Nail the “First Impression”

In Strategy by Tiffany Hernandez

Excellent first impressions in business can open doors for you. They help achieve personal career goals, pave the way for advancement and help you gain valuable business contacts. But what’s the best way to make a good impression? Here’s what matters and some tips to help improve your first impressions.

Best Way to Make Positive First Impressions in Business

Projecting competence, likability, confidence and trustworthiness is good in any business situation. In business interactions with new people, we’re often trying to impress them with our skills or knowledge. However, according to research from Harvard’s Business School, trustworthiness is what’s key. Competence is a close second. Your own confidence is important because it helps project competence. But other’s confidence in you and your skills is often gained through trustworthiness. This makes likability seem less important, but if you gain someone’s trust and he or she has confidence in you, they probably like you. Many of the things you do to make yourself more likeable will usually make you seem more trustworthy as well.

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In Person Meetings

Focus on these specifics to improve your first impressions in business situations.

  • Smile. Genuinely. It projects happiness, a positive attitude and puts everyone at ease.
  • Be upbeat and enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is often contagious. If you’re truly happy about meeting someone, they’re more likely to feel the same way about you. Verbal and non-verbal communication is key.
  • Practice non-verbal communication skills such as eye contact and shaking hands. Make sure you’re not doing anything to sabotage yourself.

A Word or Two about Appearance

Appearance is always important when meeting someone in person because most subconscious opinions are formed based on this visual information. You don’t need to be a supermodel, but your look shouldn’t repel people either. Grooming, clothing and make-up should help, not hurt your image. It’s essential to be clean and neat and dress appropriately for the situation.

Phone Conversations

Many first impressions in business are formed during phone calls. It isn’t always easy to make a good first impression because there’s no visual cues like body language and appearance to help you. Keep these points in mind:

  • Answer the phone quickly. Ignoring it gives the impression you don’t care or are understaffed.
  • Use a standard, formal but friendly greeting and state your name. Speak clearly and at a reasonable speed.
  • Mind your manners. Words like “please” and “thank you” are not only necessary, they are expected. So is speaking in an appropriate tone and using appropriate language.
  • Practice some standard responses. Certain questions or ideas probably come up frequently in your business conversations. Being prepared will make you seem more competent and at ease. It also helps maintain politeness and professionalism even during a bad day.
  • Rephrase common statements. Different words can make a difference in how the other person perceives the conversation. Phrases like “May I put you on hold while I connect you to the sales department?” sound more positive and polite than “Hold while I transfer you.”

Make Your Conversations Memorable

In any situation, the best thing you can do to make great first impressions in business is to focus on having memorable conversations.

  • Give the other person your undivided attention.
  • Be engaged in the conversation.
  • Practice active listening.
  • Use small talk when appropriate to create a personal connection and convey trustworthiness.
  • Make your conversation more relevant to the other person by using their name and phrases like “I can help you with that.”

This shows you care about them, their problems and highlights what they can gain by doing business with you.

Creating Delight

Creating delight in your business starts by taking little steps to create small moments of positivity. Learn more about how to delight your customers with these easy tips!