Get Your First Impression Right the First Time

Congratulate yourself.  You were lucky enough to get a good referral from one of your clients and you’ve been invited to meet with your newest prospect.  Because you’re smart enough to know that first impressions set the stage for success in any relationship,  you want to get this right. 

Allegedly,  there is research that shows a prospect will decide whether he/she might be willing to work with a Freelance consultant within five seconds of their initial encounter.   To get the most of those precious few seconds,  why not do some preparation to make sure that your first impressions do the job for you—and not on you!

Keep fit

Good health gives you a glow that makes you appear more attractive and competent.   It’s not necessary to emulate a runway model or ironman triathlete.   Just follow some sort of fitness regimen that suits you,  whether it’s 3-4 hours/week at the gym,  biking or walking to work,  or maybe playing in a softball or volleyball league.  Regular exercise brings many benefits,  including more restful sleep,  decreased levels of stress and higher self-esteem.  

A diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and modest amounts of protein and carbohydrates,  about 60-100 ounces of water each day and limited alcoholic beverages  is the other half of a good fitness regimen and will make you look alert and capable.  Top it off by getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night and abstaining from nicotine.

Visual signals

Like it or not,  everyone makes snap judgments based factors such as looks,  weight,  hair,  jewelry,  make-up,  facial expression and more.   Be sure your visual signals  communicate that you are the type of person your prospect will want to do business with.  Always look sleek and professional,  neither too casual nor overly formal.  If possible,  find out what the company dress code norms are before  your meeting.  However,  even if the company dress code is jeans and polo shirt,  you must do a little better  (think business casual in that instance).

Good greeting

Your greeting consists of your smile,  your words and your handshake  (or bow, as appropriate).   A smile conveys that you are pleasant and approachable.   The words you choose for your greeting should be appropriately formal and never too informal.   Your handshake should be firm and neither limp nor crushing.   Lastly,  make sure that you use the appropriate honorific:  Mr.,  Ms.,  Admiral,  Captain, etc.,   to demonstrate that you’ve done your homework and know how to address your prospect.

Smart agenda

A huge part of  first impressions hinge on whether you seem confident in yourself and what you have to offer.  Your prospect will sense whether you are prepared for the meeting,  or if you’re just winging it.   Therefore,  it’s important to know what you’d like to accomplish in the meeting.   A few days before the appointment,  start jotting down possibilities and come up with three or four reasonable meeting objectives.   Preparation radiates a poise that communicates credibility and competence.

Rehearse entrance

Now that you have all the components for creating a winning first impression,  give yourself the benefit of a dress rehearsal.   Practice how you’ll enter the room  (or if the prospect comes to you,   how you will stand and greet him/her),  how you will express your greeting and how you will shake hands or bow.   Rehearse it until you are comfortable with all aspects,  including the goals of your meeting agenda.  If possible,  videotape it and critique.  Good luck!

Thanks for reading,

Kim

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