The Art and Science of Making a Great First Impression

These tips come from Larry Caretsky, CEO of Commence.

Have you ever heard the phrase “natural-born salesperson”? It implies that there’s an innate talent involved in excelling at sales, and some people firmly believe that it’s an ability that you either have or you don’t.

But if you think about it, at its core, sales is all about building and managing relationships. A sales professional who is outgoing and personable – a “people person” – may have a natural edge. But it’s also possible for people without that innate ability to hone their relationship management skills, just as sales professionals who aren’t naturally great at presenting can work on those skills and become an exceptional closer who absolutely owns the room.

So how do you work on your relationship building and management skills? The best approach is to break the process down into its component parts, and the first step is to make a great first impression. Common sense is an excellent guide, and so is research, which in this case tends to support the strategies that conventional wisdom has endorsed. Here are three tips that can help you make a positive first impression:

1. Dress for success and project confidence: Before a prospect hears a word you say, you register an impression with your appearance. Make sure you look professional and well-groomed so that you appear to be someone with whom the prospect wants to do business. Project a successful image, and you’re more likely to become successful. Confidence is also key – if you seem confident, the prospect will assume you have reason to be.

2. Establish rapport with a smile, handshake and body language: When you give a customer a warm, genuine smile, you’re sending the message that you are friendly and approachable. A firm handshake accompanied by eye contact also makes a positive impression and helps to build trust. When conversing with your potential customer, respect their space, but lean in slightly to signal that you are interested in what they’re saying and engaged.

3. Keep the pace of your conversation unhurried: Many salespeople labor under the misconception that since they may only have a few moments to deliver their pitch, they have to speak rapidly, cramming as many words as possible into each minute. This gave rise to the expression “fast-talking salesperson.” Notice that the expression is almost never used in a positive sense: People who encounter a salesperson who speaks rapidly develop a sense of mistrust. Speak slowly and articulately to build rapport and trust.

These three techniques can help anyone improve their sales results by creating a positive first impression and then parlaying that into a productive relationship. The techniques are common sense, but sometimes in the rush to generate sales and meet targets, even seasoned sales professionals forget the basics.

The good news is that each of these techniques is easy to master, and research shows that mastery of them improves a sales professional’s chances of making a positive first impression. And that’s good news for any sales rep who wants to grow professionally.

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