There was a post on LinkedIn recently about the importance of making a good first impression. The post focused on professional men in beautiful, well-tailored suits, smiling, making excellent eye contact, and shaking hands. Surely there must be more than that.
First impressions are frequently discussed in the context of business meetings. Is it an important first meeting for a job interview? Or is it the first meeting with a client to conduct a needs analysis? It doesn’t matter what the situation, since memorable impressions are critical to both.
There is a wealth of information on how to prepare for a first interview that also applies to the initial meeting with your prospect:
Advice for a Positive First Impression
- Look great and don’t be late.
- Be prepared with a pad, pen, business cards, etc.
- Research industry and company.
- Prepare questions.
- Be confident.
- Anticipate concerns.
- Articulate your “selling points” with confidence.
- Practice, Practice, Practice.
Another Approach: Storytelling
Interviews that are behaviorally based, like the S.T.A.R. system, focus on asking situational questions. Questions like this allow telling a story about a specific event. This approach gives you the opportunity to reveal your true self through storytelling. When you are excited and passionate about the subject matter, your competence and confidence shine through. The answers are authentic and you are not “spitting out” rehearsed selling points.
When meeting with prospect for the first time, if the story you tell is about you and your product or services, the chance of a successful meeting is pretty much nil. It has to be about your prospect.
The Truth about First Impressions
We are all familiar with the term “sizing a person up”. What is the common denominator that we’re sizing people up for? Dr. Amy Cuddy, a Harvard Psychologist and author of How People Judge You, has narrowed it down to two qualities:
- Can I trust this person?
- Can I respect this person?
Trust is communicated through warmth and respect is communicated through competence.
Salespeople frequently believe that competence is the most significant factor in making a great impression. Dr. Cuddy reminds us that “Competence is evaluated only after trust is established.” Leading with “selling points” or strengths can frequently backfire. If a person that you’re trying to influence really doesn’t trust you, the chance of making a sale are slim to none. People don’t like to feel manipulated. Dr. Cuddy concludes that “only after you’ve established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat."
One word summarizes it all: Authenticity. Brene Brown puts it well: “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen."
What two qualities will people resonate with when they meet with you for the first time? Have an authentic day and remind yourself that your first meeting will be your last chance to make your best impression.