So it seems like our mothers were correct: you only have one chance to make a good first impression. At the point in time when we were much younger we might have disagreed and argued with mom but now, as adults and businesspeople, we know for certain that she hit the nail right on the head.
Think about it:
What’s your impression when the person with whom you are meeting is wearing clothes that are creased and soiled? How about going to someone’s office and you notice they have piles of papers stacked on the floor and their receptionist is so busy texting that she doesn’t even look up when you enter the office? Or how about when you call an office and the phone isn’t answered or perhaps even worse, is answered by someone with an attitude?
Unfortunately these situations are all too real and the negative impression that is left is one that can’t be easily dispelled.
And it seems that “first” impressions are even more powerful because they can color everything that comes afterward. That rude receptionist? If you’ve visited the office on other occasions and this is the first time you’ve had a negative experience, well, you might be put off but you’ll probably consider the experience to be the “exception to the rule.”
But what if it is the very first time you’re going to that office? You have no other frame of reference on which to measure this negative experience and so, this first negative impression will become your “expectation” each time you return to the office. Can that first negative impression be erased? Sure, but it takes time and work to create a new expectation.
With business being so tough to acquire the need to “woo and wow” your prospects is critical to your success. Any “less than stellar” first impression might knock you out of the business development race completely because the prospect simply won’t know that “it’s not usually like this.”
Don’t let that happen. Here’s what you can do (for starters):
Create and maintain the type of impression that will support your brand and not undermine it. Your appearance (personal and office), your marketing materials and pretty much everything that you put out to the public MUST be executed flawlessly.
Don’t rush. Take the time to reread your emails and documents so that you don’t inadvertently send out materials that are rife with typos. Nothing ruins a good impression faster than seeing a document in which errors abound. Be careful.
And remember that it’s not “all about you.” Your staff must also “walk the talk” so that EVERY encounter with your firm is positive. This includes how your phone is answered, work executed, visitors greeted and so on.
From time to time reach out to your clients and ask them how you are doing and then aim to correct any disconnects that may be harming the impression that you are trying to convey.
Of course things can go wrong, and despite all of your best attempts to make that perfect first impression, it might not always go as planned. In that case be quick to take ownership of the problem, apologize and then correct the situation as soon as possible.
By doing that you’ll quite probably be given a second chance. It’s not as good as achieving perfection right from the beginning but it’s not all bad either.