How To Create A Strong First Impression
All of us have had someone in our past remind us about the importance of making a good first impression. Maybe it was a parent as we headed out to our first job interview during high-school days. Maybe it was a good friend giving you advice before a first date. Certainly, those of us in the business field have been guided on the finer points of making a good impression as we prepare for a major presentation. Why do first impressions matter so much? According to author Dorie Clark; first impressions matter so much because they happen so fast.
“A strong first impression, gives you more latitude to be human…because they happen fast, and they are stubborn…we make judgments about other people in a nanosecond.” – Dorie Clark, author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future
According to Dorie Clark, relationships and business interactions moving forward are a lot easier if we start off strong. She says, “we get the benefit of the doubt…if we make a mistake, arrive late, another person is likely to assume the best. A strong first impression gives you more latitude to be human.” To be sure, being human is something your client or business associates will appreciate. Hey, he/she is just like me…. they have kids to get off to school too. Now, of course, we’re addressing second chances. So back to first impressions. So how do we create a strong first impression with others? What really matters the most as we focus on practicing that all-important evaluation from others? Needless to say, it’s more than a firm handshake!
What Really Matters The Most?
The science of studying human behavior and people’s reactions to our behaviors appears to be a never-ending quest for the holy grail of a person’s character. Psychologists have known since the 1920’s for instance that humans tend to generalize from single incident perception. First impressions if you will. Scientists have labeled these perceptions as “halo-effect” impressions. So what really matters? How can one assure those first impressions are positive and help long-term relationships? According to social psychologist Dr. Amy Cuddy, there are two spheres from which others will attribute their impression of us. Warmth and competence.
According to Dr. Cuddy, these two spheres or critical variables, one – warmth, and two – competence, account for 80% of our personal evaluations (impressions) of others.
These studies indicate that our emotions and behaviors toward others are shaped in part by the 80% rule — the two spheres or critical variables made up of others’ perceptions of warmth displayed and competence of the individual. Cuddy says in her studies that warmth (genuine, nice, kind, respectful) is perceived first and accounts for more of someone’s overall evaluation than competence. In our line of work, we continually stress the importance of being transparent with our clients. We feel that if our agents present themselves in a professional manner and execute each and every appointment with the utmost integrity, never taking shortcuts and always presenting all the options for a client regardless of compensation to the agent, that we will convey our authentic caring, concerned, and professional attitude.
Reflecting Care & Concern
We can control the warmth sphere by adhering to key interpersonal communication principles such as the following:
- Greeting/Attention – a warm, sincere smile followed by a gentle but firm handshake. Reaffirm your client’s name and properly introduce yourself. Offering a business card or pointing to other credentials as you connect your name to the purpose of the meeting. Preparing an attentive and focused presentation that includes distraction free eye-contact with the client.
- Empathy/Understanding – the most important aspect of the meeting includes listening carefully to the needs of the client and repeating back in your own words a paraphrase of the questions and concerns addressed. By listening and offering potential solutions, you show the client that you understand the issues and more importantly, that you possess a level of competency that the client expects.
- Kindness/Caring – never underestimate the power of a smile. Non-verbal communication such as nodding approval while smiling indicated that you understand the client’s needs above your own. Making statements that include your mission to serve the clients’ needs above your own without regard to personal gain goes a long way to illustrate that you care for the client.
- Respect/Dignity – start off by being on time – it shows that you respect the client’s time. Avoid comments that are disrespectful in any way.
- Honor/Sincerity – goes hand in hand with respect. Treat others as you would want to be treated. Ensure that your tone, attention to details and promise to offer the client all the appropriate plans as options are carefully considered.
The second sphere of influence on others perceptions or impressions of us is centered on competence. How do we best prepare for the perception of competence? Perhaps that is best addressed in another article. But suffice it to say that with proper training – adhering to the best practices of sales presentations – coupled with a keen dose of interpersonal communication skills – an agent who is committed to product knowledge should not fail this test.
“It is so important for us to take the unwavering approach—that we will do what is best for the clients best interest––regardless of personal gain.”
– Jeff Pitta, CEO & Founder, Senior Market Advisors