You only get seven seconds to make a positive first impression on someone. And for a sales professional, first impressions are make-or-break; it’s vital that you know what you should be doing when you’re standing in front of a prospect.
Mastering your body language is the first step towards making a great first impression, as it focuses on quite literally putting your best foot forward.
As a sales manager and in my sales coaching career, I’ve spent a lot of time on the road shadowing salespeople. And man, the things I’ve seen! You’d be amazed at what people do when they think no one is paying attention to them.
Start Before You Start
Your prospect’s first impression of you starts the moment you pull up to their office. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you’re not inside yet, that they are unaware of your presence. If you’re pacing around the parking lot finishing a phone call or having a cigarette, it is highly likely that someone is looking out the window and watching you as you do so. Your first impression begins long before you make eye contact or shake their hand.
Be aware of doing things like adjusting your clothing, putting on makeup, or preparing for your presentation while you’re in front of your customer’s place of business. If there are preparations that need to be completed before you get to your client’s site, pull over before you get there!
How Fast are First Impressions?
I stated above that you have seven seconds to make a good impression. That’s a scary number that all salespeople have probably read at some point. But if that number sounds scary, check this out: a study published by two Princeton psychologists in 2006 showed that participants judged others on traits like trustworthiness and competency after a glimpse of only one-tenth of a second. And those first impressions weren’t much different than people who were given as much time as they wanted.
Is there any hope? How can salespeople like you and me ever hope to make a positive impression in such a short amount of time? Here are a few tips:
Walk This Way
Making a solid first impression via body language means perfecting your head-to-toe greeting, and all of this starts with your walk. There’s a big difference between walking confidently and walking arrogantly or cockily, so you have to be careful. Walk with purpose! Make sure to adjust your shoulders before taking that first step—bring them up to your ears, roll them back, and drop them down. This move will instantly improve the confidence of your walk.
In Your Eyes
Once you’re in the building, your next step is to make eye contact. Did you know that people instinctively decide whether or not they can trust you based on your eye contact? Make it count! Finding the right balance is important though, as lingering too long can be seen as aggressive and makes some people uncomfortable. A good tip is to focus on the color of a person’s eyes—once you’ve determined their eye color, break contact.
Smile Like You Mean It
While you should have a positive look on your face from the moment you pull into the parking lot, when you’re making eye contact with someone, your smile should widen in a natural, warm way that tells them you’re genuinely happy to meet them. Presenting a lack of facial expressions or having expressions that are hard to read can leave your prospect questioning your motives.
Hand of Fate
The final element of a head-to-toe greeting comes in your handshake. Regardless of your age or gender, you should extend your hand and meet theirs—thumb joint to thumb joint—while shaking in a firm but kind manner. Gripping too tightly or too loosely could give the wrong impression and start the whole relationship off on the wrong note.
Gaining control over your body language is pivotal to being an effective communicator and a successful salesperson. Don’t be afraid to practice these tips with someone you trust in order to perfect them.
Until next time—go sell some stuff!