You only get one shot at a first impression. We know, a phrase that has been said over and over again. But that doesn’t make it false, quite the opposite. In the first couple of seconds of communication, a customer will be pretty close to making a decision. First impressions matter, people need to know that they can trust your character and your abilities. All the data, the contracts, the spreadsheets and Powerpoint presentations in the world won’t help you close a deal if the client doesn’t trust you. The list below may just help put you on the right track.
How you present yourself
The first thing clients notice is how you present yourself. First, what are you wearing? Is it a suit, or are you going with business casual? Are you wearing a dress shirt, or just some old hoody with baggie jeans and run down sneakers? Think long and hard on how you want the customer to see you, and what kind of impression you want to give. Sometimes, wearing a suit can be a bit too formal. Other times, you will need something more serious than a simple dress shirt and blazer (unless you are Facebook CEO). And, of course, whatever you wear, keep it clean and ironed.
Next, your body language. Are your shoulder slumped, your head focused on the floor, your gait unsteady? If so, you need to work on all of that. Even if you’re the most confident person in the world, you will seem unsure of yourself, and of your business, if you go in walking like you’re afraid of reality itself. Shoulders back, chin up, eyes straight. If needed, physical exercise and physical therapy can improve your posture. Furthermore, try not to keep your arms crossed at all times, it will make you seem aggressive.
Your tone, the way you speak, it relates a lot of information all by itself. Practice if you have to, get a vocal coach. But know that you should try not to slur your words. Be eloquent, but don’t talk like a thesaurus. Don’t bury people in technical vocabulary, but try to avoid using slang and, of course, cuss words. Speak up if you’re soft-spoken, but don’t yell, or you will come off as aggressive.
How you present your office
When a potential client comes into your office, they should see a well-oiled, clean, and organized machine. If your place of work is dirty or unkempt, it will make you seem incredibly unprofessional. People will think you’re practically going out of business since you obviously can’t afford a cleaning service. The same goes for any obviously visually run-down equipment.
If the working atmosphere is tense, people will notice. A lot of employees looking like they’re about to face the firing squad at all times is not a pretty sight. Work on employee morale and motivation. And of course, the actual decor itself. This really depends on the company and your line of business, so do think about what kind of impression you want to give.
A store selling skateboards shouldn’t be all in cubicles, in beige and white. At the same time, a high-end clothing store shouldn’t really look like a frat house.
The same goes for your office. If you have one on one meetings with clients, try to keep your office professional. Keep it tidy, organized, and if you have any art on the walls, keep it tasteful.
Remember that it’s the little things that actually matter. A thing as simple as getting a professionally done logo mat, a healthy looking ficus tree, a pleasant atmosphere, can really help you seal the deal.
Be positive and honest
Try to greet your customers with a smile and a firm handshake. Make them feel like their patronage matters to you (as it really should). Never lie to a customer, never be dishonest. Sure, in the short-term it may help you out, but in the long term, it can be ruinous for the company you work for. Furthermore, word will spread about this and will make a very bad impression not to your clients directly, but to any leads and potential clients you could have had.
Making a positive impression can really make or break a deal. As soon as a person decides to check out your business, to see what you have to offer, you’re already in a pretty good spot. Now you have to seal the deal before the actual negotiations even start. Think of leaving a positive impression as a very nice boost before you actually start talking shop. So, remember to always be honest and positive. Think long and hard about how you actually present yourself, how you dress, speak, talk. Pay attention to the state of your own office, and how you treat your customers.