Did you know that it takes between 7-17 seconds to form a first impression? And that once that opinion has been made, it doesn’t tend to change even when that person has spent longer in their company?
First impressions are vital, and that’s true whether it’s a company or an individual. As a business, your brand is the most important asset you have, and as an employee or owner of that business, you are by extension, also a representative of that brand.
So you’ve got to get it right first time. You come into contact with many people each day, and even when you aren’t speaking, your image is still doing the talking for you. It’s all very well having the best business in the world, but if potential customers don’t think you’re a confident professional when they first see you, then you could be falling at the first hurdle.
So what can you and your employees be doing to ensure that you’re nailing that first impression?
It goes without saying that you need to ensure that you have the knowledge to back up your image. If you or an employee don’t know their stuff, then that will instantly become obvious. If you’re confident about what you’re saying, then the more credible you will appear to others. Which means they will respond positively to you in return. So if you think you might be caught out, then take the time to brush up on your skills.
Think about your appearance. You know what it’s like when you talk to someone that’s got a really bad stain on the front of their shirt, or oversized jewellery that clinks every time they move, you can’t take your eyes off it, and you’re completely distracted and not listening to what they’re saying. It also speaks volumes about the company if the representatives look shabbily dressed.
It might help to construct a dress code, so that all employees are clear on what is and isn’t accepted in the workplace, or alternatively, a uniform may take some of that debate away. Not only does it help your company to look more professional, but with our accountant’s hat on, a uniform is tax deductible too! You may just need to clarify with your accountant on what constitutes a uniform, unfortunately, a suit and tie doesn’t cut it in this situation.
Then, think about the occasion. If you’re not dressed right for the situation, then that could be held against you. And that doesn’t mean if you turn up in jeans and everyone’s in suits, it can be the other way round too.
Consider your body language. Most people don’t know if they’ve got a really annoying habit of touching their nose every five seconds, so it’s worth filming yourself and watching it back. It’ll become really obvious if you’ve got a trait that’s worth keeping under control.
Your language can also contribute to a first impression. Choose your vocabulary carefully, so that it matches the person you’re speaking to. You don’t want to use jargon if they won’t understand, or sound too brash or aggressive if that’s not what your company represents. It might be worth having a list of words that best describes your company, and trying to include them naturally into the conversation.
Remember, it’s not all about you. Make time to listen to the other person. Focus your attention on them, ask questions, and be interested in what they are saying to you. And use their name often. It’s the personal touch that helps people connect with you.
Although some of the above may seem really obvious, it’s all too easy to forget, and it’s good to remind ourselves and take some time to think about how we come across to our audience. A first impression could mean the difference between a customer that stays with you for years, and one that walks straight back out of the door.