I knew from experience that first impressions are fast, firm, and very sticky. I had one shot of making a good one, and if I didn’t, I risked losing the opportunity to build the trust that I so badly needed in order to do business with a new contact.
In a recent study by Princeton University psychologist Alex Todorov, people looked at a microsecond of video of a political candidate. They could predict with 70% accuracy who would win the election just from that microsecond of tape. This tells us that people can make incredibly accurate snap judgments in a tenth of a second.
Just as you evaluate potential business partners, employees and personal acquaintances on your first impression of them, others will judge you and your business by the way you come across to them.
Strong first impressions help you be persuasive because it is a very effective way of getting people’s attention.
Here are 7 killer ways you can make a strong first impression:
1. DRESS TO IMPRESS
Appearance is our first filter. This isn’t news to anyone so put a little effort into it—dress like it matters. A professional appearance will enhance your personal brand and the more polished you appear, the more likely you will leave a positive impression.
This doesn’t necessarily mean conservative or expensive, but it does mean you need to put thought into your appearance. For men, a watch can say a lot about them. For women, jewelry and makeup goes a long way in sending the right message, or the wrong one!
TIP: Always dress for your client’s comfort, not yours.
2. APPEAR INTERESTED
According to social psychologist Amy Cuddy, one of the best ways to win people’s confidence is to simply to let them talk first.
It is a mistake to approach every business meeting as a negotiation or evaluation. Instead, start collecting information about the other person. Listen as they share things about themselves and the best way to do this is to engage in small talk.
- Be a good listener
- Ask pertinent questions during your conversation
- Make eye contact to show you’re fully engaged
- Always allow others time to fully express themselves, don’t interrupt or finish their sentence
3. POLITENESS MATTERS
To judge by movies, television, and books, one would be left with the impression that successful FBI agents are rude, pushy, and arrogant. While kicking ass has its place in making arrests, generally the most effective FBI agent is the one who recruits people with knowledge of a suspect to work with them in gathering information. While informants come in many shapes, sizes, and smells, the agent must be someone the informant wants to work with.
Polite people are memorable because they stand out for positive reasons. They make us feel comfortable, respected, and valued. We want to be around them.
And we want to do business with them.
- Step forward to meet someone, smile, tilt your head slightly downward (a sign of respect in every culture)
- Act as though you are the one honored by the introduction, not them.
- Never gossip
4. OFFER A FIRM HANDSHAKE
Your handshake should be warm, friendly and sincere. If it is too firm or too weak, you may convey a negative impression. If you’re seated when you’re introduced to someone, stand before you shake hands—it shows respect for the person you are meeting.
- Keep it short and sweet,
- Remember to smile
- Make eye contact when you shake hands
5. ASK FOR ADVICE
In a series of studies, researchers found that when people are asked for advice, they are flattered and it increases their self-confidence.
According to these same studies, when others ask for our advice, we tend to think they were smart to come to us for help! Being asked for advice increases our opinion of the advice seeker’s competence.
TIP: Asking for advice can be an effective business strategy. For example, when facing conflict in negotiations, asking your counterpart for advice can increase the perception that you are likable and competent, thereby leading to a more rapid resolution of the conflict.
6. ARRIVE EARLY
Arrive a few minutes early. It’s always important to be punctual because when you arrive on time you send the clear message that you’re responsible, capable and respectful of others’ time.
Use the few extra minutes to go to the restroom so you can check your appearance and gain your composure before you walk into an important meeting.
TIP: Always schedule extra time on your calendar to accommodate traffic delays, weather, and parking.
7. PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME
Proper preparation reduces anxiety and will help give the impression that you are competent. If you do your homework before an important business meeting, you will have a tremendous advantage over your competition.
If you are attending a networking event, familiarizing yourself with the names and industries of those attending will help you better understand the needs of your potential new clients.
When you take the time to prepare, you’ll appear interesting and knowledgeable—two qualities that help make a good impression.
- Learn as much as you can about those you will be meeting
- Brush up on current events that pertain to their industries
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