Want to be seen as a real professional?
The Utah Sleuth shares a few essential dos and don’ts.
by Scott Fulmer
Merriam-Webster defines a professional as someone who conforms to “technical or ethical standards…exhibiting a courteous, conscientious and generally businesslike manner.”
To that end, consider these tips:
A professional image begins with your email address. An email address should reflect your business and be consistent with your branding. Kate.Jones@jonesprivateeye.com or firstname.lastname@example.org are appropriate. Web-based email such as Gmail or Hotmail should be avoided.
Likewise, email addresses with cartoonish phrases such as Ispy4you: Just don’t do it. They’re amateurish and cause clients to question your legitimacy.
The main complaint leveled against private investigators is that they fail to return phone calls in a timely manner. Obviously, you can’t answer the telephone every time it rings, but make sure you follow up appropriately.
Have a friendly and professional voicemail greeting. Maybe you were in the Marines or spent thirty years as a homicide detective. That’s no reason to have a gruff and unwelcoming voicemail. Clients are calling for help and understanding.
It’s unfair, but you’re judged by how you dress. When meeting with clients, a professional dresses the part. Men wear a suit and tie. Women are attired in a pant suit, dress, or skirt and blouse. Dress better than your clients. You’ll exude confidence and success.
This industry is populated by all manner of egoistic “characters.” Meeting clients in buckskin jackets, shorts, mini-skirts, or leopard print fosters the image of private investigators as incompetent eccentrics.
Professionals don’t have dirty fingernails, bad breath, or stains on their clothing. It sends the message that you can’t be bothered with little things. If you can’t pay attention to hygiene, how can a client expect you to give attention to their more serious, weightier problems?
Make sure your hair style is acceptable for the current decade. Bathe daily, use deodorant, and brush your teeth.
Be. On. Time. Arriving late is disrespectful. It’s arrogant. It suggests your needs are more important than the client’s. Be punctual and reliable.
A Big Mac is the same in Kentucky and Spain. You need a system too—a process for how investigations are conducted and when surveillance starts. Get Michael Gerber’s book, The E-Myth. It’ll help you create your own processes.
Are you a one-person office and think you don’t need a system? Think again. It’ll relieve stress and make you more efficient and organized—in other words, more professional.
Fee v. Value
What’s your worth? How do you respond when a client asks, “What do you charge?”
If you answer directly, you’ve already lost. You’ve agreed that the entire conversation will be about money. The correct answer is, “It depends.” You can’t quote cost until you know what the client needs.
A professional typically does not lower their fee at the client’s insistence. If you do, you send the message your value as an investigator is negotiable. You hurt yourself and the industry. And you look desperate.
If a client says, “I called ABC Investigations. They only charge $50 an hour,” you know their only concern is cost. My reply? “If cost is your only concern, hire ABC.” I explain that we are not Walmart. We charge more because we offer more value and experience.
Jim Rohn said, “Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” Self-improvement is a lifelong effort. Listen to audio books and podcasts. Earn professional designations such as CFE, CPP, etc. Take community and adult education classes.
Zig Ziglar once said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” Regardless of the type of investigative work you do, it boils down to one thing: We help people.
Mentor and advise other investigators. I don’t understand why some investigators are so insular and selfish. There’s enough business for everyone. Give back.
About the Author:
Scott Fulmer is the Utah Sleuth—a Utah private investigator and principal at Utah Sleuth, a private investigation firm providing actionable intelligence to decision makers throughout Utah and the Intermountain West. He is a decorated combat veteran of the Gulf War and has a degree in criminal justice from the University of Texas at San Antonio. He is currently finishing a book describing his 30 years as a private investigator. It should be published in early 2018. You can find him on the web at utahsleuth.com.