How to Make a Great First Impression in Business
We’ve all heard it a million times that first impressions matter, and are in fact some of the most important factors in establishing yourself in any human interaction. This is all true, and first impressions are quickly made and difficult to forget, according to experts.
First impressions don’t just matter in social situations, though. In business, your first impressions can make or break some business opportunities. A negative interaction with a potential business partner could cost your business a big contract or working with great suppliers. So, how do you create a great first impression to help you and your business to earn some brownie points?
Smiling works in pretty much any situation. It can help you to seem friendly, engaged and approachable, and can increase your chances of being remembered positively after the interaction.
Avoid: fake smiles. Most people can tell when smiles are genuine or fake. A smile that is too stiff, too wide or too eager can have the opposite effect by making you seem nervous, arrogant or cheesy.
Prepare for the interaction.
Whoever you’re meeting for this business interaction, prepare for it prior to meeting them. Learn a couple of things about them like the school they went to or other companies they previously worked in. Establishing common grounds by bringing these up in conversation can help you become more likeable.
Avoid: forced conversations. If it seems like these conversational topics are being unnaturally brought up or forced, you might look like you’re trying too hard. Let the conversation flow naturally and steer the conversation into the topics you prepared only if it seems natural to do so.
Be on time.
All the preparation in the world won’t matter if you don’t actually meet them, or if you have already made a negative impression about yourself before meeting face to face. Arriving late to a meeting is most likely to work against you by creating a sloppy or arrogant image.
Shake hands firmly.
There is nothing that can make you seem less confident than a limp fish handshake. Sure, this could be an old-school approach to business interactions, but handshakes do matter. Practice the art of handshakes and try to find the perfect balance between too tight and too weak.
Avoid: squeezing too tight. Thinking too much into handshakes can make you squeeze too firmly that can make for a very (literally) uncomfortable handshake. It could also make you seem like you’re trying to assert your power in this handshake game.
Flattery always works. After all, everyone enjoys hearing good things about themselves or their accomplishments. Compliment them on their achievements and provide details to show your interest.
Avoid: too much flattery. It can make you seem creepy and also make your intentions seem questionable. Are you sucking up to or hitting on them? Subtle flattery can increase your likeability but too much of it can quickly make the interaction become uncomfortable.
Make eye contact.
Making and maintaining eye contact can help you seem focused and engaged in the interaction, as well as confident. Likewise, not making enough eye contact will make you seem distracted and uninterested.
Avoid: too much uninterrupted eye contact. When you’re trying to make eye contact, your focus on it could make it seem unnatural. If you keep looking someone in the eye without ever looking away, it will make you seem too much and a little overbearing.
Say their name.
Throughout the conversation, but most importantly during the initial introductions, repeat their name. If they introduce themselves first, use their name in your introduction: “Nice to meet you, Dave. I’m Sarah.” And keep referring to them by their name throughout the conversation to seem more engaged.
Avoid: saying their name every other sentence. Using someone’s name too much is obviously unnatural in conversations and can come off as being forced.
The first few seconds of meeting someone new are critical. They can bring your business new contracts and make you some new friends, or ruin your chances of getting any good deals in the industry. Making these first moments count is not as difficult or overwhelming as it might seem, as long as you try the tips suggested above. Just remember one thing that’s mentioned throughout the article, though: Too much of anything can make the interaction seem unnatural and forced. Keep this in mind and we’re sure you’ll have no trouble making a great first impression!