In this episode, Paul shares why first impressions are critical and how to create one.
“A first impression is a lasting impression.” This idea is based on confirmation bias. Confirmation bias means that we interpret new information in a way that confirms what we already believe.
In the middle of the word impression, there are three letters P-R-E. Pre- meaning before. Planning and preparation before the call influence the buyer’s impression.
Make sure you’re dressing to the top of your market. To be a professional, you must look like a professional.
“Make sure your opening has these four items…”
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How do I create a positive first impression?
(Transcribed from podcast)
On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about first impressions; why they’re so critical and also how to ensure that we create the right positive first impression from the very beginning.
This came from a recent virtual webinar. I was having a Q and A session with a sales team, and a newer salesperson had read one of my articles regarding first impressions. Their question was, “Do first impressions really matter as much as we think, or as much as other people think?” My response was, “Of course, yes. First impressions do matter.” We’ve all heard that expression, a first impression is a lasting impression, so we’d better make it a positive one. Well, we’re going to tackle that on today’s show.
Before we get into that, let’s give a quick shout out to our sponsors, The Creative Impostor Studios. Andrea and her team have been with the podcast from the very beginning, and they do a wonderful job: a lot of support behind the scenes with the show; getting you ready to go out there; giving you advice. So it’s critical, if you’re thinking of taking on a podcast, if you want to get one, to start it, you need to partner with the experts. Andrea and her team, they are going to take care of you. There’s going to be a link to her website on this episode’s webpage.
Also make sure you pick up your latest edition of Value-Added Selling. We’re on the fourth edition. And in this book we actually talk about first impressions and things you can do to create a nice positive first impression from your messaging, from professionalism, any number of things. So check it out. It’s available wherever you get your books, Amazon, Barnes and Noble. You can find it in several ways.
Let’s get to the question. How do I create a positive first impression? Well, before we get into how to do it, we need to understand why it is so important. Now, you’ve heard that expression that a first impression is a lasting impression. The reason why is because of confirmation bias. In psychology, confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret new information as confirmation of what we already believe, or our attitude towards something.
Here’s what that means. Let’s say I’m a salesperson and I’m going to meet with a prospect, and my initial impression that I give is a positive one. I give a nice firm handshake, nice greeting. Everything’s positive. That initial impression that that prospect has of me is a positive one. Since they have a positive impression, other information that they process and they see, they’re going to view it in a more positive way, meaning they’re going to notice more of the positive aspects about me, about my solution, about my company, the messaging, all that stuff. They’re going to focus more on the positive. Since they’re focusing on the positive, they’re less likely to focus on the negative.
Now the opposite also rings true. Let’s say I normally give a great, positive first impression, but I’m having a bad day and I’m just not feeling it today. I go and meet with a prospect and I give them a negative first impression. Since the first impression is negative, they’re more likely to process other information negatively thereafter, because that reinforces the initial impression that I have given. So they might view my solution a little more negatively. That’s the reason why a first impression is so critical.
Let’s break down this word, impression. There are three letters in that word I want you to focus on right in the middle: P-R-E (before). What we do before the interaction with our customer or prospect is critical to creating a positive first impression. First thing we should do, we’ve got to research our customers. We’ve got to find out information to help us understand who they are. We’ve got to find information to help us understand a little bit about them professionally. And we’ve got to understand their company. This research will create a foundation of knowledge that will come through when we’re meeting with a prospect or a customer for the very first time.
If you’re looking for more tips or more details on finding information, check out the previous episode of the podcast. It was the one where we had Sam Richter on the show. Sam gave several great examples of how you can find information. So check out that episode. Just search for Sam Richter on the podcast website and you should be able to find that information. But you’ve got to do the research. That’ll come across when you’re talking to the prospect or customer.
The second thing, you’ve got to put together a plan; a basic sales-call plan. Number one, you have to have a call objective. Number two, you’ve got to have a probing objective—the questions you’re going to ask. You got to have a presentation objective—what you’re going to be presenting. Also, you’ve got to think of any sort of additional marketing material you might need. You might think of any sort of resistance that you might experience. And then also you have to have a customer call-to-action. You want to put together a detailed plan for that sales call. That’s going to help you be more prepared.
And then, also, one thing I recommend is connecting with the person before you have that first meeting. Go on LinkedIn. Reach out to them; send them a quick note. Something like, “I’m looking forward to our meeting next week. I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Connect with that person ahead of time, especially if you’re active on LinkedIn, if you’re sharing content. You want them to see that. You’re building an image, a positive one in their mind, before you even meet. So again, those are the things you can do before the actual call. Again, you want to research, you want to plan, and you want to connect with the individual beforehand.
Other things you can do to prepare, you’ve got to look professional. You’ve got to look the part. I’m not saying you’ve got to wear a suit or a tie, I’m saying you’ve got to dress to the top of your profession. Think about the industry in which you sell. If you sell in an environment where people are wearing suits, you’ve got to wear a suit. You’ve got to look sharp. You’ve got to look presentable. If you’re selling in an environment where people wear jeans and a tee shirt, don’t wear a suit. You want to dress professionally, but you also want to dress industry appropriate. That sets an impression. And we want to make sure that we send out the right impression from the very beginning. So we want to look and be professional based on the industry that we’re in.
Let’s get into what we can actually say and do when we’re meeting that individual face to face, or via zoom, or whatever it might be for the first time. Number one: you have to introduce yourself. A nice, simple, “Hi. My name is Paul. I’m with this company… blah, blah, blah.” That’s your basic elevator speech. It’s who you are, what you do, and to whom you sell. This elevator speech should be less than fifty words, and it should be polished and professional. So rehearse that; get it down. Again, it’s who you are, what you do, and to whom you sell.
Next thing you want to do is mention the reason why you’re there. Now this is an area where we need to be careful with the words that we choose. If we’re meeting with a prospect and we know that the reason we’re there is to sell them something, I wouldn’t say, “My name’s Paul. I’m with this company. I’m here to sell you something today.” No, we don’t start with that. We talk about the actual reason that we’re there. Sure, our overall objective is to sell something, but maybe the objective that day is to get a better understanding of their needs.
So we might say, “Hi, my name’s Paul. I’m with XYZ Company. Here’s what we do, blah, blah, blah.” And then we say, “The reason I’m here today is to gain an in-depth understanding of your company, how you’re positioned, and how we can help you achieve your future goals.” We explain why we’re there to gather some information and talk about their business and put the focus on them.
Then, also, we want to make a positive comment at some point about their company in the introduction. Again, the reason we do this… it lets them know we did a little bit of research. Whatever research platform you use, if you’re using Google, go into the company website. I would find some positive news that you can insert in your opening. Maybe they recently won an award. Maybe they recently launched a brand new product. Whatever it might be, find some positive information and mention that in your introduction. It lets them know that you did a little bit of research.
Here’s how it all might sound together:
Hi, my name’s Paul Reilly. We work with XYZ Company. We help organizations like yourself go out there and compete more profitably. I did a little research on your company’s website, and I noticed that you were recently awarded ‘One Of The Top Places To Work In The St. Louis Area’. Congratulations on that. Now, the reason I’m here today is to gain an in depth understanding of your company’s needs and also your vision for the future and how we can help you.
So, you see what we’re doing there with that introduction? Again, we hit those three areas: introduce; make a positive comment; explain why we’re there. That’s all we’re trying to do in the call opening. But the first impression is critical because of confirmation bias as we talked about earlier, so your first impression is going to be a lasting impression. The key is to get that part right. And now we’ve started off the meeting on a great note.
Make it a big day.