Paul conducts an eye-opening interview with Sylvie di Giusto that will help you understand and improve that first impression you’re making.
“Unfortunately, a very powerful source will be working against you, and that source is called bias—unconscious bias.” Sylvie di Giusto
“Use that powerful source to your advantage. Give them something you want to give them in the very first micro-moments, and something they expect. Because confirmation bias will then also work in your favor…” Sylvie di Giusto
It is very challenging to overcome a negative first impression.
“It’s not about being perfect, it’s about doing the best you can.” Sylvie di Giusto
Find out more about Sylvie di Giusto and take her complimentary perception audit: sylviedigiusto.com/audit
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How do I create a positive first impression? with Sylvie di Giusto
(Transcribed from podcast interview)
It is brain performance happening automatically. We cannot influence it. We just walk into a room, or your clients come into your room, and they think that they know something about you. — Sylvie di Giusto
Paul: Hello everyone. We have a very special guest today. Sylvie di Giusto is going to be joining us. I’ve known Sylvia now for a couple of years, and lately, we’ve been getting several inquiries on how to create positive first impressions and Sylvie is the first person I thought of. Sylvie is an international keynote speaker. She is also the first image professional worldwide to earn the CSP designation—Certified Speaking Professional. I’ve heard Sylvie speak on a couple of occasions and she is such a dynamic speaker, always providing insight. And that’s why I reached out to her because she’s going to share some insights and ideas on how to create a positive first impression.
A lot of this is going to stem from her experience of 20+ years in the corporate world as an executive. So, with that experience, she knows how to speak clearly, concisely, and how to send a powerful message. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did. It was great getting together with Sylvie.
Before we get into the interview though, just a reminder—make sure you pick up your copy of Selling Through Tough Times. As of lately, there are indications that we may be heading into a recession. Well, you know, the old expression: the worst time to dig a well is when you’re thirsty. Right now is the time to prepare. So pick up your copy of Selling Through Tough Times. It’s available on Amazon or wherever you get your books. Let’s get into the interview.
Paul: Hello friends. Paul Reilly here welcoming you to another episode of The Q and A Sales Podcast. And on today’s episode, I am thrilled to have a very special guest, Sylvie di Giusto. You are here today to talk about creating a positive first impression, Sylvie. Thank you so much for being here. How are you doing?
Sylvie: Thank you very much. I’m doing fantastic. And I’m so thrilled to be with you as somebody who always makes a great first impression like you.
Paul: Well, thank you, Sylvie. You know, to kick this off, I was hoping you could maybe share really what led you maybe to this whole idea of creating positive images, first impressions, things like that. Just share with the podcast community a little bit about your background.
Sylvie: So you find 20 years of corporate experience distilled in one professional speaker. Since 10 years, I have the pleasure to share stages like with you, around the world, to help people better understand what their first impression says about them and how it impacts how they think about themselves, but also, others think about them. My corporate background is in human resources and training, so I was on the other side. I hired speakers in the past for big conferences and training. And I was also always involved in organization when somebody got hired, and fired, and everything in between. And I was just fascinated by the fact, and frustrated alike: why do some people walk into the room, they say all the right things; they behave exactly the way we want them to behave; they look exactly the way we want them to [look], and still, years later, for example, we had to fire them because of a lack of performance?
And so, I got into the area of perception, and is perception reality, and started first with lasting impressions. And here I am, helping a lot of sales leaders find out why their leads or customers think about them the way they think about them.
Paul: Oh, excellent. And this is such a timely topic. When I reached out to you, I mentioned that, lately, several salespeople have asked me, “Paul, how do we create a positive first impression? Why is it important?” And, from an early age, we are taught that a first impression is a lasting impression. And when I’m working with sales teams and sales leaders, I explain how important that is. And I offer a few tips and ideas. But I do feel like there is more depth here on how to create a positive first impression.
So, most importantly, though, we need to talk about why it is important. I found that when we’re training salespeople, we, as adults, we need to know why something is important if we’re going to learn about it, if we’re going to pay attention to it. So why is the first impression so important? How does that impact us personally, professionally? Maybe expand on that a little bit.
Sylvie: Well, first of all, congratulations to everybody who thinks about first impressions. That shows a level of self-awareness that not all sales professionals have. To give you a little bit of scientific background. First impressions and the way we think about people or how we judge people has nothing to do with the fact if you’re a good human being or not a good human being, if you’re a good sales professional or not. It is brain performance happening automatically. We cannot influence it. We just walk into a room, or your clients come into your room and they think that they know something about you. There are different studies out there. Some say first impressions are built within 7 seconds. Other say milliseconds. Some say they make 11 decisions. Others even make 6 decisions. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is, it happens. And unfortunately, afterwards, a very powerful source will be working against you. And that source is called bias—unconscious bias.
We know there are more than a hundred biases in everybody’s person distilled. And for example, one very powerful bias that is important for sales professionals is confirmation bias. People want to be right. They’re looking for proof. And on that way, they can know everything that goes against their first initial opinion. So, if your client walks into a room and, for example, sees you and finds something, let’s say, sloppy, in your appearance, their brain and confirmation bias is instantly looking for confirmation that you are really sloppy sales professional.
So, they will find that sloppiness in your behavior and the words that you say. They will even find it in the products or services that you sell. They will find it on your website. Whatever you give them afterwards, unfortunately, it is working against you. So, what I encourage you to do is to use that powerful source to your advantage, give them something you want to give them in the very first micro-moments, and something they expect. Because that confirmation bias will also work in your favor because they find proof everywhere and ignore anything that goes against their first initial opinion.
Paul: Gosh, that’s wonderful. That confirmation bias is—. What a formidable, either tool, advantage—we can use that. Or it works against us, as you mentioned. And, you know, Sylvie, we have salespeople trying to sell us things all the time, right? And I think about the sales professionals who have tried to just stop by my office. And even if it’s a cold call, whatever it may be, there is a stark difference between those that create a positive first impression and those that do not. And it is very challenging to overcome a negative first impression. Because, as you mentioned, we’re going to seek out information that confirms what we initially believe. And, and if a salesperson comes in and they’re dressed sloppily, we’re going to look at them, and we judge what their solution is going to look like based on how they appear. And we associate [be]cause we’re looking to reinforce that. Very, very powerful stuff.
Sylvie: You almost have to keep in mind, they perceive you in a specific way. And a lot of people ask, “So is perception reality?” No, it’s not, but it is to them. They believe that they are right. And that is the powerful source you’re working against.
Paul: You’re arguing against what they already believe. It’s hard to tell someone they’re wrong, especially when our actions and what they see are—
Sylvie: Especially when you’re trying to sell something to them.
Paul: (laughing) It’s not a good way to start out: “Hey, you’re wrong and let me tell you why.” Interesting. Gosh, that’s powerful.
Well, I’ve heard about the ABCs of selling before: always be closing. And I know one concept that you’re able to share with groups and audiences is the ABCDs of creating that positive first impression or just your overall image. Would you be able to expand on what that means—the ABCDs of that first impression?
Sylvie: Absolutely. It is a very simple framework that I use to explain to sales professionals, What are the factors others judge me on? So, when your client comes in, what actually happens during those micro-moments? But also alike, What are my tools to influence them and to leave a positive first impression so that bias is working for me?
And the A stands for your appearance. Like it or not, we are visual creatures. Our brains are actually quite lazy. They don’t like to work hard so they take a shortcut through our eyes. And they just look at you and you imprint a visual picture into their brains. And the appearance includes your body image—the suit you are born in. Are you tall? Are you short? Are you overweight? Are you underweight? Do you take care of your body? How is it dressed? The labels that you wear: the patterns, the colors, the fabrics, the quality of your clothing, the fit. And then, obviously, all the details: your accessories, your skin, your hair for your makeup, your shoes. The entire visual picture that we create in somebody else’s mind through their eyes.
And again, like it or not, we are visual creatures. That is just what happens during the first moments where you don’t even have the chance to say something smart about yourself, your company, your product, or your services.
But to be very clear, looking good is great, but it is not enough. Because at one point you are going to behave. So, the B stands for your behavior: how you interact instantly with your lead or with your client. And, you know, your behavior includes, first and foremost, your attitude. Is it positive or is it negative? How do you react on your client’s attitude? How do you mirror that back, or don’t you mirror it back? Do you have charisma? What about your emotional intelligence: your ethics, your moral? Your business etiquette skills. So how do you interact? Do you let them sit down first or last? Do you shake their hands? For you, those might also be just micro-moments, but for them, you never know, they might matter, matter a lot.
Then the C stands for your communication: what you say and how you say it, and if you don’t say anything. With not saying anything, I mean your body language. How do you stand? How do you walk? But also, how do you listen? Are you an active listener? As a sales professional, you should know how important it actually is to listen to them and their needs and their demands. And it gives you the opportunity to respond based on the pain points that they share with you. So, how good of a listener are you?
But obviously at one point you are going to say something, and it’s about what you say and how you say it. We know that the first 11 words of every single conversation are the most important ones. What do you say right at the beginning? People are going to remember you for those 11 words. To start off with, “How are you doing,” half of them are already wasted because no client will remember you for, “How are you doing,” right? Did you research them, their company, their problems, the solutions that they expect from you beforehand? And do you open a conversation in such a way that they immediately feel, “Oh, you are prepared. You care about me.” Way more impactful than how are you doing.
And then there is your voice. Your voice is a very powerful tool. It’s like an instrument that we play every single day. And most of us never learn how to play that instrument. We just play it, right? And we all know or notice if somebody’s voice is off. Is it too loud? Is it too quiet? The pace. Also the language (inaudible). Do you have specific communication habits? Your accent. Do you have a dialect? It all plays a role when you speak.
Now that ABC, as you said, is a very common model. What I have added is the D, because I find that, nowadays, most often we don’t make first impressions anymore in person. We make it in some sort of digital way. You send emails out every single day, especially the sales area, right? And you never know where those e-mails end up. You think that you only send them to your client or to your lead, but they may have forwarded it and forwarded it and forwarded it. And, right now, somebody decides to reach out to you or not based on an email that you have never intended to send to them.
Do you have grammar errors? Do you spell check your emails? How do you greet them? How do you end them? Do you use emojis? There were so many messages, in between, that we send with written communication. Or your social media profiles—what would I find about you when I google your name right now? Now you might think, “Well, probably my Facebook profile, my Instagram account, that is private. That is personal. That has nothing to do with me as a sales professional for my company.” But this is not how people think, right? If there are two things that don’t belong together, it’s the internet and personal. They just consume that information that they find online about you, and it will determine if they ever ever give you a chance to meet them offline. You don’t know how much business you lose by never knowing that there was actually a chance that it could have happened because people make those decisions based on your digital footprint.
And lately, quite new, I’ve added the E. (Paul: Oh, really? Okay.) There is another one called environment because we very often think that our reputation is just about us: about our appearance, our behavior, our communication, our digital footprint. And in fact, it’s not. People take your environment into consideration. The people you hang out with—that says something about you. the house you live in, the car that you drive, right? The vacations you go on. Those are all messages that you send every single day.
Now is one more important than the other? I would say no, but I would always start with the digital footprint because your digital footprint is out there 24/7/365. And so if you want to improve something, start the—, step back and look at your “digital you” and analyze what it actually says about you as a sales professional. And then, start working on the other elements and keep in mind that all five are relevant. You cannot look great and behave differently. You cannot say smart things about your product, but not represent you and your company best possible in your appearance or your behavior. So they all matter.
Paul: Excellent. So much wisdom. I mean, the past seven, eight minutes on the ABCDs, and now the Es of creating that first impression. And I’m thrilled to hear you talk about the digital footprint, because that is you are what you share on social media—from a personal side of it, from professional. And, you know, one wrong tweet, one wrong post, and that can, perhaps, ruin a sale that you had pending that you were working on. And you’ll never know about it. That’s the thing you mentioned, you’ll never know about the sale that didn’t happen because of what you posted, because of what you said, how you positioned yourself. So, this is absolutely wonderful.
Just a quick question. I know there’s probably more content, more insight. Where can we get a hold of you? What’s the best way to contact you or to find more information about what you do?
Sylvie: Well, guess what? You find me on the internet. (laughing) You find me (inaudible) my digital footprint that I leave behind, and I hope that you stumble over me. But I give you one tool and one link that might be helpful for you. And it is on my website: Sylviedigiusto.com/audit. And maybe you can add that link to your podcast notes, Paul. And what happens, there is—, it is a free perception audit that you can take. It takes around 10 minutes. Try to be very truthful and honest about the questions, because this is the only way to find out what others might think of you when they think of you, how they perceive you, and what decisions they make based on that perception.
But promise me one thing. When you go through this 10-minute audit, which is totally for free, at the end I ask you for an email address so that you get your personal report. You will get some more information that, hopefully, is helpful, otherwise unsubscribe at any time—no hurt feelings here. But when you go through that audit, promise me, when you see the results, keep in mind that is just how others perceive you. It doesn’t mean that it is reality. It doesn’t mean that it is true. You might feel differently. But it is a helpful tool in finding out, “Is there a gap between how I see myself and possibly the world sees me?” So once again, it’s Sylviedigiusto.com/audit.
Paul: Well, I am intrigued. I’m going to go directly to that site and check it out. You know, I’m perfect, obviously, but I know that other people might. (laughing) Yeah. Right. But that’s a wonderful tool. You know, Sylvie, what you’re providing is you’re providing a mirror almost for people to see what others are seeing. And the key is, this is their perception, not who they really are, but being able to share that—what a gift. Thank you for sharing that with our community. We’ll have all the links to what Sylvie mentioned on this episode’s show notes and transcripts. We’ll have all those links available to you and check it out.
Sylvie, thanks again for being on the podcast today. Certainly appreciate it.
Sylvie: Thank you very much for having me. And I look forward to hearing from you and your audience. Keep in mind, it’s not about being perfect. It’s about doing the best you can.
Paul: Well said. Thanks, Sylvie.
And for everyone else, check out the show notes. We’ll have the link. Everything will be available there. If you found this episode, especially useful and practical, which I know I did, make sure you hit that subscribe button. Make sure you share this with your colleagues. But, most importantly, make it a big day.