- Did you know that in as little as seven seconds of meeting someone you not only size up their attractiveness and trustworthiness, but also their personality and competence? It’s called a first impression and it may or may not be accurate. If the initial judgment, however, is negative, shifting someone’s opinion will be an uphill battle.
That’s why it’s always important to present yourself in the best way possible. Especially when starting your own business. As author J.K Rowling put it, “A good first impression can work wonders.”
How do you go about making a good first impression when meeting someone new, such as a client or potential business partner? Of course, doing your homework prior to the meeting, dressing well, smiling, having a firm handshake, speaking clearly, frequent eye contact and confidence are at the top of any list. But No. 1 tip has to do with making a human connection.
People love to talk about themselves and appreciate someone who genuinely takes an interest in them by asking questions. Studies have found self-disclosure is as gratifying as good food, money and even sex. “Odds are, if you let the other person talk a lot about themselves, they will think you are fascinating,” an article in Psychology Today said. How can that be a bad thing?
Another tip I follow that goes along with getting your client talking is making sure you are actively listening to them. Nodding isn’t enough. Summarizing what a person says to you back to them to their satisfaction lets them know you get what they’re saying. “Listening,” says Canadian lawyer Robin S. Sharma, “is a master skill for personal and professional greatness.”
Another approach I recommend is mirroring the body language of the person you are speaking with. In other words, pay close attention to the person you’re with. Mirroring body language is a non-verbal way of saying “we have something in common.” Research shows that 60 to 90% of our communication with others is nonverbal, which means the body language we use is extremely important. With appropriate nods, smiles and even laughs, you are showing the client or colleague that you understand, agree, and are listening to his or her opinions.
Finally, show gratitude. Never walk away from a meeting before thanking the person(s) by name for their time, summing up the value of your conversation and adding a personal comment that draws on a nonprofessional aspect of the conversation. It shows you recognize the person for who they are, and that makes a lasting impression.
“People,” said poet and activist Maya Angelou, “will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Making a good first impression is great. Making a great lasting impression is even better.