Lydia Ramsey

Article Summary:

Can you close a deal in just seven seconds? You can if you make a great first impression.

First Impressions: How Seven Seconds Can Make a Deal

Can you close a sale in just seven seconds? You can do it even faster if you make a great first impression. Seven seconds is the average length of time you have to make a first impression. If your first impression is not good you won' t get another chance with that potential client. But if you make a great first impression you can bet that the client is more likely to take you and your company seriously.

Whether your initial meeting is face-to-face, over the phone or via the Internet, you do not have time to waste. It pays for you to understand how people make their first judgment and what you can do to be in control of the results.

1. LEARN WHAT PEOPLE USE TO FORM THEIR FIRST OPINION.
When you meet someone face-to-face, 93% of how you are judged is based on non-verbal data - your appearance and your body language. Only 7% is influenced by the words that you speak. Whoever said that you can't judge a book by its cover failed to note that people do. When your initial encounter is over the phone, 70% of how you are perceived is based on your tone of voice and 30% on your words. Clearly, it's not what you say - it's the way that you say it.

2. CHOOSE YOUR FIRST TWELVE WORDS CAREFULLY.
Although research shows that your words make up a mere 7% of what people think of you in a one-on-one encounter, don't leave them to chance. Express some form of thank you when you meet the client. Perhaps, it is "Thank you for taking your time to see me today" or "Thank you for joining me for lunch." Clients appreciate you when you appreciate them.

3. USE THE OTHER PERSON'S NAME IMMEDIATELY.
There is no sweeter sound than that of our own name. When you use the client 's name in conversation within your first twelve words and the first seven seconds, you are sending a message that you value that person and are focused on him. Nothing gets other people's attention as effectively as calling them by name.

4. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR HAIR.
Your clients will. In fact, they will notice your hair and face first. Putting off that much-needed haircut or color job may cost you the deal. Very few people want to do business with someone who is unkempt or whose hairstyle does not look professional. Don't let a bad hair day cost you the connection.

5. KEEP YOUR SHOES IN MINT CONDITION.
People will look from your face to your feet. If your shoes aren't well maintained, the client will question whether you pay attention to other details. Shoes should be polished as well as appropriate for the business environment. They may be the last thing you put on before you walk out the door, but they are often the first thing your client notices.

6. WALK FAST.
Studies show that people who walk 10-20% faster than others are viewed as important and energetic - just the kind of person your clients want to do business with. Pick up the pace and walk with purpose if you want to impress. You never know who may be watching.

7. FINE TUNE YOUR HANDSHAKE.
The first move you make when meeting your prospective client is to put out your hand. There isn't a businessperson anywhere who can't tell you that the good business handshake should be a firm one. Yet time and again people offer a limp hand to the client. You'll be assured of giving an impressive grip and getting off to a good start if you position your hand to make complete contact with the other person's hand. Once you've connected, close your thumb over the back of the other person's hand and give a slight squeeze. You'll have the beginning of a good business relationship.

8. MAKE INTRODUCTIONS WITH STYLE.
It does matter whose name you say first and what words you use when making introductions in business. Because business etiquette is based on rank and hierarchy, you want to honor the senior or highest ranking person by saying his name first. When the client is present, he is always the most important person. Say the client's name first and introduce other people to the client. The correct words to use are "I'd like to introduce..." or "I'd like to introduce to you..." followed by the name of the other person.

9. NEVER LEAVE THE OFFICE WITHOUT YOUR BUSINESS CARDS.
Your business cards and how you handle them contribute to your total image. Have a good supply of them with you at all times since you never know when and where you will encounter a potential client. How unimpressive is it to ask for a person's card and have them say, " Oh, I'm sorry. I think I just gave my last one away." You get the feeling that this person has already met everyone he wants to know. Keep your cards in a card case or holder where they are protected from wear and tear. That way you will be able to find them without a lot of fumbling around, and they will always be in pristine condition.

10. MATCH YOUR BODY LANGUAGE TO YOUR VERBAL MESSAGE.
A smile or pleasant expression tells your clients that you are glad to be with them. Eye contact says you are paying attention and are interested in what is being said. Leaning in toward the client makes you appear engaged and involved in the conversation. Use as many signals as you can to look interested and interesting.

In the business environment, you plan your every move with potential clients. You arrange for the appointment, you prepare for the meeting, you rehearse for the presentation, but in spite of your best efforts, potential clients pop up in the most unexpected places and at the most bizarre times. For that reason, leave nothing to chance. Every time you walk out of your office, be ready to make a powerful first impression.

Lydia Ramsey is a business etiquette expert, professional speaker, corporate trainer and author of "Manner That Sell - Adding The Polish That Builds Profits". She has been quoted or featured in The New York Times, Investors' Business Daily, Entrepreneur, Inc., Real Simple and Woman's Day. For more information about her programs, products and services, e-mail Lydia or visit her web site www.manners thatsell.com.

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