3 Ways Your People Can Make a Better First Impression In Your Business
Some say that people form first impressions within seven seconds. Others say it’s three to five seconds. Whatever the number is, it’s small!
This affects a host of things in business from making sure that your website gets the message across succinctly to ensuring that you have an eye-catching booth at the next trade show.
But it is your people who will create the lasting first impression of your company. It’s no good having a whizz-bang website if it’s not backed up by people at the end of the phone who can convert initial interest into a prospective sale; and it’s not much use having a show booth with all the whistles and bells if the people manning it cannot string two meaningful sentences together!
How can your people start creating a first impression that attracts prospective customers to your business?
Hint: it may go a little deeper than you think!
Many articles out there on this topic will go into detail about how first impressions are formed by being well-dressed, radiating a nice smile, and having clean fingernails.
Of course these things matter; but it goes a lot deeper than that. You don’t need to ask your employees to hire stylists just yet!
These are essentially superficial features that employees should know already. They may influence a decision for a job interview but they do not have a huge lasting effect on how customers view your business or whether they will buy from you.
Besides, it’s a little old-fashioned to say that you always need to be immaculately groomed when meeting prospective clients; have you seen pictures of Richard Branson or Steve Jobs in their early days?
I like to look at it like this: customers may form an immediate first impression based on appearance or sound (on the phone); this is the three to seven seconds thing. Beyond that though, there is a longer ‘first impression’ of how your people really are, based on first meetings, conversations, email exchanges, etc.
These tend to be much more stubborn ‘first impressions’ and are much harder to change once formed… these are the ones that really matter.
So the following tips ignore the superficial image factors and focus more on these deeper elements.
1.) Hire the right attitude
Qualifications and academic background are one thing; but they won’t tell you whether a person will fit in to the company culture you want to build.
Every person within your organisation should be, in some small way, a reflection of your business. So when you are hiring, it’s important to find out more about that person. What do they believe in and value? How will they work in a team? Do they often exceed expectations or just do the bare essentials? Are they confident? How personable and passionate are they? Do they look you in the eye and talk directly or are they evasive?
Of course, the particular characteristics you are looking for will vary from position to position but what are the ‘baseline’ personal characteristics you are looking for to represent your company?
Decide on these and then hire partly based on attitude. This will not only help your people to create the first impression you are trying to achieve for your company; it may mean they hang around longer because they fit in.
2.) Build emotional intelligence
According to Harvard Business School social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, we form two impressions when we meet someone for the first time:
“We’re judging how warm and trustworthy the person is, and that’s trying to answer the question, ‘What are this person’s intentions toward me?’ And we’re also asking ourselves, “How strong and competent is this person?’”
These comments hint at the rather deep, primitive social needs of people. Even before we want to know whether a person can answer our specific questions about a product or service, we want these primitive social needs met. Can we trust this person? What are their intentions and what confidence should we have in what they’re telling us?
You may be able to project some of this with a good appearance, but without emotional intelligence you will not be able to back it up and leave a strong, convincing, lasting impression. Focus on building a culture around EQ rather than simply IQ and you will see better results from your people on many fronts.
3.) Develop communication skills
Communication is a skill. It can be learnt and practiced. It can be trained.
It is also comes in two ‘types’ – spoken and non-verbal communication. Your people need to excel at both to create a good first impression for your business; even though some employees will be stronger at one form than the other, both can be improved.
With spoken communication, is it clear, well-paced, expressive, and at an appropriate sound level to promote trust and confidence in what they’re saying? Does it help to build rapport with people or have the reverse effect?
Does their body language help or hinder the process? Handshakes and eye contact are both important aspects of non-verbal communication, for instance.
With written communication, is it accurate, convincing, and concise? Does it reflect the professional image you want to portray?
By paying attention to these three key areas, your organisation will start to create a better first impression not only with customers and suppliers, but also internally and with new hires.
Want to find out more about building a business culture where first impressions make better lasting connections between customers and employees? Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org