Earlier this month, a colleague of mine called and asked how many return calls I was getting when I sent my CV out. I had just re-written my profile and he was concerned I had missed the mark.
Being a professional sales coach and someone who prided themselves in helping others achieve, I was a bit surprised. I listened to Paul with patience as he pointed out a number of important things.
Those 30 minutes with Paul gave me a whole new perspective of how others viewed me and changed the way I presented myself. It was also a timely reminder that no matter how good you might think you are, getting someone else to read your story, listen to your ideas and provide the tough questions to test your plans is still vital to ensure you are getting the right story out.
This is particularly important when you work as an independent consultant or in a small business, as it is easy to lose perspective without peers to help you.
Almost every decision a person makes, from making a purchase to who to date, is made emotionally within the first minutes of your first belly-to-belly meeting. Many communication experts argue it is the first 12 seconds which are the most important.
While you may have had a good, polite, discussion; when you walk out of that first meeting your prospect will have already made up their mind if they want to continue the relationship. ‘Flop’ into your first ‘belly-to-belly’ meeting unprepared and you will not get a second chance.
Here are six vital actions to help you in those important first twelve seconds…
1. People do judge a book by its cover
When you meet someone for the first time 93% of how you are judged will be an emotional response based on the non-verbal data you are presenting – your appearance, verbal tone and body language. Only 7% is influenced by the words you speak.
When your initial encounter is over the phone, 70% of how you are judged will be an emotional response based on your tone of voice and enthusiasm, only 30% on your words. It’s not what you say – it’s the way that you say it.
2. Be prepared
While a mere 7% of what you say is of influence in your first belly-to-belly encounter, don’t leave those words to chance. Express some form of thank you when you meet the client. Clients appreciate you when you appreciate them.
Do some research into the person you are meeting. With the mountain of information available today there is no excuse to not have a few personal and business questions ready to show they are important to you and their business is of value.
3. Use their name immediately
When someone calls me by my first name I feel cared for. Nothing brings down barriers quicker than using a person’s name. When you use your client’s name in conversation you are sending a message that you value that person and are focused on them.
4. Pay attention to your personal appearance
I have one of those eyebrows which needs regular attention or it becomes the one thing people I meet focus on.
When you meet someone for the first time they will notice your hair, eyebrows, forehead and face – in that order. If you are meeting with a female in addition to these they are likely to pay more attention to your shoes, crispness of your shirt/blouse and your nails.
While it may not be obvious, people look from your face to your feet and take in the detail subconsciously. Right or wrong they are deciding if you are a person they like and trust.
5. The first touch
The first physical touch you have with someone, business and personal, is almost always a handshake. A good business handshake is essential to make a lasting impression. When meeting someone belly-to-belly for the first time put out your hand and be prepared to provide a firm handshake. There is no need for bone crunching strength or trying to overwhelm them with vigour. Set the scene as equals and develop from there.
6. Swap cards
While a nice business card can contribute to your total image, the main purpose of a business card is to receive one in return. When you meet someone for the first time offer your card and expect one in return. The details on their card indicate how they wish to be contacted.
Treat your cards with respect, ensuring you only give out cards which are in pristine condition. When you receive a card, treat it with the same respect.
In today’s world, there is no excuse for being unprepared. Take time to prepare yourself and your mind.
Today’s question and actions
In business in particular, there is a mountain of information available at your fingertips. Get to know the person you are going to meet and prepare yourself.
Here are some things you can do:
- Use LinkedIn, Facebook and a company’s website to learn about the person you are about to meet. Read the annual report to learn about their industry and their business challenges.
- Check your personal grooming, your posture and mental attitude just before you meet them.
- Learn more about emotional intelligence and how to use it to push their green buttons.
You never get a second chance at making a first impression.
Have a great week!