible. This will require simple but clear communication. Make sure you are crystal clear about your own area of expertise as well. After all, nobody likes secrets. Provide your customer with all the necessary explanations and information about the topic at hand. You should also give your customer a dossier, or you could summarize the meeting in an e-mail afterwards.

Good preparation is absolutely key

It’s often easy to imagine you can simply gloss over these problems with a confident personality, and while that may be true of a brief circus performance, for long-term customer relations, skill and authenticity is also very much called for. This is why you are better off actually preparing rather than simply making it all up as you go along. Allow enough time to do this. Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, quite rightly said: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” If you do all this, your business partner will appreciate your hard work at least as much as your brilliant ideas.

Mini-list: 5 tips to help you with...

How do you decide if the situation at the outset is complex and unclear? Most people go with their gut instincts on these occasions. This is why it isn’t just what you say that counts in each customer meeting, you also need to create the right sort of atmosphere. Try to make your business partner feel as comfortable as possible. This will require simple but clear communication. Make sure you are crystal clear about your own area of expertise as well. After all, nobody likes secrets. Provide your customer with all the necessary explanations and information about the topic at hand. You should also give your customer a dossier, or you could summarize the meeting in an e-mail afterwards.

... Nerves

Give your subconscious clear signals: picture your success. Imagine the customer shaking your hand enthusiastically and your boss congratulating you. It is, however, important to be yourself, and to not come across as overwrought due to sheer nerves.

... clammy hands and breaking into sweats

Hold the bottom of your wrist under cold running water for one minute, and then dry your hands thoroughly.

... a trembling, weak voice

Think of really good chocolate and then say out loud: Mmmmmmm. This will help you regain control of your vocal chords, plus your mind will be focused on something positive.

... Confidence issues during a presentation

Scout out friendly faces in the room, and focus on these people.

... technical problems

Be sure to have a copy of your presentation at the ready for really important meetings so that you can still give your presentation even if technology fails you.

When you have customer meetings, try and see them as opportunities

This is your company’s calling card. It may be a challenge, but if you put in the groundwork – i.e. your outfit, your dossier and basic etiquette – not a whole lot can really go wrong. Lastly, and although it may sound obvious, customer meetings are not a matter of life and death, so just keep your cool and stay composed.

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