Can you close a sale in seven seconds? You can if you make the right first impression. Seven seconds is the average length of time you have to make a positive impression. If you blow it on your first encounter, you may not get a second chance. Even if you do, you will have to work twice as hard to overcome negative feelings. Why not get it right from the start so a would-be client will immediately take you and your company seriously.
Whether your initial meeting is face-to-face, by phone or online, it pays to understand how people arrive at their first opinion and what you can do to control the outcome.
1. Learn what people use to judge you.
Studies show that when you meet someone face-to-face, 93 percent of how you are judged is based on non-verbal data—your appearance and your body language. A mere 7 percent is influenced by what you say. When your initial encounter is over the phone, 70 percent of how you are perceived is based on your tone of voice and 30 percent on your words. Clearly, it’s not what you say—it’s the way you say it.
2. Choose your first words carefully.
Although research says your first words are not as important as appearance and tone of voice, don’t leave them to chance. Express some form of thank you when appropriate. Perhaps, it is “Thank you for taking your time to see me today” or “Thank you for returning my call.” Clients appreciate you when you appreciate them.
3. Use the other person’s name immediately.
There is no sweeter sound than that of our own name. Nothing gets people’s attention more effectively than calling them by name. Use names often in conversation.
4. Present yourself appropriately.
Physical appearance matters. The person you are meeting for the first time does not know you and your appearance is usually the first clue he or she has to go on.
Start with the way you dress. What is the appropriate dress for the meeting or occasion? In a business setting, what is the appropriate business attire? Formal or casual? Ask yourself what the person you’ll be meeting is likely to wear and try to dress the same. Never dress down. If in doubt, err on the side of dressing up.
What about your grooming? Clean and tidy appearance is appropriate for most business situations. That means a good haircut or shave, clean and pressed clothes, neat and tidy make up.
5. Keep your shoes in mint condition.
People notice shoes. If yours aren’t well-maintained, the client will question whether you pay attention to other details. Shoes should be polished and in good condition as well as appropriate for the business environment. Shoes may the last thing you put on before you walk out the door, but they are often the first thing your client sees.
6. Walk fast.
Studies show that people who walk 10 percent to 20 percent faster than others are viewed as busy and energetic—just the kind of person your clients want to do business with. Pick up the pace and walk with energy if you want to impress.
7. Fine tune your handshake.
Your first move when meeting a prospective client is to shake hands. A good handshake shows you are confident. Everyone knows that the proper business handshake should be firm, but not everyone does it correctly. You’ll be assured of giving an impressive grip and getting off to a good start when you position your hand to make contact web to web with the other person’s hand and when you follow that with a slight squeeze of the finger tips. Give a proper handshake and you’ll have the beginning of a good business relationship.
8. Make introductions with style.
It matters whose name you say first and what words you use when making introductions. You need to honor the senior or highest ranking person by saying that person’s name first. Remember that the client is always the most important person. After all without the client, you have no business. The words of the polished professional are “I’d like to introduce…” or “May I introduce …” followed by the name of the other person.
9. Never leave the office without business cards.
Your business cards and how you handle them contribute to your total image.
Carry an ample supply with you at all times. Nothing will detract from your professionalism more than having to apologize because you either just gave away your last card or you didn’t think to bring any with you.
10. Match your body language to your verbal language.
A smile and eye contact tell your clients that you value them and are focused on them. Leaning in makes you appear engaged and involved. Use as many signals as you can to look interested and interesting.
In the business environment, you plan every move with potential clients. You arrange for an appointment, you prepare for a meeting, you rehearse for a presentation, but potential clients pop up in the most unexpected places and times. For that reason, leave nothing to chance. Always be ready for an unexpected encounter and be prepared to make a positive first impression.
Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, professional speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-598-9812 or visit her at LydiaRamsey.com to leave a comment, ask a question or learn more about her programs.