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3 rules to impress your client
Yati Doshi |
January 17, 2006
It is relatively easier to sign a business deal than to celebrate it -- entertaining a client can send shivers down the steeliest of spines.
Why, you ask? Well, it's because It is easy to make a faux pas and lose the client as well as the deal.
Why is wooing a client important? Well, competition is tough. If you don't, someone else will, and you will have to start all over again. Besides, your reputation in the corporate world depends largely on what clients think and speak of you.
We give you tips on the three most important aspects of dealing with a client:
i. First impressions: How you greet and treat him/ her; the correct way of offering your business card, etc.
ii. Entertaining: Taking the client out to a power breakfast, lunch or dinner.
iii. Gifting: To say thank you for the business, marking special occasions, sometimes before the work is done (to ensure it is done).
i. First impressions
Ritu Kaul*, 26, a purchase manager with a manufacturing company called J K (Ankl) Pvt Ltd, went for a meeting to a supplier's office. She was kept waiting in the reception area even though she had confirmed the meeting that morning. No one saw it fit to ask her whether she wanted tea or coffee; she wasn't told how long she would be kept waiting.
A surly receptionist informed her the person she had come to see was busy in a meeting and she had no idea how long the wait would be. An hour and a half later, Ritu left the office in disgust, and with her went the account, which would have brought the supplies company business worth lakhs.
She didn't mind the waiting so much; after all, emergencies do crop up. It was the attitude that led her to wonder -- if this was how she was treated before signing the contract, what would happen later?
They say first impressions are last impressions. This is especially true in the business world.
To make a good first impression:
~ Ensure you are appropriately dressed and well groomed.
~ Welcome your client with a firm handshake.
~ Offer your card with your name and designation facing upwards.
~ Accept his/ hers. Designations are very important. Read his/ her designation before putting the card in your wallet. Ask him/ her how he/ she would like to be addressed, especially if your client is a senior member of the company
Amit Shah*, 28, had just started his own computer maintenance company. He was trying to get B Menon*, the CEO of a manufacturing and sales company, to sign up a yearly contract with him. Menon's company were, at the moment, using the services of another firm to maintain their computers.
After much follow-up laced with a great deal of persuasion, Amit managed to a lunch appointment with Menon. Wanting to make most of the opportunity, he researched Menon's tastes and habits. Amit chose the restaurant with great care, reserved the best table in advance, reached before time and ensured that lunch was a smooth affair.
Menon was impressed by Amit's obvious preparations. He decided that anyone who would walk an extra mile for a dinner would certainly go many extra miles for work. Amit clinched the deal.
Though it is not practical or possible to plan all business meals in this manner, the important ones do require a high level of planning and preparation. There are some general rules to be followed:
~ Choose an appropriate place. A power lunch at a fast food joint or a place frequented by college students is a no-no. The venue must offer swift, attentive, service, a good ambience, soft music and should not be frequented by teenyboppers or families. The location, as well as the timing, must be convenient for the client.
~ Request a corner table so that you are not disturbed in the midst of an important discussion.
~ Wait for your guest to sit, before taking a seat.
~ Take into consideration the client's sensibilities and tastes before ordering your meal.
~ Avoid ordering foods that are messy to eat, like oysters, crabs, etc, which are best eaten with hands -- you don't want gravy rolling down your chin or onto shirt sleeves.
~ Switch your cell phone to silent mode. Accept only those messages and calls that are urgent; remember, no one likes to be ignored because of a phone call.
~ NEVER, NEVER ask potentially embarrassing questions. Topics like religion, beliefs and politics are best avoided.
~ Do ask the client to talk about himself/ herself, but avoid conversational pitfalls like personal history, etc.
~ Don't be showy about paying the bill, do it discreetly. You are not doing your client a favour by treating him.
One man's meat is another man's poison. For some, a replica of the Taj Mahal is a lovely gift -- while for some, it signifies a mausoleum. Yellow roses mean friendship in some countries, and a symbol of dislike in others. And if your client is diabetic, it would be a cardinal sin to gift mithai or a box of chocolates.
Subtle nuances like how a gift is wrapped, the manner in which it is offered, are all equally important.
Some hints and tips that should help you here:
~ Ensure that the gift is appropriate for the occasion. For instance, if the occasion is a client's wedding, then a personalised gift (maybe something in silver) is more fitting than say, a regular giveway with the company's logo.
~ Watch how much you spend on the gift. Nothing is more embarrassing than receiving an extravagant gift.
~ Have it wrapped elegantly, not flashily, and offer it gracefully. The world does not need to see how big or expensive the gift is.
~ How do you choose the perfect gift? Try to gauge your client's tastes from your conversations, the way he/ she dresses and his/ her office space. You could also chat with his secretary and ask him/ her to recommend something. This makes the secretary feel important as well gets you the relevant information.
Keep your ears open on the corporate grapevine, especially if your client is well-known in the corporate circles.
~ Many companies have a 'No Gifts' rule.
Avani Parikh*, 33, a client servicing executive with an advertising agency called Identity Communication, sent three expensive, beautifully wrapped boxes of mithai and dried fruits across to her clients (the marketing team of well-known cooperative bank). They were promptly returned.
Avani didn't know gifts were equal to bribes in the eyes of her client. Luckily, the client realised she was a new recruit and presumed she was not aware of their rules.
~ Finally, be relaxed and present your best side. This is your chance to develop a rapport in an informal way. With a bit of planning and confidence, you will win the day.
* Names changed on request.
Yati Doshi is a corporate trainer based in Mumbai. She has eight years of experience in the corporate arena and two years of experience in training.
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