Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Five steps to making the best first impression

What's important in making that vital first connection?

Published: Feb 26, 2018 12:28:46 PM IST

A smile and direct eye contact show interest, excitement, empathy, and openness
Image: Shutterstock

We all know it’s important to make a good first impression on a buyer or anyone else we want to influence. What we don’t often realize is how quickly that impression is made and how lasting it is. Brian Tracy (Psychology of Selling) says it happens within 30 seconds. Michelle Tillis Lederman (11 Laws of Likability) says it takes at least six months to dispel an unfavorable first impression – if ever.

I asked John Asher, CEO of Asher Strategies and author of a new book Close Deals Faster(October 24), what’s important in making that vital first connection. John was a Navy submarine commander, has been a successful businessman, and now heads a global sales advisory firm.

Here’s John’s advice for making a good first impression.

Use your social media to prepare for a positive first impression.
Know who you’ll be talking with; their professional and personal interests. Look over their biography in LinkedIn and send them an email before your meeting. That way your first meeting will seem more like the second.

Dress the part.
Dr. Albert Mehrabian, UCLA, found that visual information could account for as much as 55 percent of total communication impact, making appearance disproportionately important. That coincides with neuroscience studies showing decisions and judgments are often made in the emotional “Old Brain,” which is predominately visually-oriented. If you aren’t sure, ask someone to advise you on what’s appropriate to wear.

Smile and make direct eye contact.
If you’re nervous and uncomfortable, you won’t smile or make eye contact. They’ll feel it and respond accordingly. A smile and direct eye contact show interest, excitement, empathy, and openness. You can direct the dynamic of the emerging relationship in a positive fashion and build trust.

Have a firm handshake.
A handshake is the only time in society when strangers are expected to touch each other. When we do, information is passed. It’s the same for both men and women: a web-to-web grip, several pumps up and down, and a mutual release. Avoid the bone-crusher and limp fish and leave the double-handclasp to the politicians.

Get them talking about what they want to talk about.

Based on your research and the situation, prepare an opening statement.  As a general rule, don’t start with personal information; keep it conversational and simple. Ask open-ended questions and, please, don’t interrupt them. They’ll feel good about the conversation and about you. Later they may not remember much about what you talked about, but they’ll remember how you made them feel for a long time.

Making that good first impression isn’t hard: set the stage, dress the part, smile and make eye contact, have a firm handshake, and get them talking.

[This article has been reproduced with permission from Knowledge Network, the online thought leadership platform for Thunderbird School of Global Management]