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Make a Great First Impression: 9 New Rules
 

It takes more than a firm handshake to make a great first impression these days. Use these tips to make sure you're getting it right.

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Basic business truths keep coming back in new ways. One of those truths is that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

We’ve been all told this since we were 2 years old. So why am I even talking about it? Because I see so many mistakes being made in this area on a regular basis. Some are old mistakes, but the new digital era also brings new mistakes.

Here are the new rules for making a great first impression.

Online Presence

It used to be that you made your first impression with a firm handshake, a smile and a pressed suit. Now your first impression precedes you–and it happens digitally.

  • Make certain your picture, profile and position are on your company website–as well as those of any people on your team you bring to a meeting.
  • Have a current and robust profile on LinkedIn. Almost one out of every two executives who are meeting with someone for the first time looks online prior to the meeting–and LinkedIn is one of the most frequently used platforms.
  • Restrict your non-friend Facebook access. There is no sense in letting your personal life drive your first professional impression, even if you think you have nothing to hide.

Your Team

The people who surround you are a clear part of your professional impression. Prospective partners and customers know that performance quality is driven by many people. Good teams create chemistry and confidence in the first impression.

  •  Make sure your team understands all the same rules about grooming, handshakes, dress, smiles and eye contact that you follow. The first impression that your team makes is the first impression that you make.
  • Take the right number of people to a meeting. Base it on the number of people the other company is bringing. If you have too many from your side, you will make them feel overwhelmed; too few suggests a lack of understanding and respect. I like a 2:3 ratio–two of our side for every three of theirs.
  • Congruity is important. You don’t have to look, sound and act exactly alike. You do have to demonstrate some positive chemistry together.

Communication & Details

Because you are sending out so many first impressions before you connect face to face, you need to make certain you get all of the details right.

  • Emails: The agenda, appointment confirmation and logistics need to be managed well. Your emails need to have complete contact information–including names and titles for all attendees you are bringing.
  • Voicemails: Button down the details by making certain to leave the same information that you sent in your email on voicemail as well. You never know which communication technology someone prefers; they may only use one. Better to overcommunicate.
  • What to bring: Bring it all; bring it on paper and digital; and bring more copies than you think you need. That goes for collateral material, presentations and (if this is your thing) delightful parting gifts. Also, make certain everyone on your team brings his or her business cards.

As the world becomes digitally porous, the aperture of perception gets bigger–but our control over it gets smaller. Use these new rules to make your best first impression.

Last updated: Feb 10, 2012

Author, speaker, and consultant TOM SEARCY is the foremost expert in large account sales. With Hunt Big Sales, he has helped clients land more than $5 billion in new sales. Click to get Searcy's weekly tips, or to learn more about Hunt Big Sales.
@tomsearcy




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