Common Mistakes: Not Knowing When to Keep Your Big Mouth Shut

The art of meeting a new client is never an exact science, yet it’s one of the most important parts of our business.  I always remind myself the simple truth that without a client we do not have a business.

In that first meeting with your client, what you say and what you DON’T SAY is equally important. I have been guilty of being so excited about getting a job, that at the end of the meeting I realized I put my foot in my mouth (more than once).

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This is what I have learned:
  • Be careful about name dropping.  If you have worked with folks the client knows, be cautious about telling them. This can be a double-edged sword. At times it can be good, but at times your client might dislike the person or think they have terrible taste, and this might work against you.
  • Be extremely careful about how you talk about yourself and your skills. I would suggest staying away from saying things like, “I am the very best.” If you think that is the case, make sure you show them, and let them decide, rather than telling them.
  • In that first meeting, be very careful about giving prices until you are clear about the full job scope.  Once you give a client a price, they’ll usually hold you to it.
  • If your client makes any requests you do not like, this is when you really need to keep your big mouth shut. Tell them you’d love to think about it and get back to them with choices.
  • Be cautious about giving away designs or concepts at that first meeting.  A lot of first time clients encourage you to design on the spot.  There is a fine line between keeping them engaged and giving them new design ideas they can take and use with another vendor.  Remember: your new idea is what you are selling.

When meeting a new client I find that what works best is just being yourself, letting them feel they are your one and only interest, and that your only desire is to do your very best.  The one simple thing I like verbalizing is, “There is nothing I’d love more than to have the opportunity  to work with you.”  I find the simple, honest truth can be very effective.

When you meet a new client, what have you learned works best to say? What have you learned not to say?  How do you follow up after that first meeting?

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  • Alan Smithson

    How true is this post? It hasn’t taken me 15 years to learn what you just said in 5 minutes!

    I tell all my staff that they talk 5% and the client 95%.

    Great post!

  • Nishaka Askew Proctor

    Great Blog! In the first meeting, my goal is to focus on the client and learn more about the vision they have for their event day. I like to ask as many questions as possible, so that I’m clear about the need. Again, great points. Thanks for sharing!

  • Marilee Karamanski

    Thanks Preston! I always struggle with not giving away too much. Potential clients will frequently ask me to suggest some vendors for them, and I’ve struggled with learning how to limit being pumped for information. I really appreciate the authentic advice you give!

    Marilee Karamanski
    Planned Spontaneity LLC
    Madison, WI

  • Von

    I am just pitching for my first wedding job so thanks for all the tips! My bride asked me a tough question, as I am a freelance with no company nor a team of people helping me, she asked me whether I have someone as backup as she is concerned she will have no flowers on her wedding if I am unavailable the last minute for some reason. A justisfied concern, I chose to be as honest as I can be in my answer, whether it was the right thing to say, I guess I will have to wait and see. I didn’t follow-up after our meeting as I don’t want to impose pressure nor appear desperate, so I simply let her take the initiative to come back to me. We discussed quite a bit through emails before our meeting and so I prepared a comprehensive quotation for her, with various options, hopefully it’s impressive enough!

  • jean

    Truer words have never been spoken. But it can be so hard when you have an enormous passion for what you do. Passion = excitement, and when you’re excited about something it’s natural to want to express that. That internal filter and editor have to be ‘on’ all the time.

    When I meet with clients, especially the first meeting, I try to make sure that they are doing most of the talking. I’ll ask questions, then let them respond. Alan has it right when he said the client talks 95% and we talk 5%.

  • Savannah

    Great tips, as always, Preston. It’s important to sell your talents without giving away a free design. I completely agree with being honest, true to yourself and your design / style, and just letting the client know that you love your work, you put your heart into it, and your goal is to make the event the best it can possibly be! If that’s what the client wants, they are sure to get that from you! Honesty without giving away all of your ideas and without being too pushy or too discreet seems to be a great policy. We’re here to do a fabulous job so who’s in?


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  • http://YOURWEBSITE Beautiful Day

    I was born a party planner, but I live in an area that is devoid of how a party could be.!/album.php?aid=205522&id=94068244816
    Look here to see what I mean.
    Love you Preston!