Making a Great First Impression

Peady’s Selling Engagement

First impressions have the ability to make or break a business relationship.

Within moments of that first meeting, people decide all sorts of things about you, from status to intelligence to conscientiousness. The ‘experts’ say it takes just three seconds for someone to determine whether they like you and want to do business with you.

Lots of people lay claim to the well-known saying, “You never get a second chance to make a great first impression” whoever said it was 100% correct! You get just one shot – its nearly impossible to reverse or undo a negative first impression.

Welcome to this week’s post on sales and selling success.

The first two questions
People quickly answer two questions when they first meet you:

  • Can I trust this person?
  • Can I respect this person?

Psychologists refer to these dimensions as warmth and competence respectively, and ideally you want to be perceived as having both.

Interestingly, most people, especially in a professional context, believe that competence is the more important factor. After all, they want to prove that they are smart and talented enough to handle a customer’s business.

But in fact, warmth, or trustworthiness, is the most important factor in how people evaluate you. 

Our ‘caveman’ ancestors

Think about it. From an evolutionary perspective it was crucial to our survival to know whether a person deserved our trust or not. In the cavemen days it was more important to figure out if your fellow man was going to attack you and steal all your possessions than if he was competent enough to hunt or build a good fire! And that’s why even today warmth and trustworthiness figure so highly in the ‘likeability’ stakes.

Can you do anything about making a great first impression?

The good news is you do have some control over the way others see you. For example, dressing for success and looking your potential customer in the eye will generally create a more positive impression. But bear in mind most impressions are largely determined by your facial structure, body language and other factors.


​Try these 8 strategies:

  1. Always be on time for meetings
  2. Physical appearance and grooming matters. Present yourself appropriately
  3. Be yourself – present your real personality
  4. Have a winning smile, strong eye contact and firm handshake
  5. Build rapport early via appropriate conversations
  6. Use open, positive and confident gestures
  7. Ensure you listen carefully and are attentive
  8. Its all about them, not you and your product

Competition in the world of business is fierce; making a good first impression is vital and can be the difference between impressing clients (or customers) and winning contracts or being left out in the cold. 

Making a great impression on your customers is not that different from making a friend at a social event or networking with others. These 8 tried and true methods will help you make a great impression and lay the foundation for a solid business relationship.

Until next week, good impressing!

About the author 

Stephen Pead is a media industry veteran of 30 years with significant experience in direct sales, sales management and general management. He is based in Sydney and specialises in helping SME’s market their businesses more effectively and providing training for salespeople and sales managers.

He can be contacted at [email protected]