Never underestimate the power of a good first impression, this really is the make or break before you even start building a relationship (this also happens in our personal connections).
You can easily blow a first meeting without even knowing you inadvertently made a bad first impression, so it’s important to know how to make a good first impression!
According to Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus at UCLA’s Psychology Faculty there is a 7-38-55 rule, only 7% of your communicating is what you say, while 38% is how you sound and 55% is visual.
Your client begins forming his or her opinion of you long before you start your presentation/meeting.
Here is how you can make a good first impression from the get-go.
Use professional phone etiquette – When talking with an appointment setter, the secretary or potential clients themselves, keep your first conversation professional, succinct and polite. Always use the person’s name in conversation and don’t forget the magic words, “please” and “thank you.” Be gracious at the end of a phone call.
Dress for success – Since much of your impression is visual, grooming matters. Dress professionally, but don’t try to over-impress. Find out about the company’s dress code ahead of time and dress one step above. Pay attention to the details: buff your shoes, carry a stylish laptop bag, and silence your mobile phone before entering the building. Give yourself plenty of time and go to the restroom to check your appearance one last time before the meeting.
Put away the mobile phone – When you sit down in the waiting room resist the urge to check messages or return phone calls. Use this time to showcase your good manners to the receptionist and others in the waiting area. Make small talk, but don’t be too chatty. If you’re offered a beverage, accept it gracefully, even if you’re not thirsty. It’s considered rude not to accept hospitality when offered. Check out the surroundings and the office dynamics. Look for framed articles, awards, or other items that can be tucked away in your memory for future conversation pieces.
Offer a firm handshake – Rise and shake hands with your manager as they enter the room. Standing shows respect for the other person as well as yourself. Always wait to see if your client tells you where to sit instead of immediately seating yourself. If you’re not told where to sit, simply say, “Where would you like me to sit?” Keep your mobile phone off the table, as it might appear as if you are waiting for a more important call to come in.
Watch your body language – Sit tall and don’t slouch or fidget. Don’t bite your nails or play with your pen. Lean in, maintain good eye contact and capture attention with your professional and confident demeanour.
Prepare your opening remarks but listen more than you talk – Make some small talk before getting down to business. Do your homework and find out a little bit about the person before the meeting. Prepare a topic that relates to something you both have in common. Don’t do all the talking. Engage your client with relevant, timely questions that help them think of their situation in a new way. Allow the client to answer before continuing and note their concerns. Consider yourself an adviser rather than a salesperson and you may see the meeting from a whole new perspective.
Start on time and end early – Respect the time limit you agreed upon. Immediately send an email or post a handwritten card thanking the client for his or her time.
Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy writes in her book Presence that people quickly answer two questions when they first meet you:
- Can I trust this person?
- Can I respect this person?
Trustworthiness and warmth are the most important factors in how people evaluate you. Displaying your strength can actually backfire. Only after you’ve established trust does your strength reinforce your position.
Take time to make a good first impression, remember it is all in the detail and most importantly remember to smile!
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