Can you establish a lasting business relationship in just seven seconds? You can if you make a great first impression. Seven seconds is the average length of time you have to do it, and everyone knows that you won’t get a second opportunity. A positive first impression can turn a chance encounter into a long term association.
Whether that initial meeting is face-to-face, over the phone or online, you do not have time to waste. It pays for you to understand how people make their first judgment and what you can do to be in control of the results.
1. Learn what people use to form their first opinion.
When you meet someone face-to-face, 93% of how you are judged is based on nonverbal data -- your appearance and your body language. Only 7% is influenced by the words that you speak. Whoever said that you can’t judge a book by its cover failed to note that people do. When your initial encounter is over the phone, 70% of how you are perceived is based on your tone of voice and 30% on your words. Clearly, it’s not what you say -- it’s the way that you say it.
2. Choose your first twelve words carefully.
Although research shows that your words make up a mere 7% of what people think of you in a one-on-one encounter, don’t leave what you say to chance. Express some form of thank you when you meet a potential connection. Perhaps it is “Thank you for taking your time to see me today” or “Thank you for joining me for lunch.” People appreciate you when you appreciate them.
3. Use the other person’s name immediately.
There is no sweeter sound than that of our own name. When you use a person’s name in conversation within your first twelve words and the first seven seconds, you are sending a message that you value the other person. Nothing gets other people’s attention as effectively as calling them by name and giving them your full attention.
4. Pay attention to your grooming.
Others will. In fact, they will notice your hair and face first. Putting off that much-needed haircut or color job may cost you the relationship. Very few people want to do business with someone who is unkempt or whose hairstyle does not look professional. Don’t let a bad hair day cost you the connection.
5. Keep your shoes in mint condition.
People will look from your face to your feet. If your shoes aren’t well maintained, others will question whether you pay attention to detail. Shoes should be polished as well as appropriate for the business environment. They may be the last thing you put on before you walk out the door, but shoes are often the first thing other people see.
6. Walk fast.
Studies show that people who walk 10-20% faster than others are viewed as important and energetic -- just the kind of person others want to do business with. Pick up the pace and walk with purpose if you want to impress. You never know who may be watching.
7. Fine tune your handshake.
The first move you should make when meeting someone is to put out your hand. There isn’t a businessperson anywhere who can’t tell you that the good business handshake should be a firm one. Yet time and again people offer up a limp hand. You’ll be assured of giving an impressive grip and getting off to a good start if you position your hand to make contact web-to-web with the other person’s. Once you’ve connected, close your thumb over the back of the hand and give a slight squeeze. You’ll have an impressive handshake and the beginning of a good business relationship.
8. Make introductions with style.
It does matter whose name you say first and what words you use when making introductions in business. Because business etiquette is based on rank and hierarchy, you want to honor the senior or highest ranking person by saying his name first. When the client is present, he is always the most important person. Say the client’s name first and introduce other people to the client. The correct words to use are “I’d like to introduce…” or “I’d like to introduce to you…” followed by the name of the other person.
9. Never leave the office without your business cards.
Your business cards and how you handle them contribute to your total image. Have a good supply of them with you at all times since you never know when and where you will encounter a potential client. How unimpressive is it to ask for a person’s card and hear the words, “Oh, I’m sorry. I think I just gave away my last one.” You get the feeling that this person has either already met everyone he wants to know or maybe didn’t come prepared to do business.
Keep your cards in a card case or holder where they are protected from wear and tear. That way you will be able to find them without a lot of fumbling around, and they will always be in pristine condition.
10. Match your body language to your verbal message.
A smile or pleasant expression tells people that you are glad to be with them. Eye contact says you are paying attention. Leaning in toward the other person engages you in the conversation. Use as many signals as you can to look interested and interesting.
In the business environment, you plan your every move with clients. You arrange for the appointment, you prepare for the meeting, you rehearse for the presentation, but in spite of your best efforts, potential contacts pop up in the most unexpected places and at the most bizarre times. For that reason, leave nothing to chance. Every time you walk out of your office, be ready to make a powerful first impression.
Lydia Ramsey is a business etiquette expert, professional speaker, corporate trainer and author of Manners That Sell -– Adding The Polish That Builds Profits. She has been quoted or featured in The New York Times, Investors’ Business Daily, Entrepreneur, Inc., Real Simple and Woman’s Day. For more information about her featured presentations and products visit: First Impressions DVD and First Impressions—Seven Seconds to Sink or Swim.© 2013 Lydia Ramsey
The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal, financial, or medical professional.