“You never get a second chance to make a first impression!”, so you need to get that right first time every time. A customer will form an impression of you within the first few seconds of meeting them. Once made it can take many meetings before that first impression is erased or replaced, so making a good first impression is vital. Here’s a very condensed and basic overview of how that initial contact should look:

First off, let’s think of what kind of impression we’d like to make ideally.

We want the customer to:

1. Trust us. No matter what service or product we’re marketing we’re going to need the trust of any client we intend to do business with. We don’t buy from people we don’t trust. If we work in financial services we’re asking them to allow us to deal with a part of their finances; we’re going to be asking them for account numbers, sort codes, credit card details and to form a direct debit so we must have their implicit trust.

2. Like us. It doesn’t matter how good your product is or how much money you’re going to save a client, if they don’t like you they won’t buy from you or follow your advice.

3. Respect us. It is quite possible for a customer to like you but not respect you. If you’re too jokey/unserious, weak/timid, shifty or even boring, the client will struggle to respect you. You want the customer to like you but you also need him or her to respect you professionally. That will allow you to control proceedings and lead them from your A to your B.

4. Be enthusiastic and smile. When you arrive at a potential customer you will have no idea what kind of day he or she is having. If you’re dealing with a stranger then you’ll know little or nothing about their private life and even less about their finances etc… If, therefore, when you arrive, you find an irritated or unhappy client then you’re going to need to change their mood before you close them or it’s not going to happen. Ideally, during an appointment you’ll want the clients’ enthusiasm to crescendo gradually as you chat and present your products. Once you get the client to the right level of enthusiasm you’ll close them. Now a customer’s mood and enthusiasm will generally, if you do the job right, mirror your own mood and enthusiasm. Everything we do, if done correctly, is infectious, so if we’re enthusiastic our client will become enthusiastic. If we’re happy and smiling then our client will eventually smile, too. When we nod, they nod in agreement and so it goes on, so we need to “be” what we want the client to “be”.

So how should our first minute look?

1. Arrive on time, preferably a tad early to give yourself a few minutes to prepare fully for the meeting.

2. Be careful how you park your car, how you exit the car and how you approach the clients house or office. It’s entirely possible that they’ll be watching from a window and will see everything you do. Park carefully and considerately. Exit the car confidently and walk to the door. Knock briskly (don’t hammer the door down or stroke it like a mouse).

3. Be sure to have dressed appropriately! A shirt should be ironed (well) and a nice pair of shoes will not help you if they’re unpolished. Everything should be as immaculate as possible. That shows attention to detail and people put more trust in people who attend to the details well.

4. When the door opens smile pleasantly, maintain sincerity, stretch out your hand confidently and introduce yourself clearly and with a smile in your voice.

5. Be courteous and thoughtful. If you’re meeting at someone’s house ask if they’d like you to remove your shoes before heading in.

6. Sincere, well thought out compliments will help you establish a positive tone to the meeting. Everyone enjoys being praised and complimented as long as they feel that the compliment is sincere and not fake or contrived.

7. Keep alert, listen carefully and make your own judgement calls. What’s the mood like? What kind of person are you dealing with (yes, they’re making a first impression with you, too!). What kind of person would this client have as a friend? If you can judge that last one well and then be that friend you’ll be well on your way to establishing the kind of personal contact you’re going to need.

Finally: Be friendly but professional. Listen carefully to what the client is saying to you and respond appropriately. This will show you care and you need to establish that firmly in the client’s mind. Be sincere! Sincerity is paramount throughout your appointment and vital in the first minute. Sincerity shows you’re trustworthy and believable. Be confident but not arrogant. Kindness and a smile should be heard in your voice. Practise getting that right in private and then use it with your clients. You’ll have heard of having a “glint in your eye”; you also need a “glint” in your voice and you’ll find this eminently useful when making appointments over the phone.

Get this first minute right and you’ll have set the tone well for the rest of the appointment and the client will enjoy being lead by you and generally be happy to follow your recommendations. Get it wrong and you’ll be up against it for the entire appointment.

NB. The above is a small excerpt from this section of our training and deals with circa 10% of what we might cover during our full training courses. For further information about attending one of our sales training seminars, please call or email us and we’ll get back to you within the following 24 hours.