As we were growing up, we have each had hundreds of things we did, saw, or experienced for the first time. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. We don’t come into this world pre-programmed with experiences. Some of what we did bothered us, and some were fun. There was a first time for riding a bike, shooting a free throw, putting a golf ball on a miniature golf green, hitting a ball, skating, driving a car, placing a cell phone call, solving a math problem, writing a term paper, going out on a date, going to a party, and on and on.
The first time we conducted an aging-in-place assessment for a home modification or met with someone to discuss how they wanted to make changes to their home, the first time someone said “no” to a closing question, and the first time we wrote a work order and took a deposit were all defining moments of our aging-in-place sales career. Before each of those happened, there may have been a little apprehension about how to do it or how to keep from messing up. Nevertheless, we got through it.
None of us would ever have tried to invite sympathy from our customers or clients by explaining that this was the first time we had ever actually done an evaluation or assessment on our own in the field (not counting ones done at school or with someone else), prepared a scope of services and formulated an estimate, or used a particular form or application. Some people feel that the customer will grant them extra understanding and leniency by proclaiming that they are new or inexperienced – or that it’s their first time doing this.
Actually, the opposite is true. Clients and customers – particularly those who are trusting us to make safety and mobility assessments and recommendations for them and then to carefully make those improvements in their home – want to work with someone who knows what they are doing. It might indeed be the first time for something – after all there is a first time for everything – but we must not use this as a crutch to try to explain a weak performance or in any way to evoke sympathy from our clients.
We need to be prepared. This comes from doing our homework, practicing, and developing confidence that we will do things correctly even when we are doing them “live” for the first time. No one has time for us to learn on the job at the expense of the customer. There is too much at stake. Our clients are entrusting their well-being and their future comfort on how we do our job. It is a serious responsibility and undertaking.
Even when we are doing something for the first time, we must act as if we are accomplished veterans. Part of this will come from many hours of mental preparation and practice before ever doing a solo performance for the customer or client. We may have done assessments before with someone or for a class assignment. We must take that experience and build upon it to feel comfortable when we do it for real on our own in a client’s home. They want results – they are paying for them. They need excuses, and we don’t need their sympathy.
We may have done many remodeling or construction projects previously but perhaps none where seniors or people with special needs were counting so much on what we created for them – from a functional or life-improving standpoint as well as being something attractive and well-done.
Of course, the more times we do something, the better we become and we are more at ease with doing it. Still, the customer or client should never know that we haven’t done something before. This diminishes the confidence they have placed in us to be able to help them.