First impressions are lasting and the first contact that your client has with your office will not only remain in their memories but also influence their future involvement with you. There are several no or low-cost things that you can do to ensure that your client has a good first impression of you and your business.
Marketing materials - Your office is extended into the world through the marketing materials you prepare. When prospects search for you on th internet will they find a professional and informative website? Is your telephone book advertising appealing? Are your brochures and business cards nicely designed and printed on quality paper? Are you other marketing materials ones of which you can be proud? Everything that has your name on it, is a preview to the relationship which you will be developing with the client or other professionals.
Reputation - The things that people say about you will either help to build you business or restrict it. People who know, like and trust you will refer others to you through word of mouth. Guard and treasure a good reputation with utmost diligence.
Telephone contact - when people call your office they may get a voice mail message before actually talking with you or your staff. Use a friendly but professional tone when you make a voice mail recording. Remember to state the name of the business, open office hours, encouragement for callers to leave a message, information about when the call will be returned and give thanks that the caller left a message. If you have a website, you can offer them the address so they can read about you and the business while waiting for a response.
Conversations with you and your staff - Offering respect and information in a polite fashion will help your clients to have a preview of the services your will provide for them in the future. Listen carefully to ensure that you understand what the person needs and wants. If a referral would be appropriate, offer it. Be helpful but do not do any of the work that you would normally do in an appointment time.
Your Reception Area - When someone walks into your office will they feel comfortable? I still talk about the beauty of an accountant's office that I visited a few years ago. The colours and simplicity were stunning. In fact, one paint colour is usually the same as another paint colour but the differences can be astounding. A reception area that is free of clutter and protective of confidential information is appealing to those who enter your office. Ensure that there is appropriate seating and that the room is soundproof. Even the smell of stale smoke can turn a client off. Every sense is analyzing the environment - sight, sound, touch, smell and even taste can be in play when it comes to first impressions. For example, offering a bottle of water for the client who is waiting can be a very possible gesture that will be locked in memory.
Appearance - As a sole professional, you are the business. What your client sees and hears is key to how they feel about the experience. Your staff also represents you. It is therefore important that you and the staff dress in a professional manner. Consider taking a course or hiring an expert to help you with your wardrobe, hair and other grooming. You might consider having a uniform for your staff members or just a conversation that outlines your expectations regarding appearance. It doesn't usually cost a great deal to be clean and tidy and you don't need a huge expensive wardrobe to dress appropriately.
Attitude - How you view the world and treat others will go a long way when building your business and relationships with friends, family, clients or other professionals. I think that having a good attitude is like carrying a full glass of water that splashes on others as you travel through life. Problems which are viewed as opportunities or challenges are more easily handled. Simple words of hope can help improve another person's life.
One of my goals is that no matter who I am with during the day or where we are, the other person will walk away and say "that was the best part of my day".
As a sole professional, you are the one who is responsible for the environment in your office. This can be a daunting task but also one which allows you to help form a wonderful adventure every single day.