Creating the right impression

How to make a good first impression in business[ 5 min read ]

Are you attracting the type of clients you want to attract for your business? If you’re not then you may be giving out the wrong first impression for you and your services or product?

We all know that it takes just seconds to make a good impression when meeting someone – you’ll be judged on looks and on your perceived personality traits like if you can be trusted or not. That’s even before you get to tell them your finely-tuned elevator pitch. 

And it’s not just you they’re judging, it’s also your business…….

So how can you make it better?

A solid handshake

Handshakes are a traditional greeting here in the UK, when meeting someone new in business, and we’re judged on them. Too firm, too weak, too sweaty – they’re all taken into account.
The perfect handshake is confident, not too weak or firm and always look the person in the eye whilst carrying it out and smile unless the situation is grave. 

If you’re overly sweaty, try holding your jacket with your palm subtly before you anticipate a handshake. You’re probably not as sweaty as you think you are.

Your appearance

Nobody wants to be judged on appearance, but we are; is your hair clean and tidy, teeth brushed, clothes pressed, shoes clean? If not, you could be giving the wrong impression.
If you’re in a creative job you’ll be judged differently to if you are in a more corporate role like accounting, and certainly the rules are far more relaxed than it was ten years ago. However, there are still expected standards of dress in most business situations, depending on the type of client you’re looking to attract.
In the main, there are four distinct groups of clothing; smart business wear (mainly formal suits), smart casual business wear (more relaxed suits and workwear), business casual wear (normal everyday clothes) and casual wear (athletic wear and beachwear etc). It’s generally considered ‘bad form’ to wear casual attire to a business meeting or event. Unless you’re only trying to target a very specific relaxed group of customers (or the event is at a beach, obviously!). 

If you’re looking to make a good impression, stick to the middle groups which cover most scenarios where you’re likely to meet potential clients. 

Meeting in person

When you’re meeting some in real life, it’s important to smile and make eye contact. Repeating their name once they’ve introduced themselves (“Hi Sam, I’m Suzi, nice to meet you”), will help you remember it for later in the conversation.
Keep your language clean and positive  – at least until you’ve got to know them a little, when you might be able to relax a bit if you’re sure it won’t offend. 

Smile as much as you can, especially if you’re nervous as a genuine smile can put people at ease and they’ll likely respond back with a smile.

Try to be on time for events, we’re all late every now and again but if you’re consistently late it can give the wrong impression that you’re not organised enough to run a business.
Make sure you have a business card to hand, and you’re not digging around for a moth-eaten card to present to them. And, if they hand you one, show interest before putting it to one side.
And finally, ask questions about them and their business instead of focusing solely on you and yours – no one wants to be ‘talked at’ solidly for ten minutes. 

Meeting Online

If you’re meeting someone online, for example via LinkedIn or email, then you may have to make an impression in other ways.
Always be polite and positive, and check for spelling/typos before you press the send button – like in real life, keep it professional and avoid using offensive language. 
Ensure your headshot shows the best you – not you at your friend’s wedding where you might have had more than one alcoholic drink even if you think you look amazing. It’s better to show yourself in your normal work environment looking genuine. 

Get a good website and social media profiles

And, back up your online impression with good consistent branding across your website and social media channels. These are your shop-fronts and anyone who is interested in your business will check them out so they’re important. If your brand looks cheap, they may question the prices you charge.
They may even check out your personal channels if they can (if they’re not protected); is what you’re saying there a good reflection of who you are in your day to day business life? Would that persona win you business?
Of course, everyone has a personal life and no one is expecting you to be perfect but if you’d rather they not see that side of you then either delete it or lock down your privacy settings so they can’t see it.

Are they really the clients you want?

If you do all of the above and you are still wrongly judged, then that person/company probably isn’t a good fit for you and your brand and they would most likely be a terrible customer for you so move on and keep going, try not to take it to heart. 

Suzi Smart Bear

I'm Suzi - the owner of The Smart Bear.

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