“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression,” said Will Rogers, or perhaps Oscar Wilde since the quote has been attributed to both men. No matter who said it, the statement is correct: The impression you make when you first meet someone tends to be the image they have of you in their mind’s eye from that moment on — fair or not.
The first-impression proposition doesn’t just hold for individuals on a social basis — it also comes into play during a person’s interactions in business situations and in job interviews. And, first impressions also count for quite a bit when a consumer has his or her initial encounter with a company or its brand.
Consider the following factors and their role in how the individual “on the other side of the handshake” is viewing you during that all-important first impression.
First impressions are formed within moments of an encounter between two individuals, and they can make or break personal relationships, business relationships and job interviews.
Studies show that an impression is made within 4 seconds of meeting someone, and within 30 seconds that impression is finalized. Your clothes, accessories, actions and even handshake are all involved in motivating others around you in developing relationships, continuing business, or even hiring you for a coveted job. When surveyed, more than 3/4 of the members of the American Personnel Consultants agreed that their final impressions are made within 30 seconds of meeting someone.
The same holds true for interview situations during a job search. According to an Infographic on Undercover Recruiter, 67% of bosses say that failure to make eye contact is a common nonverbal mistake. More than half — 55% — of the impact made during an initial interview comes from the way the person dresses, acts and walks through the door. It is imperative to ensure that the first impressions you make are the best ones possible.
In order to impress a potential employer, be sure to look and act professional during that very first meeting. Your future relationship with that prospective employer may well hinge on the very way that you dress, down to the bag that you’re carrying and the shoes on your feet. It’s important to be yourself — but not over do it. Dress appropriately, exude confidence, and come prepared — one of the most common mistakes during an interview is having little or no knowledge of the company you are interviewing with, so do your homework in the days leading up to the interview.
First impressions can also greatly influence customers in their decision to continue to do business with a company — or not.
Customers develop impressions of your company when online shopping and in brick-and-mortar stores, very similarly to one-on-one interactions. When a customer is contacted via a social-media campaign or greeted at a store, they’re faced with a decision. If the first encounter is positive and they enjoy the service, they will likely continue to shop and perhaps become a returning customer. But if that initial contact fails to meet their expectations — or, worse, is a very negative experience — then it’s highly unlikely they’ll return.
Today, e-mail and online access is often the first contact a consumer has with a business — providing you with a great opportunity to garner a new customer. Yet, too few companies are taking advantage of this occasion. A recent social-media marketing report from Ciceron found that more than 80% of 70 companies surveyed failed to make a positive first impression with their e-mail campaigns designed to attract new customers and subscribers.
Businesses need to do a better job knowing their audience and not overstepping their boundaries when it comes to e-mail and social-media marketing campaigns. Well-researched messages and those that inspire and call the consumer to action — versus overbearing messages — are critical when it comes to making a good first impression.
Of course, in-person first impressions with your customers are also terribly important. Be sure you and your staff dress and act appropriately in front of clients, and go out of your way to make the customer feel “at home” in your store or facility. Help them to want to return to your place of business, even if they don’t buy today. Build credibility through customer service and positive actions that show follow-through and commitment.
Yours should be a long-term goal rather than a short one, and it all starts with a stellar first impression.
Combatting the Negative Impression
Sometimes, try as you might, you’re unable to control a situation that results in a negative impression, and you have to work hard to change it. This can happen in a person-to-person encounter or in a business-to-consumer experience. In either case, you’re confronted with having to somehow turn that bad first impression into a good second impression.
But how? Again, you want to be in the relationship for the long-haul, not just the short haul. So all is not lost, but keep in mind that it still may take a while to change someone’s first impression of you:
- Be straightforward about not getting off on the right foot in your first encounter — apologize if you feel it’s necessary, but don’t go overboard.
- Be persistent — try, try again, as the saying goes, but be careful to not become a stalker.
- Tweak your approach — perhaps you were a little too loud or, conversely, a little too quiet in your first encounter; try slightly modulating your next approach.
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