In the Blink of an Eye

In the Blink of an Eye

Jane Donachy, head of WJD Chase, is a proven sales professional with over twenty years of experience in the industry. In this blog she writes about factors that can influence first impressions

It is often said that we should not “judge a book by its cover” but we do.

In a split second people tend to form an impression of you. In this short time, the other person forms an opinion about you based on your appearance, your body language, your demeanour, and how you are dressed.

Is this fair? Probably not but that’s life. With every new encounter, you are evaluated and yet another person’s impression of you is formed. These first impressions can be nearly impossible to reverse or undo, making those first encounters extremely important, for they set the tone for all the relationships that follow.

Many people today believe that they should just be accepted for who they are – that individuality is good – that standing out is good. To a degree yes but as with all things in life, it is how you do it and balance – whether someone is imposing themselves on others or whether it is genuine, whether it is natural or just an act? The English love mavericks and eccentrics as characters but rarely do they do business with them. In the business environment, conforming, good presentation, trust and great manners are far more important.

There are those that will say “Not everyone needs to be the same”. Again very true but if you want to influence, then one has to follow social rules.

Making a good first impression can be simple if you are aware of your external presence. There are a number of considerations to have in mind.

  • A great smile: As the saying goes, “Smile and the world smiles too.” So there’s nothing like a smile to create a good first impression. A warm and confident smile will put both you and the other person at ease.
  • Eye contact: Good eye contact is so important as many will “evaluate” you on this factor alone. It also shows your interest in that person and if you want to make a good impression, then it is vital you show genuine interest in the other person
  • Be on time: Someone you are meeting for the first time is not interested in your “good excuse” for running late. Plan to arrive a few minutes early.
  • Be yourself, be at ease: If you are feeling uncomfortable and on edge, this can make the other person ill at ease and that’s a sure way to create the wrong impression. If you are calm and confident, so the other person will feel more at ease, and so have a solid foundation for making that first impression a good one. Of course, this is easier said than done at times and that is all about learning how to channel one’s nerves. Everyone gets nervous – the key is to accept them and be open. Nerves can be an endearing quality if channelled in the right way.
  • Present yourself appropriately: Of course physical appearance matters. The person you are meeting for the first time does not know you and your appearance is usually the first clue he or she has to go on. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and so the “picture” you first present says much about you to the person you are meeting. Is your appearance saying the right things to help create the right first impression?
  • Be positive: Your attitude shows through in everything you do. Project a positive attitude, even in the face of criticism or in the case of nervousness. Strive to learn from your meeting and to contribute appropriately, maintaining an upbeat manner and a smile.
  • Be courteous and attentive: It goes without saying that good manners and polite, attentive and courteous behaviour help make a good first impression.
  • Think beyond yourself: Often people use the “I” word too much – often when nervous. People like people who can see beyond themselves, who are good listeners and see a picture that is bigger than the petty and self focused. Be a person that can inspire interest by placing your own interests to one side.
  • The goodbye: Ensure you have exchanged business cards and the follow up step is confirmed with all parties
  • The memory: Have you left a lasting memory of yourself or your company? When clients are meeting people all the time you need to be in the forefront of his/her mind
  • The follow up:Sounds simple but write and say thank you for their time because this does create a good impression and the vast majority will never take this simple step.

There are those you argue that “you should be conscious of your own brand”; that how you present yourself is how people think of you – this is true. The idea of a person being a brand is a touch too self-important but how you present yourself and how you behave in a meeting will generate either a relationship that can grow or a conversation that may soon be forgotten.

It is the simple, basic things that make a difference but strangely, few do these with expertise.

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This summer EP – in conjunction with WJD Chase – will be hosting a series of informal coaching sessions on this subject. If you would like to be involved or attend, please contact Arlene McCaffrey

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