When you first start out in the business world, it can be easy to feel intimidated by clients, especially if they’re more experienced than you are. I’ve been there! I was charged out to a client who was paying GBP600/day and I was just getting GBP200/day. It feels uncomfortable but you wouldn’t be there if they needed you.
But when it comes down to it, new clients are opportunities for growth and learning for everyone involved. That’s why I’m here to show you how to handle yourself with a new client so that both parties can come out of the meeting with great results!
But…. don’t spend your time learning from them, do what you can within your abilities and scope of the job. Don’t fall in the pleasing mode of just doing anything because of the imposter syndrome.
Be well mannered
This is a given when dealing with anyone, first impression matters and it is the way you leave a lasting impression on your client. Being polite and well mannered will go a long way in making sure that your reputation stays intact.
- Be polite and courteous
- Respect the client’s time and resources
- Be professional
- Be honest about your subject matter knowledge, especially if you don’t know something. If you’ve never worked with a particular software package, or the client is not familiar with a certain industry jargon, don’t be afraid to admit that! Clients value honesty over pretending to know everything (and they will respect your honesty).
- Flexibility – Clients often have many questions throughout the course of a project. Embrace this as an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and knowledge; however, resist the urge to give lengthy answers unless the client asks for them.
Ask questions and listen to their pains.
In terms of getting work from a new client it might be worth reaching out to them before the end of a recent project of theirs. This is the perfect opportunity to ask questions about their recent pains on the project and how they can potentially try someone new if the previous service they had were not decent.
Asking questions is an important part of any business interaction because it helps both sides get clear on what they want out of the relationship. It’s also more effective when you can use these questions as an icebreaker rather than filling an awkward silence with idle chitchat. Getting to know their pains during their previous projects will help you understand what you can improve on to wow them when delivering your service to them.
Ask questions on potential new tasks or jobs that are coming up, or any other problems that they may have which they can help on. Try not to sell your services for every sentence that comes out of their mind but I would suggest to look at listening for their problems to see where you can offer your services. People do like to talk about their problems and be listened to.
If they are not taking the hint on offering your a new service, it is always good to ask the hardest questions “do you have any services you’ll need from me” or even “do you know anyone who would benefit from my service”. It’s always good to try closing.
Don’t push your service.
When working with new clients, you don’t have a lot of information about the project or person. That makes it important to be careful not to push your service. It’s easy to assume that a client is looking for what you offer, but they may not actually need your services—or they might want something different than what you offer.
Don’t try to sell your service or push yourself on them if it feels uncomfortable (to them). If they don’t seem interested in learning more about what you do, try asking open-ended questions instead of answering all the questions that come up in their mind right away (and selling yourself).
It can also help if you keep yourself open and flexible so that even if someone does ask about pricing or availability, there aren’t any awkward pauses when the conversation comes back around again later down the road after learning more about each other through follow-up emails sent over time since first meeting face-to-face.
Try to be as positive as possible about the client’s current situation.
While it may be tempting to give your client the benefit of the doubt and assume that they know what they want, it is important to understand how the client feels about their situation.
You can do this by asking open-ended questions such as:
- How did this problem come about?
- What were you trying to accomplish when things started going wrong?
- What brings you to looking at my service, and why now?
- What are your current projects and where do you feel they are not doing well?
Try look at asking detailed questions of where you can help specifically and discuss potential solutions to see if they really need your service or not. In one instance I had a conversation with a Managing QS who was struggling with applications for payment as he had to do 30 of them or so in 3-4 days. I said instead of hiring someone in you could always amend your application dates and get the parties to agree to it, you can then stagger the applications and give yourself more time.
They would appreciate you more with this and potentially recommend you to others with offering a quick solution within your scope of service. (of course don’t give them recommendations for things you’re not competent in).
Be professional with integrity and honesty
When you’re meeting a new client, it’s important to be professional and respectful. You should also be honest and consistent in your behavior—don’t lie or behave unprofessionally. If you are considering engaging in unethical behavior, don’t do it!
As a business owner, you’re used to being your own boss and leading the charge. That’s great in many ways (hello, flexible schedule!), but it can be a little disconcerting when you’re trying to help someone else achieve their goals. It can be hard not to feel like they’re encroaching on your territory—and if they do, that’s okay! You don’t have anything to prove at this point; just remember that you’re working with them because they value what you do for them more than anyone else could.
That said: it is totally okay for clients to ask questions about what’s going on in your business and ask if there are certain things or processes that need improvement based on their experience with other designers or agencies (or even previous experiences as a freelancer). If this happens, try not taking it personally—these people are paying customers after all! They want what’s best for themselves too so give thoughtful answers while being mindful of where your boundaries lie when answering questions like these
Be respectful of them and past clients, don’t bad mouth others
Be respectful of your new client, and of your past clients.
Don’t badmouth other companies to the new person you’re talking with. If someone does something that rubs you the wrong way, take a deep breath before commenting on it.
If you badmouth others they may feel that if they don’t do well with you that you would badmouth their experience with others. It’s always bad to place new clients in this position.
Friendly and enthusiastic
In your interactions with the client, it’s essential that you be friendly and enthusiastic. You want to put them at ease and make them feel confident in your abilities. You should also be positive about their current situation, even if it’s not ideal.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! This is a great way for you to gather information about what they’re looking for and how they want things done, but also provides an opportunity for you to showcase your expertise and knowledge of the industry by sharing some tips or ideas of your own. (But don’t be too intellectual and just dumb down the content, you’re there to listen and identify issues that you can resolve).
Don’t push your services on them immediately—only offer services that they actually need or request, otherwise there’s a good chance they’ll get turned off by seeming too aggressive right off the bat (and maybe even end up taking their business elsewhere).
Be professional with integrity and honesty, especially when describing what you can do for them—your clients will appreciate it if everything goes smoothly without any concerns over whether someone might take advantage of them later down the road because that means less stress overall which leads into…
Listen to your client.
When a new client comes to you, it’s important to listen. Listen to what they are saying, but also listen for what they are not saying. Pay attention to the tone of their voice and how they respond to your questions. Listen for any changes in their facial expression or body language that may indicate discomfort or disagreement with something you’ve said.
A good listener will also be able to read between the lines when a client is telling his story, which can help him understand why the client wants certain things from this work relationship (or lack thereof). This can help save time by allowing both parties to avoid spending too much time discussing irrelevant details about the project at hand – instead focusing on all aspects at once!
Be honest with yourself about what you can handle versus what you can’t handle.
- When you’re first starting out, it can be easy to take on whatever work comes your way. But as you grow, you’ll want to make sure everything you do actually fits into your brand and is a good fit for the type of experience that clients expect from working with you.
- That’s why it’s important to know yourself: What kind of clientele do YOU like working with? Are they relaxed or high-pressure? Will they give me room to be creative or will they be more concerned with results? Do I need a marketing background before taking on this new client?
- If these questions are making your head spin, ask for help! A mentor or colleague might have insight into whether something is right for where you are in your career. Or if there are certain things about the project that don’t feel like a good fit (like being unable to offer time frames), say no—and find someone who can deliver what this new client needs from them instead.
Stick to your strengths.
To be the best you can be, it’s important to know what your strengths are. This applies to everything in life, not just business. If you’re a good surveyor, don’t try to force yourself into being a project manager, designer or planner as well (even if you can use p6 or ms projects).
It’s also important for you to stay realistic about your own limitations (and those of others on your team) and know when it’s time to call in backup or hire additional help. For example, if one of our surveyors gets sick and has trouble getting his work done on time during an important project deadline crunch period, I may need an extra pair of hands or another surveyor or technician who can pick up some slack until he recovers from his illness so that no deadlines are missed or projects suffer delays due to unexpected staffing issues like this one. (of course you have to let the client know of these delays and expectations)
things will not go to plan, for example today I was suppose to finish a time impact analysis, and 4 quotes for a claim. This didn’t go to plan, I was only able to produce the quantum and couldn’t finish the validity of the variations. At 1pm I informed the commercial director to let him know that I will be done with the submission by tomorrow morning as I had more work than expected when I produced the time impact analysis.
With a new client, it’s important that you do everything in your power to make the experience a good one. It’s not just about selling them on your services; it’s about getting them to trust and rely on you as an expert in your field. This can be tricky for some people because they’re afraid of being seen as pushy or aggressive, but if you keep these tips in mind when approaching new clients then I promise they’ll appreciate how much effort went into getting there!