First impressions are incredibly important — and are also made incredibly quickly. Studies have shown that we make judgments about new people in a matter of seconds. A good first impression can make the difference between landing that great opportunity and having it pass you by. So how can you make sure that people perceive you positively off the bat?
We asked the members of Business Journals Leadership Trust how to make a great first impression with a potential new business partner or client. Their best answers are below.
1. Offer specific solutions upfront.
One thing I appreciate when someone is pitching me is when they’ve done the work already and come to me with what they would do specifically to help me and my company. Don’t give me a list of what you offer — tell me where I’m missing the mark and how you specifically can help me fix it. – Betsy Hauser, Tech Talent South
2. Make it all about them.
Talk about them, not you! Pro tip: People like to be noticed and asked about themselves, so use this to your advantage. In turn, people will get the impression you are a good listener, which is the best foundation you can make for a healthy relationship. – Madeleine Nguyen, Talentdrop
3. Be open, honest and sincere.
The best way to make a great first impression is to be open, honest and sincere. Do not try to be someone you are not. As a representative for my company, I also try to relay very quickly the corporate culture of our company. It is easy to make a good impression when you are not trying to close a deal or make a sale. Simply connect on a personal level. – Corey Recla, Agynbyte LLC
4. Prepare thoroughly.
Be prepared. People appreciate those who are thoughtful and have done their research before a meeting. Spend at least as much time preparing to meet as you plan to meet. Conduct a LinkedIn and Google search on both them and their company. Find out if they or their company have been in the news or had any recent achievements. No one will be offended or think that you prepared too much. – Matt Rosen, Allata
5. Start with a compliment.
Do your research before meeting the person — look at their social posts, articles, podcasts, etc. Then pick a topic the person is passionate about and start by letting him or her know that you just heard the podcast and loved the unique perspective and tips. It shows you’ve taken the time to learn about the person. It will also help tailor your conversation. – Parna Sarkar-Basu, Brand and Buzz Marketing
6. Be genuine.
People hate being “sold,” and nobody likes being manipulated or misled, but people love to learn and think for themselves. We’ve always found success in making good first impressions by being completely upfront with our goals while providing as much information as possible. We like our relationships to be symbiotic, and we want our clients to come to the decision that they want to work with us. – Josh Green, Software Verde, LLC
7. Check your inflection.
Voice inflection separates the best from the rest. Use your voice as a tool to communicate and sell. The tone of your voice and words, whether you are meeting in person or over the phone, matters. Think about it like this: You wouldn’t buy something from someone who doesn’t sound like he or she believes in his or her product, right? – Scott Scully, Abstrakt Marketing Group
8. Show kindness.
Be kind. The late actor John Wayne once said of the word “kind” that “This one word would stop wars and erase hatreds. But it’s like your bicycle. It’s just no good unless you get out and use it.” In today’s world kindness is in short supply. Give all you can. You’ll be surprised at how people respond. – Keith Woods, KB Woods Public Relations
9. Ask how you can help.
Always start by asking how you can help. Solving problems for others is a sure way to make a great first impression, help add value and lead with your expertise. No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management
10. Learn everything you can about their approach to business.
Preparation decreases anxiety and helps show authority. If you conduct your research, you will have a huge advantage over the competition. Before a critical meeting, learn everything possible about your prospective client and their approach to business. Get familiar with the industry in which you will be working, and study current events. – Wesleyne Greer, Transformed Sales
11. Arrange for a video call.
Making a great first impression can be challenging today as we are conducting business virtually. Whenever possible, arrange for on-camera calls with new business partners or clients so that you can make eye contact and offer a warm, inviting smile. Be curious and respectful of new people and perspectives, and take the time to get to know people on a personal level by asking genuine questions. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising
12. Don’t try too hard.
The No. 1 tip for making a great first impression is to stop trying to make a great first impression. It really is a matter of seconds anyway. Just remember that trying too hard presumes a certain degree of pretending, and you’ll have to work with that person if you hit it off. So don’t overthink it, and be yourself. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
13. Have a plan for your introduction.
Making a good first impression is vastly different during Covid-19. Now a smile is invisible. When you meet someone new, have a plan for an introduction. Don’t do an awkward, “Are you elbow bumping?” Be confident in your approach, and wave. Make eye contact. Be sure you can be heard — the mask muffles a lot, so enunciate and speak clearly. Your words matter more. Choose your words well and with purpose. – Jay Feitlinger, StringCan Interactive
14. Don’t speak unless you’re asking questions.
As a rule, we don’t speak until the potential client or partner asks us a question — unless it’s to ask questions ourselves. Let them talk as much as they like. You can guide the conversation, but don’t be too fast to tell your tales and sell yourself until it is appropriate. Ask yourself: Do you listen or do you wait to speak? Most people wait to speak. Try listening first. – Paul Weber, EAG Advertising & Marketing
15. Be yourself.
It sounds like a cliché, but if you bring your true, authentic, professional self in the way you dress and carry yourself, in the way you approach the subject being discussed, and in the way you build rapport, the potential new business partner or client will not have to question what they’ll get when working with you. If it isn’t a good match, you’ll know early and not waste anyone’s time. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting