Making a Positive First Contact
You are judged in the first 15-20 seconds of meeting anyone new. Hopefully, you
were already aware of that and planned your first meetings appropriately. You’re probably familiar with the phrase: There is never a second chance to make a good first impression. .
People judge you, first, when they see your initial appearance, including the way you walk and the body language you speak. Then, they judge you by how you speak. This includes your intonation, any accent you may have, your diction, the level of words you use and any slang terms you drop into the conversation.
Let’s face it. We belong to a judgmental society. For that reason, you want to be sure you do everything in your power to demonstrate professionalism and relax people when they are with you. You not only want to relax people, but cause them to want to spend time with you. Hopefully, years and years of doing long-term business with you.
There are several ways we can create a favorable impression. The first and simplest is to smile. Smiling creates warmth. Think about sincerely wanting to help a potential client, then take a look in the mirror. Is there a pleasant smile on your face or are the dollar signs in your eyes so bright that your smile is a greedy one?
People react strongly and instantaneously to the image you portray. If you look grumpy or stressed out, that image will reflect off of them and back at you. So always remember to think helpful thoughts and to smile! If your initial contact is by phone, the other party will even be able to tell if you’re happy to be talking with them. So smile when you’re on the phone. It truly makes a difference!
Another way to gain favor is to look people in their eyes. There’s an old myth: if you won’t look me in the eye, I can’t trust you. Is this happening to you? Are you even aware of the amount of eye contact you make?
I make it a conscious habit to make eye contact at a comfortable level. What’s comfortable? Well, if you see the clients continually glancing away when you make eye contact, perhaps they’re uncomfortable with a lot of it. You don’t want to make them uncomfortable, so you would want to make the contact then direct their attention to your visual aids. This is just enough contact for you to know they’re following what you have to say. On the other hand, if the clients practically stare you down, they like a lot of eye contact and you should adjust yours accordingly.
Working the person’s name into your conversation is the next critical area. Have you ever forgotten a person’s name after you have just met him or her? I know I have! I used to try to be cute when I made a mistake and cover up by saying, “Now how do you spell your last name?” When the reply was J-O-N-E-S, I knew I was in trouble.
I’ve since learned that I can avoid such embarrassment by repeating the names to myself four times when I first hear them. Then, I try to use the name at least three to four times early in the conversation to reinforce my memory. A person’s name is very important to him or her. Using it properly demonstrates caring.
The next thing to consider in a first-meeting-greeting situation is the handshake. In sales, we have a tendency to believe that if we shake hands, we have started a real nice rapport. This is not always so. There are two facets to shaking hands. One is when, the other is how.
The proper time to shake someone’s hand is for preplanned meetings only. If you are cold calling or popping by, the handshake can be seen to some as being too forward--too much a symbol of the stereotypical salesperson. Only for scheduled appointments where the people you are meeting already know your name is a handshake necessary and proper.
The second area, how to give a proper handshake, is just as important. To convey the highest level of trust, confidence and competence, you need to grasp the whole hand and give it a brief, but solid squeeze. It is important to apply just the right amount of pressure. Not too limp, and not too strong. This applies to both men and women. There should be no difference.
Please be aware, especially if your clients are among the elderly that many people don’t like to shake hands at all. This may be because of a fear of spreading germs or because of having arthritis or other afflictions that could make it painful to shake hands.
The key to success in making the best first impression is in being prepared for a wide variety of situations.