Some of the basic skills of a proper greeting such as eye contact, handshake and even a smile are sometimes overlooked or neglected. The first impression you make is a lasting one and so important.
- A few years ago, one of the sales managers I worked with was interviewing a prospective candidate for a sales territory in our company. It happened to be a day I was dressed casually, since I wasn't seeing customers and I wasn't planning to interview anyone. I was at the coffee shop across the street when a man in front of me was rather rude with the cashier. And when I told him politely to take it easy, he wasn't happy with me either. Later that morning, I got a call from that sales manager saying he had met a great candidate.
And since time was a factor, he hoped I could alter my schedule and see him. Well, you know where this is going, right? I was in my office when the sales manager brought in the very confident and smiling prospective recruit whose demeanor changed quickly when I asked, "How was your coffee?" That's a true story and an extreme example, but the reality is the first impression we make when meeting someone new is often a lasting one. And if you give a poor first impression, it could take a number of subsequent meetings, if at all, to alter the view you've created.
As a salesperson, we're often in situations where we're meeting new people, whether it's one on one session or a group presentation to three, six, or 10 or more decision makers. If you don't think we're being evaluated and judged as soon as we walk into the room, then you're certainly mistaken. That said, at the end of the day, it's our product or service that's the most important factor. But having our first impression, even pay a part of that equation, is something we shouldn't risk at all. There are a number of factors that impact a first impression, but most importantly, you need to be authentic.
Don't try and fake it. Just be yourself. When I'm hiring a new salesperson, there are five key things that trigger first impressions for me, and from experience, I know most buyers would agree. Your demeanor. Do you smile when you meet somebody? Is the smile real or fake? A warm, honest smile is a great way to start. Your greeting. Do you shake hands firmly? Too strong or too weak? Body language. I've met people whose body language was so poor with either posture or with attitude when I met them that I knew right away we were off to a bad start.
Eye contact is an important one for me and I expect it from people like me. A buyer can assess your confidence very quickly if you divert your eyes a lot. Attire is another key factor in the process of developing a first impression, and it's a tough one. You really need to give thought to who you're meeting with and the company, too. For me, I always lean on the side of overdressing a bit, especially when I'm on a sales call. Developing a strong first impression takes practice. It may feel awkward, but experiment by looking at yourself in front of a mirror.
Check out your smile. See if you can maintain eye contact. What's your posture like? And work to create a warm, positive and confident look. Don't be shy. I'd even a friend or colleague to give some feedback. You'd be surprised at how some small, subtle changes can make such a big difference with the first impression you give. Our products and services are what buyers and customers want from us. But creating the right first impression is important, too. So spend the time to ensure you're getting your meeting started successfully.
- Being authentic
- Keeping things simple
- Developing self-confidence
- Taking action
- Developing relationships
- Knowing your audience