We’re taught from a young age how important first impressions are, from meeting your new school teacher, to meeting a partner’s parents, right through to those nerve wracking job interviews where you’re hoping your palms aren’t as sweaty as they feel and that you’ve remembered the manager’s name correctly. But first impressions really are important, in fact it only takes seven seconds to form a basic opinion on somebody you’ve just met.
In business, first impressions are vital, although there’s often more pressure on those first seven seconds. You’re not only representing yourself like you would in an interview, you’re representing your entire business. Whether you’re meeting a possible new employee, a new client or customer, or even a new investor, you want to convey everything you can during that first encounter. You don’t get the chance to make a first impression twice, so it needs to go well.
Firstly, taking it right back to basics is a good place to start when it comes to a good first impression. Dress smartly and make sure you look presentable, a shabby appearance is never a good thing. Making eye contact and speaking politely are all little details that people tend to notice, you’ve most likely noticed this about other people in the past yourself, so think back to those times you’ve had a first meeting with someone that has stuck in your mind, and learn from it.
Think about how you come across straight away. To make a good impression you want to be like-able. Clients, investors and possible employees won’t want to waste their time with somebody they don’t like, even if they’re interested in your business, that will be off putting. Finding common grounds such as hobbies and interests enable you to demonstrate similar personality characteristics allowing people to relate to you a little easier. It’s also worth noting that whether people like to admit it or not, flattery can work. People enjoy being told they’re intelligent, or having their business ventures complimented. Subtle compliments can go a long way, just make sure you don’t end up sounding creepy.
Another factor to consider for good first impressions is preparation. Take the time to learn a little bit about the person you are meeting, and if you aren’t able to do that – show an interest and ask questions once they arrive. Many people expect a business meeting or interview to go a certain way, take it another way and exceed those expectations. By putting in that extra effort you will make yourself, and essentially your business, much more memorable.
Again, no matter what the circumstances are, your listening skills are crucial when it comes to successful impressions. You can pay attention to detail in every way, but if a person feels you aren’t paying attention to what they’re saying, that will give a bad impression. Smile and nod politely whilst making eye contact to ensure that they know you are taking in what is being said. Customers, clients and investors particularly will want to know that you are able to pay attention and listen to what they have to say. First meetings with prospective clients, customers and even employees are also about learning if you will be compatible in a business sense, let them have their say and make it about them before you discuss the benefits that you have to offer.
Of course, the most important factor of a successful first impression? Time keeping. If you have arranged a time for a meeting or interview, make sure you keep to it, arrive early if possible. One of the most common reasons people make a bad impression on prospective business partners or employers is due to their timekeeping – or lack of. Showing up late to any meeting, no matter the circumstances, comes across as rude and impolite.
It’s also good to bare in mind, that whilst you may be striving to make a good impression, that the person or people you are meeting with are also hoping to do the same. Standards are subjective when it comes to both personal appearance and hygiene, and not everybody’s will be the same as yours. So if needs be, lower your standards and make sure you’re seeing what that person has to offer rather than seeing what’s on the outside instantly. And leave room for nerves, I’m sure you’d want them to do the same for you!