How to Improve Your Professional Image in a Consultation

Everything starts with a consultation. This is your chance to make a strong first impression with your prospective client, and your opportunity to review their case to see if it’s worth taking on. If you have several years of experience to draw on, this probably comes second-nature to you, and you can almost evaluate the potential case on autopilot. But if you’re new to the game, every consultation is a big deal, because every client matters, and your reputation is still being formed.

Fortunately, there are several strategies you can use to improve your image during every consultation.

Do Your Homework

Before the meeting, you should have at least some fleeting knowledge about this client and the nature of the meeting. Why are they coming to you? What issues are they currently facing? The more you know in advance, the better you’ll be able to navigate the twists and turns of the coming conversation.

Get the Right Assets

First, you’ll need to do some prep work. Having the right assets can make a powerful impression on a prospective new client, and give them something to remember you by. For example, printing your own custom notepads, or having a stack of letterhead with custom, high-quality pens, will make your operation seem more polished, and will serve as tokens to solidify memories of your brand. These are also helpful tools for your clients to take notes during your meeting.

Set the Stage

Take the time to set the stage. Try to imagine someone’s thoughts when they enter your office for the first time. What are the first things they notice? What do they think of their surroundings? You could potentially improve your image by buying the nicest desk you can afford, or by getting an office with a pristine view of the city, but these aren’t practical necessities, so long as your office is organized and welcoming. You’ll also need to dress for the part, and make sure your clients’ first impressions of you are as strong as possible.

Let Your Client Do the Talking

During the initial consultation, try to get your client to do as much of the talking as possible. This is beneficial for a number of reasons. For example, the more they talk, the more you’ll get to learn about them and their needs, which will give you a key advantage in navigating the rest of the conversation. The longer they talk, the more time you’ll have to put together what you want to say, which will ensure you make fewer mistakes, and get to provide more thorough answers. Plus, people who don’t speak as often are seen as more intelligent.

Speak Calmly and Deliberately

When you do speak, you’ll want to do so calmly and deliberately. People who take more time with their words tend to make fewer errors, and seem like they’re more in control of the conversation. If you’re not used to this pace of speaking, it may feel agonizingly slow to you at first—but to the other party, it will seem both natural and impressive. While you’re at it, try to make eye contact at least periodically, so you can drive key points home and establish a connection.

Build Your Confidence

The more confident you seem, the more competent you’ll appear to be. Unfortunately, this is a strong example of the importance of “faking it ‘til you make it.” You can practice power poses before your meeting, or rehearse speaking in front of a mirror to make yourself appear more confident. You can also repeat positive affirmations to yourself or use more powerful words. But the best way to build confidence is by doing; hold more professional consultations, get used to speaking professionally, and don’t be intimidated. Eventually, your confidence will develop naturally.

You need to have a strong, professional image in every consultation you host, but it doesn’t have to be out of reach—even for newcomers. With these strategies, you can take control of your meetings, feel more confident in your work, and possibly improve your chances of winning new clients.

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