What first impression are you making?
At the risk of sounding a bit judgmental, (as businesses we are being judged constantly) but I feel a need to share some thoughts about a disturbing trend that threatens to destroy us all! Sorry, got carried away for a minute, but in the context of sending a message that you can be trusted and are a credible and reliable resource – the way you make your first impression is critical to winning customers. So often people seem to get first impressions wrong.
1. Managing your calendar
This one seems so basic, I hesitate to share it. However, it must not be very basic because I can’t count the number of times people have either failed to show up for a meeting or canceled at the last minute. Not just vendors either – but prospects. Little do they realize, I’m evaluating them too and standing me up doesn’t earn them any points. All grousing aside (I run a tight ship here at Clarity World Headquarters) the point is that this doesn’t really help you send the message that you have it “together” and that you can be counted on. Of course everyone drops the ball on occasion (Lord knows, I’m guilty too) but if you find that you are always changing appointments or canceling at the eleventh hour – you’ll need to refine your systems. If you set a call or meeting with someone, they shouldn’t have to call to confirm. You should just be there without fail, right on time. Unless your dog really is sick. Then beg for understanding and forgiveness.
2. Your website
I had an interesting meeting with a guy today that suddenly realized that re-doing his website would not create an avalanche of new business. But his revelation was that NOT improving it was costing him deals. Compared to his competitors, his company simply didn’t look credible so he was scratched off the short list. The site was a blockade! For most of us, our website is often the first point of contact with potential customers. These prospects are looking for basic cues – “Is this company credible?”, “Do they do what I need”, “Can I trust them”. If you don’t pass this fundamental gauntlet, you don’t make the short list – and they never tell you about it. They simply move on to your competitor. If your site is the equivalent of showing up dressed like Starsky and/or Hutch (Google it if you are under the age of 30) you are losing business – period.
3. Your demeanor
I have a friend who is struggling. While he is not alone in his struggle, he has a lot of frustration and anger around how he processes his situation. This anger is easily picked up by potential customers and his valuable network. Nobody wants to refer or buy from an angry, frustrated salesperson. I feel I can say this because I’ve been there, done that. (This is my 5th recession). But as I age gracefully, I’ve developed a mindset of abundance and a belief that, even in the darkest days, there is light all around us. You can’t hide from your emotional state- you have to change it. Easier said than done, but if you are feeling defeated, desperate or angry – find a way to change your mindset. Rafe Beeson is a business coach who who can help you get your head straight and see the opportunities around around you. People buy from people they like and respect.
4. Other important stuff
There are so many things you should do to send the right impression. Be on time. Be consistent. Listen. But other things are even more granular. For example, having professional contracts, invoicing procedures, phone etiquette (If you have fewer than 50 employees, ditch the automated phone system!), meeting deadlines, keeping your word, etc. Take every opportunity to send the message “I’m on my game”. Sweat the little stuff – it adds up to a big impression.
We all get crazy busy and let things slip. That’s human nature. But striving for making good first impressions is key to getting an opportunity to have a second impression. The beauty of it is that, if you do drop the ball, your past record of consistency will buy you a pass. Just don’t abuse it.