Tuesday, January 17, 2012

First Contact

Meeting a new client for the first time can present many challenges.  Not least of these is figuring out WHO you are meeting.  I mean this literally - as I rarely see clients in the office, and won't go into their home until I know them a bit (and barring extenuating circumstances) I generally make these appointments in some kind of neutral, casual public place ie. coffee shop.  Such places generally have all kinds of people strolling in and out, so without any face recognition, it can be tricky to identify your client. 

I try to ask them for a bit of a physical description when we arrange the meeting.  I have learned that most people are not very good at giving this type of information.  Unless there is a really obvious feature like they use a wheelchair, or have 3-foot long dreads, most people describe themselves in pretty basic terms - I'm kinda short, I have dark hair...useful stuff.  I don't know if this is lack of self-awareness, or self-conciousness that prevents people from being more specific.

So I try to describe myself in order that they can find me.  I try to go with some specifics that won't easily confuse me with others - I have a nose ring, I carry a large purple bag, I wear a red scarf.  But many clients are nervous about a first meeting, and may not approach me.  To be sure some are the complete opposite, but I've had at least one woman sit in her car staring at me through the Tim Horton's window for almost half an hour before she could psych herself up to approach me (I'm really not that intimidating!). 

Then there's always the tried and true but slightly embarrasing method of "asking around"  - is your name Bob?  No?  Sorry to bother you.

I can't help but feel this gives people the impression that I'm there for some really lame mid-afternoon scuzzy-coffee shop blind date or something.

Some clients have cell phones and sometimes they even give me the number, so then I can try to call them.  Hopefully, their phone is turned on.  And hopefully it has minutes.  And hopefully they're not screening calls thus ignoring my "restricted number". 

Usually, we track each other down eventually.  Sometimes we don't.  When this happens it may mean days or weeks of trying to rebook and not miss each other again.  In my experience, when a client and I miss each other the first time, it's not been a good sign for things to come.  These have often turned out to be the clients who don't want to engage, or that I will end up chasing down just to get a few measly face-to-face contacts before they disappear completely. 

I have two new clients to meet this week.  Look for me, I'll be the anxious, jilted looking lady with purple bags under my eyes.


  1. I often have to meet people outside of court rooms. If I don't know their lawyer or it isn't obvious who it is it becomes a challenge. I am force to walk around asking "Excuse me, are you Joe Doe". For some reason, more often than not the responce is. "No, but I wish I was." Which is pretty strange give the location and circumstances.

  2. That's a pretty strange response indeed Daryl. Unless you are particularly good looking and therefore they'd like to associate with you? lol