Let’s face it, first impressions are everything. “Well, that’s not very nice. People shouldn’t judge you when they first meet you.” I agree. But that’s not the way the world works. I do it, we all do it. Whether we like to admit it or not, we all make assumptions or judgements about someone when we first meet them. It’s been said that a person can know he or she will like you or want to work with you in the first minute of meeting. Ever seen that play out? Ever asked someone out and knew after a minute it wasn’t going to happen? Ever been asked out and knew in .3 seconds that there was no way it was going to work out? Same is true in the business world. When it comes to selling a product or service, your first impression is everything. In fact, your first impression may very well be your last.

Though the idea of making a good first impression applies to all situations in life, we’re going to focus on the business side of it. So, how do we go about preparing for making a good first impression?

Here are 6 keys:

1) Attitude

Attitude is everything. If you’re heading into a sales meeting, perhaps meeting with a client or making an important first call, your attitude better be in check. This means you should have a consistently good attitude, regardless of what happened before the meeting or call. Traffic is terrible on the way there? Don’t let it stress you out. Having a tiff with the significant other? Separate that situation from your sales meeting. Burnt your toaster strudel before walking out the door? Well, I don’t blame you if you can’t let that go.

The point is, whatever you have to do to maintain a positive attitude before a sales meeting, DO IT! Clear your head. Listen to your favorite music, wear your favorite shirt or whatever you have to do to be the best YOU in that meeting.

2) Appearance

People judge you by how you look before they ever hear a word out of your mouth, it’s just how it is. And when it comes to a sales meeting, I’m ok with that. Let’s put it this way; If someone is selling me a product or service and they’re wearing sweat pants and sandals, I’m probably not going to take them seriously. Not because I have something against that look, it just tells me that they’re not putting forth an effort to take this seriously. On the opposite side, dressing up too much can give off an impression of desperation or being fake.

When I first started In Transit Studios, I often wore a tie to many meetings and networking events. Though a tie looks snazzy and is right for many occasions, I realized we’re not in the 1950’s anymore. When you wear a tie, you just come off as a salesman. For my industry, selling my creative services for web and graphic design, a corporate casual style was much better suited.

Also, taking care of that bed head and putting yourself together will go a long way in a first meeting or first impression. There’s nothing worse then heading into an important meeting and not feeling put together. When you don’t feel good about yourself, that translates to everyone who’s around you. So take the time to maintain your health and put yourself together before a meeting.

3) Confidence

I’m not talking about cockiness, that is a whole other thing. But confidence is a MUST to effectively sell your product or service. Here’s a little confession; I sold my first website design before I really knew how to build a site from start to finish. I wasn’t falsely advertising me or my service, I was just confident and knew that if there was something I didn’t know how to do, I’d figure it out. The client never got a hint of the self doubt I had because I didn’t display it.

Confidence is a tricky thing because it comes and goes day in and day out. You have to maintain your confidence and this is different for everyone. Some may find confidence in knowledge, in constant reading and learning. Some may find confidence in winning, challenging themselves in events or competitions and achieving their goal. Some may find confidence around other people while others find it in solitude. It varies from person to person so you need to learn more about yourself and recognize when you feel good about yourself. I’d recommend doing the things that make you feel confident leading up to a big meeting or call.

Again, I’m not talking about cockiness. No one wants to work with a broskie no-it-all who’s head barely fit through the door. But a healthy confidence about yourself and your services will go a long way.

4) Body Language

Posture, tone, hand movements – all things that a person will key on if you’re selling something to them. If you’re slouched over and sitting too relaxed, it’s going to appear that you’re not taking that meeting seriously. If you’re twiddling your fingers or making odd movements, it’s going to show and the other person is going to either think you’re extremely nervous or just weird, or nervous and weird. That’s not a good sell.

A person can often see right through you depending on the tone and language of your body. It’s very important to have good posture, a well spoken approach and casual movements during a meeting.

Unfortunately, some things can’t be controlled, but do your best to work around them. If you tend to tap your fingers, keep your fingers under the table. Have you ever had that twitch in one of your eye lids? Feels like it’s trying to blink at 100 mph? Yeah, that’s rough. I’ve had a few meetings with that going on and you can only try to play it off. If that’s the case, then try to destress and get some more sleep before a big meeting.

5) Authenticity

“People care about how much you care more than how much you know.” Absolutely, positively true. One thing that has separated me from much of my competition is that I truly care about my clients and my work. I’m aware that there are better designers, better developers and better salesmen, but when I meet with a client for the first time I make sure they know that I care about my work and care about their potential project.

Be genuine, people can tell if you’re being real or if you’re just blowing smoke. If you don’t care about what you’re selling, then you’d better learn to care about it or find another profession because you won’t get far. I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve talked to over the years who had previous designers or developers who simply did not care about them enough to give them a good product or respond in a timely manner. Many of my clients have come to me hardened and callous towards web designers because of a bad previous experience and I don’t blame them, I was in the same boat when I got into this. So the best advice I can give in this area is to care and be genuine. Be authentic to how you are and what you sell.

6) Knowledge

You have to know something about what you sell. A first impression may start off great, but when it comes to talking details or know how, it could quickly fall apart. I found this out the hard way when I got started. I had some meetings that went great at first and some where the project even got going, but I realized quickly that if I oversold myself and got in over my head, it wouldn’t turn out well.

KNOW your service before you sell it. Some people just try to sell, sell, sell, but have no idea what they’re selling. I’ve seen this in many network marketing pitches. People selling a product or service but when asked about it they often don’t have any backup or knowledge on what they’re pushing. Knowledge does not have to be at the forefront of a first impression but it’d better be there if that impression’s going to turn into a lasting impression.

So there are some keys to making a good first impression. Easier said than done, but well worth noting. Again, I’ve learned the hard way on every single one of these and wish I had someone give me this advice when I started. But it’s always better to learn by doing than reading in a text book, I suppose. Many of these you’ll have to figure out for yourself. Make them applicable to your situation and line of work.

I hope these have encouraged you, made you think, and perhaps excited for your next first impression!