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Fast First Impressions

Jim Meisenheimer

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Fast first impressions are getting even faster today.

You've probably heard that “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. " And it's true!

You also probably heard that “First impressions are lasting impressions. "

Have you ever thought about how long it takes to make a first impression? I remember sitting in a sales training class and hearing the sales trainer talk about how it takes two minutes to create a first impression. That might have been true then, but nothing could be further from the truth today.

I also remember reading an article written by the CEO who owned an executive search firm. His research, about eight years ago, indicated that it took as little as five seconds for an interviewer to form his first impression of the interviewee.

Now get this. According to a study conducted at Carleton University in Ottawa, people are forming first impressions in as little as 1/20th of a second.

Yikes - I've heard of rapid transit but up until now I've never heard of rapid and fast first impressions. There's speed dating, speed dialing, and of course speed channel surfing with your remote control in your family room.

The point is that we're doing everything faster today - everything and this includes forming first impressions. If you're a professional sales representative and focused on growing your business it probably requires selling to new sales prospects.

Many of the sales prospects you call on are overworked and overwhelmed. You won't get many second chances in the first impressions department with these people. So it has to be good the first time.

Here's a short list of things you can do to improve your first impression:

1. Be prepared! Sure you have to look good, but once you open your mouth you have to sound good too. Develop and rehearse an elevator speech which answers the question “What do you do?"

2. Dress for success. I wish I could remember who said this, but I can't, so I'll tell you anyway. “When it comes to clothes, buy half as much and spend twice as much. " Clothes may not make the man, but they certainly add to a good first impression. Shoes must be polished including the heels which can get beaten up with all the driving you do.

3. Walk like a winner. There's a reason why people often say the first thing people notice about other people are their shoes. And the simple reason why people are looking at shoes is because their heads are canted downward. You'll appear more confident when you have your chin in the up and locked position with a smile on your face.

4. Smile talking. This is easy to say and extremely hard to do. Practice smiling while you're talking. It changes everything. Some people do this naturally and I'm not one of them. I'm serious by nature and I have to concentrate on smiling. Of course it's easy to tell whether or not you're smiling when you're talking to someone. If the other person is smiling at you, you're probably smiling at them.

5. Be approachable. If you want to appear friendly and approachable on all sales calls, consider wearing a name tag. Now don't be too quick to pooh-pooh this idea. Scott Ginsberg has been testing theories on first impressions for seven years. Nametags don't hurt and they probably help in the first impressions department.

If you never get a second chance to make a good first impression what are the chances of getting a second chance with an extremely fast first impression?

It seems like everything we're doing these days is in the fast lane. My advice is to slow down and pay attention to the first impressions you're leaving behind.

Think about the lifetime value of a sales prospect who didn't become your customer because of an underwhelming first impression.

Forget about accidental first impressions when you're selling.

With a little planning and a little practice you first impressions will become memorable.

Use this link to sign-up for Jim's F-R-E-E The Start Selling More Newsletter and to get your copy of his Special Report titled, “The 12 Dumbest Things Salespeople Do. "


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