Sometimes we have to get back to basics.
What does your client or customer expect when they meet you to do business? They expect someone who is an expert in their field, someone who can answer questions, has a skill set that they don’t have, and has the confidence to carry out any directives.
Recently I heard about an extreme example about first impressions, and while it might have a place in the opening pages of a novel, it has no place in a business setting. Let’s say your first introduction to a person is meeting them while they are covered with mud, wearing boots, jeans, Stetson, etc. All the clothing is top quality, but it is rumpled, messed, and dirty. You’ve just met your new doctor.
What’s your impression?
Do you have confidence in this person? Do you believe that they have the necessary skills to help you? They could be the most skilled surgeon in a five state area, but your initial impression leaves you doubting their abilities.
A very extreme example, to be sure, but don’t you see how hard it would be to take this individual seriously as a neurosurgeon? It doesn’t matter that he may also be a rancher. His/her first impression leaves a lot to be desired, and no matter how skilled he is, it will be an uphill battle to get you to believe it.
If you have ever read the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, you will understand why people can sum you up in less than a second. If you are anything less than genuine in your business dealings, they will know it. They won’t know why they don’t trust you, but we all go with our gut feeling.
The question remains, are you doing everything you possibly can to make a good impression? I know it almost seems impertinent to point out that you need to be well dressed and well groomed, but we all tend to forget to really look at ourselves in the mirror when we get ready in the morning. We put on the same clothes we’ve always put on (hint: this is an indicator your wardrobe needs updating).
We might style or comb our hair the way we have for years, (and it’s always worked for us, right?)
Shoes…briefcase…even your car gives an impression about you.
Is it the one you want to portray?
If not, then it’s time to make a change. If you’re not sure, pretend that you’re going to meet the President of the United States, or the Queen of England. Would you spruce anything up? If so, why are your customers any less important? You’re probably not going to be doing business with the President, or with the Queen, but to treat your customers with any lesser courtesy is to do both you and them a disservice.
Let’s start with you. When was the last time you had a hairstyle change? Bought a few new articles of clothing? Look at your hands…are your nails well groomed?
Even though most people don’t look directly at everything, they will “thin-slice” you, and make a determination about you based on what they see. Make sure it is the professional look you intend for them to see. I recently talked with a woman who was worried about her husband…he had been removed from his position as a leader of a team and moved into the position as leader of another team that was perceived as less important and not really in production yet. In order to help his self-esteem, she insisted that he get new clothes, focusing on dominant and powerful impressions. He decided to grow a beard, and when she saw a lot of gray hair in it, she helped him to dye it strategically to present a youthful appearance, yet with the “grey-back” signature of experience on it.
The move that was to put him on the sidelines instead catapulted him to the top of his game. The new people he was dealing with saw a confident, well-dressed, well-groomed man who had the presence, skills, and knowledge they were hoping for. They were afraid their program was a step-child, and instead when this man appeared, they believed that they had been given a true leader.
What would have happened if this man had gone into this new position as a lackluster shadow of himself? If he’d worn his tired old clothes, once very nice, but certainly worn, grey hair, and a lack of confidence? Certainly not what is happening to him today! The program, once thought of as the step-child by the entire corporation has taken on a life of its own. The team is coming alive with renewed vigor and inspiration. What everyone had written off as a lost cause is now the “new and improved version of the company”.
Don’t EVER neglect to notice what your first impression is with your business. It can make or break you. If you have to save one or two sets of good clothes for when you meet clients, then do so! Get your hair styled and/or colored. If you wear facial hair, is it well groomed and in the most becoming fashion?
When you are in the business of persuasion (i.e. selling), your clients and customers are buying the entire package…
…and that includes you!