Written by Mark Dyble

Firstly, is making a great first impression of that much importance? Surely we are judged on what we do – the usefulness and value of the service we provide; the problems we solve for our customers? Yes, that’s how we’re ultimately judged. But we have to be invited to that position of service before we even get a chance to show what we can do.

If we accept that sales is a process and that all we’re ever selling is the next step in the process, creating a great first impression is all about clearing the first hurdle – getting to first base. In some instances, people will make their yes or no decision at that first hurdle! And then use the sales process to justify that (sometimes irrational but always emotional) initial decision.

We may not like how people make their decisions. We may feel that people should judge us on more substantial criteria. But it’s a fact of life, people often judge us on that first impression. Our prospective customers often don’t understand what we do technically so they’ll make decisions based on peripheral factors – like first impressions.

So, if we want to serve more people and earn the rewards that go with more service, let’s play the game and do our upmost to make a great first impression.

Making a great first impression is all about being attractive. Are you attractive?

We’re attracted to things like enthusiasm, ideas, energy, confidence, certainty, positivity, politeness, tidiness, organization, alertness, promise-keepers, generosity, people who smile, people who are gracious, who are polite, people who care, people who care about us, people who want the best for us, people who look healthy, people who are smart, people who are considerate, etc. Get the idea?)

A good exercise is to list out all the points where we ‘touch’ a prospective customer (in person, on the phone, in an email, in a letter, in an advert, in a leaflet or brochure, what someone else says (our reputation), how someone else behaves (a staff member, our associates), our car, our office, our reception, social media, our business card, etc.) More places than we think.

After creating that list, it’s then useful to audit how we score currently. We can do that ourselves, ask some supportive associates, ask some good clients or even use an outside agency – I’ll happily do it for you if you like.

It’s good to give ourselves a score out of 10 in each area and then to think how we can improve in each area by a score of 1 i.e. to go from 5 out of 10 to 6 out of 10. Over the years I’ve found that when we try and jump straight from 5 to 10 out of 10 we often fail. Better to go from 5 to 6 to 7. Again, if you want to do this exercise, I’d love to help.

…and then the fun part. Think about the practical, creative things we can do to improve that first impression.

So, here’s a (not definitive) list of 21 ways to make a great first impression:

1. Physical appearance – what we wear: Clean, tidy, up-to-date and smart. Shoes, watch, pen, etc.
2. Healthy appearance – alert, clear-eyed, upright, fit, etc.
3. Welcoming – smiling, open, interested, rapport,
4. Voice - the first words to leave our mouth
5. Punctual (The big one in my book)
6. Rapport – finding something in common
7. Find a (genuine) compliment to give
8. Help them in some way – perhaps give a referral or recommendation
9. Be interested – ask questions
10. Be prepared – do some research
11. Remember and use their name
12. Write notes – conveys that we’re taking seriously what they’re saying.
13. Clean and tidy car – think of your car (and office, reception, etc. as a mirror of us)
14. Office – clean, tidy, organized, spacious, comfortable
15. Reception & receptionist – friendly, welcoming, helpful, expecting you, knows your name, clean, tidy, plants, up-to-date & varied magazines, file of testimonials, etc.
16. Coffee and tea – a selection of posh stuff
17. Letter – quality paper, error free, focused on recipient, interesting, first class stamp,
18. Website – clean, clear, key information readily available, focuses on recipient, speaks into their problem, aim to educate and help, etc. (not about us, us, us, …)
19. Brochures etc. – ditto
20. LinkedIn & Facebook profile – ditto
21. Company we keep – do we associate with successful, generous, optimistic people?
22. Phone – answered, answered by a person (who introduces themselves), cheerful, helpful,
…and always go the extra mile!

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