How to Make Great First Impressions

This week’s blog is by Jeb Blount, CEO of SalesGravy.com, the world’s largest sales career website. A respected thought leader on sales and sales leadership, he is author of three books, People Buy You: The Real Secret to what Matters Most in Business, Sales Guy’s 7 Rules for Outselling the Recession, and Power Principles. He is the author of more than 100 articles on sales and sales leadership and the host of the top rated Sales Guy Podcast. Jeb’s new book, People Buy You, is available at the SalesJournal.com store.
The first impressions you make with potential customers are critical to success in sales and business.

 
How important are the first impressions you make with potential customers to success in sales?

Recently a good friend told me a story about an experience she had while shopping for a mattress. Now this wasn’t just any mattress, this was a high end mattress that cost a couple of thousand dollars. Prior to hitting the stores she had done extensive research on the internet and had narrowed her focus to a few brands and styles. She found exactly what she was looking for at the first furniture store she visited and the price was right. But she didn’t make the purchase.

Instead she drove all the way across town to visit another furniture store where she met sales representative, Gwen. There she purchased the same mattress she had seen at the other store. When I pressed her she admitted (while trying not to look at her husband) that she paid more at the second store than the first.

“Why would you do that?” I asked.

She responded, “The guy at the first store, I think his name was Ray, just didn’t impress me. I mean from the first moment there was just something about him I didn’t like. So even though he had the mattress I wanted I decided to shop around some more. But Gwen was different. Even though we had just met I could tell she cared about me. She made me feel good.”

The first rep, Ray, is the poster child for the saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” We all make instant judgments when we first meet people. Those judgments, which are both imperfect and emotional, have a lasting impact on how we view and interact with others. And in Michelle’s case first impressions caused her to make the illogical decision to pay more for the same product because she liked Gwen more than she liked Ray.

In business customers and prospects make these same imperfect judgments each time they engage with new salespeople, customer service reps, and frankly anyone else they encounter.

If you want to know how important first impressions are, just ask Ray. Sales Managers in high end retail like furniture and auto sales will even tell you that the initial greeting is the most important part of the sale.

Making a great first impression is all about being likeable. If your prospect likes you they will be open to answering your questions and engaging in a conversation about their needs and situation. How long does it take to make a first impression? An instant! Unlike trust, which is earned over time through multiple interactions, being likeable or unlikeable occurs in mere moments. So when first meeting new people it is absolutely critical that you control those things that you can control.

The word Likable is defined by the Marriam-Webster Dictionary as, having qualities that bring about a favorable regard. We all, to some extent, have qualities and characteristics that make us naturally likeable to certain types of people and personalities. While at the same time we possess qualities make us naturally unlikeable to others.

The problem we face in sales and business though is we don’t always get to choose the people we interact with. Many of the people we encounter will not be naturally attracted to us. Complicating things more are the preconceived perceptions that all people bring into relationships. These perceptions which include but are not limited to cultural, racial, and socio-economic biases are also beyond our control.

There are however important and critical actions we can take that will positively impact first impressions and likability. These actions are completely within our control and executed properly help us both neutralize biases outside of our control and attract people who might not otherwise find us naturally likable.
Five People Buy You Tips for Make Great First Impressions

Smile. A pleasant, sincere smile is the best way to make a great first impression. Humans are naturally attracted to other humans who are smiling. So be aware of your facial expression and put a smile on your face.

Be Polite. I saw a bumper sticker once that said, “Mean People Suck.” People who are rude, impolite and discourteous are unlikable. Unless you were raised in a barn by animals someone taught you basic manners. In all interactions with prospects and customers put those manners to work. People will notice.

Stay Focused. It today’s demanding work environment it is easy to become distracted. The late Jim Rohn always said, “Where ever you are, be there.” This is essential advice when it comes to first impressions. You must develop the self-discipline to shut everything else out and remain completely focused on the other person.

Be Enthusiastic. Enthusiasm for your product, service and company sells. Enthusiasm is transferable and infectious. Your enthusiasm is driven by your attitude and beliefs so it is critical to work consistently to build and retain a winning attitude. One note though, there are few things more off-putting than insincere enthusiasm so be careful not to get carried away.

Be Confident. Weak people repel. Arrogant people are turnoffs. Confident people attract. Confidence is driven by your self-image, product knowledge, attitude, the way you dress, your health, and even your spirituality. Your level of confidence is a direct reflection of your willingness and self-discipline to invest in yourself.�
The good news is making a first impression in business actually very easy if you focus completely on what is within your control. And though you never get a second chance to make a first impression, you only have to make a good first impression once to lay a solid foundation on which to build a profitable relationship with your customer.