Marketing Tip for Inspectors: Meeting Your Client for the First Time

by Nick Gromicko, CMI®

Here are a few reminders and recommendations for important things that you should do and be aware of on the day of an inspection to prepare to meet your new client for the first time so that you set the proper, professional tone.  What you do before the appointment can ensure that you leave your client ready to hand you a glowing recommendation that you can use for future business.

Before the Inspection
  • Make sure that your inspection company name is prominently displayed on your vehicle.
  • Wash your inspection vehicle in the morning before your first inspection of the day.
  • Schedule enough time for lunch. Avoid eating in your vehicle, but if you do, check your clothes for drips of food and stains before arriving at the inspection. 
  • Do not pull into your client’s driveway with your radio or CD player blaring, whether it’s music, commercials or talk radio. Anything loud is annoying and disrupts the environment, and shows a lack of respect for your client and his neighbors.
  • If you’re on your cell phone when you pull up, quickly conclude your call before exiting your vehicle. You want your client to feel that s/he is your only priority.
  • Don’t embarrass yourself by allowing empty cans or other trash to fall out of your truck when you open the door.
  • Don’t arrive at the inspection smoking or chewing tobacco.
  • Don’t spit.
  • Don’t slam the door of your vehicle.
  • Don’t arrive carrying a cup of coffee or other beverage. Keep at least one hand free so that you can greet your client with a handshake (see below).
  • At all times, particularly when meeting a client for the first time, you ought to have a calm—rather than a rushed—demeanor, even if you’re running late.
  • If you’re running late, call your client to let them know. When you arrive, acknowledge your tardiness and thank your client for their patience.
  • Have your business card ready as you approach the property.
  • Wear a nice watch. It shows that you respect your client’s time.

The Handshake

“A firm, hearty handshake gives a good first impression,
 and you’ll never be forgiven if you don’t live up to it.”

                                  -- P.J. O’Rourke, American writer and humorist
People tend to unconsciously judge another person by their handshake. There are ways to shake hands properly that leave a positive impression.

Grasp the other person’s hand so that your palms touch. Provide a firm grip. Give an intentional shake—two or three actions, at most. Do not hold the other person’s hand tightly or test his or her strength. While shaking, make eye contact to show that you’re interested in the other person, and also to pick up on the other person’s mood and non-verbal cues. Then, release it. That’s it.

If you avoid shaking hands with either gender, the person may consider it a sign of disrespect. Also, a limp handshake expresses discomfort, or a lack of strength or self-confidence. These are non-verbal impressions that you may accidentally convey based on your handshake, whether or not such attributes are true.

If you are working for the buyer and the seller or listing agent is present, shake hands with them, as well. They are not the enemy.

You can greatly control the impression you give using non-verbal cues and body language, starting first with your smile, and then with your handshake.

Body Language
“I speak two languages: body and English.”

                         -- Mae West, American actress

Research says that people tend to respond less to what you say and more to your body language. Your tone of voice is the second most important factor in face-to-face communication. What you actually say is third. 

Therefore, be aware of what you are physically doing and how your clients may perceive your body language and actions.

When you’re simply in the presence of another person, you are communicating. What is mostly being communicated is what you’re not saying. One UCLA study suggests that 93% of our most effective communication comes through non-verbal communication.

We speak with our body—our actions and our face. We speak with smiles, frowns, and raised eyebrows. We even communicate with the distance we put between ourselves and another person.

Some tips for conveying a positive attitude include the following:
  • Maintain good posture—don’t slouch.
  • Keep your head up and maintain eye contact with the other person.
  • Keep your hands in a natural position by placing them on your hips, by holding something (such as clipboard or a pen), or by gently clasping your hands together in front of you or behind your back.
  • While engaged in face-to-face conversation, nod your head occasionally to indicate to the other person that you’re listening.
Also, you can sometimes convey a defensive or even hostile demeanor without even realizing it, and this can plant the subliminal message in your prospect’s mind that you’ll be difficult to work with. For example, facing someone with your arms crossed can project the idea that you don’t believe what the other person is saying, or that you’re angry. This posture can be perceived as aggressive and can create an imaginary wall between yourself and your client.

Personal Space

Maintaining the appropriate personal space is important, too. The convention is to keep about a 3-foot space between yourself and the person you’re talking to.

If you're male and are on an inspection alone with a female client or real estate agent, you should greatly increase your personal space well past the 3-foot rule.

It’s important that you understand that you can say the right words but send the wrong message. Always be aware of your body language, including your personal space.

Your First Words

If you’re naturally shy or haven’t had much experience interacting with cleints in person, remember to be yourself and just act natural. It’s as easy as saying, “Hello, I’m Jim. It’s great to meet you.” Don't start looking around for defects or start your inspection until you connect with your client.

Start establishing rapport with your client by exchanging pleasantries, asking general questions, and perhaps talking about something you have in common.

Try any of the following:
  • "Are these your children?"
  • “How are you doing today?”
  • “This is a really nice neighborhood. I don't live very far away from here.."
  • "I’m looking forward to helping you out today.”
You only get one chance to make a good first impression, and the initial meeting with your client sets the tone for the rest of the inspection, so set the right tone by being aware of your habits for personal interaction.  What you're saying goes far beyond the words you speak.