Buyers will size up a seller in seconds, which is why reps should never underestimate the importance of a first impression. Even the most talented salespeople can suffer from a poor first impression, and its negative effects can last (and hurt sales). And while most understand the value of starting off on a positive note, they still walk away from a first meeting leaving a poor impression. “This begs the question,” writes Nick Kane for Selling Power, “How does this disconnect occur when sellers understand that their success hinges on the opinion of the buyers they are working with?”
How to make a good first impression
Sellers need to be strategic when it comes to first encounters. Being thoughtful about their actions can have a positive impact, and there are many factors to consider. While it may not be possible to nail every element, the more you can achieve, the better.
HubSpot’s Jacqueline Zenn shares specific things that a salesperson should be mindful of, and the very first suggestion she discusses is arriving early. Whether it’s an in-person meeting or a Zoom call, don’t just be on time, be early. “Arriving a little early for a meeting shows your punctuality and gives you a little more time to ensure everything is in place,” she writes. “If you're giving a presentation, arriving early gives you a moment to test the equipment you're using.” You’ll be more relaxed, practiced and prepared by the time the buyer arrives. This boosts the chances that you will come off as polished, professional and punctual.
Another way to make a good first impression is to express empathy. Empathy, the ability to understand what another person is feeling and respond appropriately, is increasingly important to today’s buyers; they want to feel that their business partners genuinely understand and care for them and their business. Sellers can impress a buyer simply by showing they care, which they can demonstrate in many ways. From the specific language they use to practicing active listening, sellers have many opportunities to demonstrate empathy.
As Kane points out, “We can establish a strong connection by genuinely understanding and empathizing with the client’s challenges, needs, and emotions. Reflecting on the client’s emotions and concerns shows that we genuinely care for and understand their perspective – strengthening the bond.”
Know the buyer and be prepared
Showing up to a meeting without having done any research on the prospect or their business won’t do you any favors. You’ll come across as ill prepared, unprofessional and even disrespectful. Instead, take the time before a scheduled meeting to learn as much as possible about both the prospect and their business. Showing up with knowledge and relevant discussion points and questions will not only make a great first impression, it will also help you move the sales process forward.
Want some tips on conducting quality pre-call research? Check out SalesFuel’s collection of advice.
Project a professional appearance
Whether we like it or not, appearance matters, especially when it comes to a first impression. SalesFuel's Voice of the Buyer study revealed that instant deal-breakers for buyers include sellers not having good hygiene and dressing inappropriately or unprofessionally. A polished appearance does make a difference and is always the best choice. And if the first meeting is scheduled, do some research before showing up. "While you want to look clean and neat, it's also essential to match or slightly exceed the relative level of formality of the person or business you are meeting with — whether that is business formal, highly casual, or something in between," Zenn suggests.
Be aware of your nonverbal communication
During a first encounter, be mindful of your body language. Don't slouch, check your phone, rock back in your seat, or allow yourself to be distracted by surroundings. Maintain appropriate eye contact, and keep your attention focused on the other person. If your meeting is remote, be extra careful about how you are presenting yourself (as well as your background).
A first encounter, no matter how short, can have a lasting impression. “The ability to navigate first impressions with skill and sensitivity sets the stage for rewarding relationships and sales conversations,” Kane explains. And there are so many opportunities for sellers to make a good first impression. They just need to be mindful about their actions and behavior. Take these tips to heart to make sure that each first meeting has a positive impact and paves the way for future success.
Photo by Edmond Dantès