When you’re operating a successful new startup in today’s world, you’ve probably adopted many new forms of technology that enable entrepreneurs to conduct meetings and engage with clients without ever meeting them in person. Yet at some point, your client will want to schedule a visit to their business partner. Potential customers might want to put faces to the names they have been corresponding with, and form a firsthand impression of your company. Existing customers may wish to gain insight into how you conduct business processes.
A client visit can be challenging, but it also presents opportunities for your business. Here are some ways to prepare.
Know the client
It’s essential to have a good idea of who your visitor is and what they do. This helps to inform various decisions and serves as a starting point for good conversation. It’s a subtle way of letting them feel that they’re being treated like a VIP. Think of times when you had to interact with someone in customer service – you can tell when they’re doing things off a script, and it makes you feel conscious of being handled, as opposed to receiving personalized treatment.
If your client likes to post pictures of food to social media, you could take them to a favorite local restaurant or trendy café, for instance. Or you can suggest holding a meeting at a historic city building if they enjoy culture or travel. It’s best to bring up these topics in a prior conversation, letting the sequence unfold naturally – as opposed to giving them the feeling that someone might have been researching their profile.
Each client may have different preferences, but nobody is impressed with a lack of organization. As a business partner, you must understand what they are looking to accomplish with this visit. Draft an agenda that serves as a guide to what you’ll be accomplishing together during their visit and identifies key personnel who will be in charge of different things – from facilitating meetings to conducting guided tours of your company premises.
Ensure that everyone involved knows the agenda, and is prepared for last-minute changes or adjustments – sometimes, this is how a client can tell if your business is well-organized. Make sure that you take the time to prepare your staff. At the minimum, each employee should be aware of the client’s name and schedule of the visit, and be courteous and friendly while going about their day’s work. Receptionists and other employees who will be likely to interact with your client must be on their best demeanor and dress up a notch for the occasion.
Clean up and decorate
You want your workplace to make a great impression, but this probably isn’t the time for landscaping or office renovation. Don’t plant cherry blossoms around your Los Angeles office just to impress a Japanese client; the gesture can easily backfire. Instead, pay attention to detail and hire professional office cleaning services. Remind employees to maintain this cleanliness during the visit, too.
For décor, keep it simple and put effort into making thoughtful and functional signs. From a welcome sign with the client’s name and designation on it to small boards and labels that help guide the visitor through the workplace and identify different areas, let your decoration speak to function first of all.
Good business isn’t just about being great at what you do. Managing your client relations goes a long way, so make the effort to maximize the experience of a client visit for both parties.