We all know that first impressions matter. This is true not only with in-person meetings but also with initial telephone calls. There are several important factors that you should keep in mind when speaking to a potential client for the first time. First, people want you to listen. Even if you do not decide to take a client’s case, giving them the courtesy of allowing them to explain their issue and frustrations is incredibly important. This does not mean you have to spend hours on the telephone with a potential client on an initial call. It does mean you need to ensure not to make the person feel like you are rushed and do not have time to hear their concerns. Before you return a call to a potential client, make sure you allow adequate time to listen, ask questions, and actively engage in the conversation. Your time is valuable but so is the time of the people that call you for help. “One of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone is the gift of attention.” – Jim Rohn
Second, do your best to ensure that you are understood. For example, if you are quoting someone a fee for an initial consultation, make sure they understand exactly what they will be paying for – i.e. an hour of your time? Two hours? Review of documentation? You do not want the client to be surprised. Even if you put the agreement in writing before the consultation, if the client misunderstood the quote on the initial call, they will likely not be pleased to see a higher or different amount in writing.
Third, follow up on your promises. If you tell a potential client that you are unable to help, but you will contact them with the names of a few people who may be able to assist, make sure you do get back to them. If you are unable to provide the information you thought you could provide, you need to relay that information as well.
Fourth, make every effort possible to never come across as superior to the person who has contacted you. Of course you likely know more about the topic the potential client is contacting you about or they would not be calling you. However, this is not always the case. Even if a potential client contradicts you, and you know you are correct, try to explain that in your experience, the situation resulted in a different outcome. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt.
Following these simple steps should become second nature in any profession. The first contact with a potential client matters! We expect this level of professionalism and courtesy from others; therefore, it should also be what we provide.