First impressions mean everything, especially in the professional world. You may only have one opportunity to show a client or customer what you’re about. It can be difficult to convey all the key information you want someone to know in that initial meeting, but it's an important skill to master if you want to grow your network and your business successfully.
To help you do this, we asked a group of entrepreneurs how they recommend making a great first impression with a potential new business partner or client and why. Follow their advice to give your new contacts a clear, concise picture of yourself and your business.
Research your partner or client.
According to Zach Binder, co-founder and president of Bell + Ivy, you should never go into a meeting cold. Before you connect with your potential business partner or client, it's important to do your research on them.
"Understanding who they are, what they do and what they have done in the past will demonstrate that you have a good understanding of them," says Binder. "It will also show them you care about this meeting and them as a potential future partner."
Rehearse your elevator pitch before you meet.
Most entrepreneurs are familiar with the concept of an elevator pitch -- a short, pre-planned introduction that can be used to network, grow your business and make valuable professional connections. Stephanie Wells, founder of Formidable Forms, recommends reviewing and practicing your elevator pitch before your meeting.
"Not knowing what to say to potential prospects will make a negative first impression," Wells explains. "However, practicing what you say beforehand can prevent these fumbles so you're ready to market your business."
Explain the problem you solve.
In a time when people are overloaded with information, business owners need to get right to the point if they want to stand out, says Kevin Leyes, founder and CEO of Team Leyes.
"Always start with what problem your startup solves and what contribution you make to society," Leyes adds. "How are you making a difference in the world?"
Show off your results and how you achieve them.
Partners and clients love to witness results, but they also want to know how work gets done, says Amine Rahal, founder of Little Dragon Media. It's human nature to want to know how to get from point A to point B -- especially in business, where time is money.
"Tell partners about the passion that brings your company together, the culture you've created that sets the tone for the work you do and the mission and vision that drives your results," says Rahal.
Listen to them.
Rana Gujral, CEO of Behavioral Signals, reminds entrepreneurs that the simple act of listening to your prospective client or partner can go a long way.
"Too often we are all in our heads when meeting someone for the first time, focused on whether or not we are making a good impression," says Gujral. "I recommend being present and listening. Listening will allow you to retain their name and what they tell you about themselves.
Be authentic and enthusiastic.
If you want a potential client to like you, show them how excited you are about the opportunity to work with them.
"New clients want to know that you value them," says Kelley Weaver, CEO of Melrose PR. "Authentic enthusiasm indicates that you will put in the time and effort to not just check the boxes, but also go above and beyond to ensure client satisfaction."
Mirror their tone and body language.
In face-to-face meetings, "mirroring" is a psychological trick that helps you subtly emulate aspects of another person’s verbal or nonverbal behavior, explains Andy Karuza, CEO of FenSens. To do this, carefully observe and reflect how the other person speaks and uses their body language -- and then reflect it back to them.
"If somebody is calm and talking slowly, your conversation should be slow and confident," Karuza says. "If somebody is relaxed, you should be relaxed. If the client wants to do small talk, you do the same."
Show your passion.
One of the best ways to impress new clients is to show them how passionate everyone in your organization is about the work they are doing, says Kasey Kaplan, founder of KWK Studio.
"When clients see passion mixed with skill, they gain confidence in your ability to execute and deliver the results they want," says Kaplan.