Research shows that people get their first impression of someone within one tenth of a second, which means that there is literally no time to be wasted in preparing to make a good first impression.
When it comes to impressing potential clients, first impressions matter. You don’t want to start out with a deficit you have to scramble to overcome. From a recent post at Hubspot.com, here are some tips for making a good first impression:
Check your body language.
Visuals matter even more than words. Your body language says a lot about you, so to say the right things using body language, remember to keep yourself open — no crossed arms or legs, no fists, no hunching over in your chair. As you listen to someone tell their story, lean in. Nervous tics like touching your face or avoiding eye contact communicate dishonesty, so avoid those at all costs. And take a tip from Seinfeld — no one likes a “close talker.” Respect personal space.
Check your tone.
If you’re of the generation that seems to have grown up with a rising inflection at the end of your sentences that makes it seem like you are unsure of yourself or asking a question, you need to break this habit. Studies show that “uptalking” makes you appear to be less knowledgeable, no matter what you are saying. The same with high-pitched voices, which make you sound nervous or childish. Avoid filler words like “like,” “ah,” and “um,” which communicate hesitation and make you sound unsure of yourself.
Use positive language.
Using positive words helps people feel more comfortable and that you are in command. Use clear, simple language and steer clear of the legalese.
No one wants to hire an attorney that looks like he or she just rolled out of bed or are ready to take a jog. Prospects expect a professional appearance and dressing for the part you want to play — trusted advisor and knowledgeable advocate — is a good habit to get into.
Look ‘em in the eye.
Do you trust people who won’t look you in the eye? Not many of us do. Plus, it’s really annoying to be speaking with someone who won’t look at you. It’s anti-social — that’s not a message you want to convey to someone you hope will become a client.
Know your prospect.
If your intake people have done their job right, you should have all the basic information you need to conduct a productive first meeting with your prospect. Do some more research by Googling the name of the person you are meeting with or checking their social media pages, especially LinkedIn. If you are meeting with a company representative, do your homework on the company — visit their website so you know their products or services, their competitors and their markets.
We’ve all been in those meeting where nothing gets done because the meeting leader was unprepared. While you are naturally going to focus on your prospect and getting their story, the initial consultation is YOUR meeting so come prepared. Respect the time of everyone involved and manage the meeting time well.
Don’t pretend to be something you’re not because most people are usually pretty good about sniffing out when you’re BSing them. If your prospect asks you a question you don’t know the answer to, tell them you need to research that a little further and will get back to them. Make a note so you don’t forget! Remember what mom always told you: honesty is the best policy.
Turn off your phone.
In fact, turn off all the electronics you don’t need for the meeting. Silence all buzzes and notifications from phones and tablets. You need to show your prospect that they have your full attention.
Ask enough questions of your prospect so you are able to discover some common areas of interest. This will help you make a personal connection with them. Don’t compliment them on anything unless it is truly sincere. That can just get creepy.
Perhaps the most important part of reinforcing your good first impression is to follow up! If they asked you a question you didn’t have an immediate answer for, try to get the answer so it’s waiting for them in their email or on their voicemail within a few hours. If they didn’t sign at your initial consultation, then be sure you have a follow-up process in place that will shoot them emails every few days to coax them toward a decision to hire you.
People make their buying decisions emotionally, not logically. They want to do business with people they like and trust. If they feel good about you, they will rationalize away anything that doesn’t fit with their feeling about you. It’s important for you to do what you need to do to be liked and trusted and that starts with making a good first impression.