Have You Ever Looked for a Second Chance to Make a First Impression?
Published on February 13, 2019
I have. Guilty as charged. I attended a business networking meeting with my mind in an entirely different place than where it should have been. During my interactions with the other attendees, I found myself talking about myself and the consulting and coaching business I had started. I did so in ways that came off as slick and self-serving, spouting some talking points I had developed, including the tagline “Better Alignment, Better Results.”
As a result, others’ first impression of me was that I was “selling” and self-focused, rather than someone who was curious about them, their interests and looking for ways to be helpful.
This did not match my values. My desire was to develop rapport and initiate relationships, while seeking points of intersection. But that is not the impression I gave.
I found myself looking for a second chance to make a first impression!
Overcoming poor first impressions is difficult and requires expending intensive energy and time. The old expression “First impressions last the longest,” remains as true and relevant today as when it was first spoken. As a result, the significance of first impressions must be considered and managed appropriately.
What caused me to give the wrong Impression?
1. A lack of thoughtfulness and preparation.
a. Resulting in the Failure to adequately consider the other’s perspective and how they might receive what I was communicating.
2. Forgetting to prioritize and allocate time, thought and energy to ensure the intent and accuracy of my communication.
3. Ignoring the adage that frequently “less is more.”
a. The goal when meeting others is to develop rapport and establish a connection with them, not to incubate a full-fledged relationship on the spot.
First impressions last the longest, so the magnitude of their implications is magnified.
How can we avoid these missteps and create the resonance we want?
Authenticity, an outward focus and positive intent are primary attributes of the First Impressions we desire. Being ourselves, revealing the parts of us that are relevant to our audience and situation are key. When we fail to focus on these fundamentals, the results can be deadly.
Conscious preparation helps us employ these elements more consistently. Some steps to consider for both in-person interactions and written communication:
1. Prioritize your purpose and get centered on the parts of yourself that you want to bring forth.
2. Remain curious, listen generously and consider other’s interests, needs, and priorities.
3. Prepare for the types of people with whom you are trying to connect. Seek relevant intersections between their interests and your own.
4. Practice what you want to say and how to say to other people, with colleagues ahead of time. Request feedback from a separate set of eyes on important written communications before sending.
5. Ask clarifying questions of others and yourself. Are you open to meeting? What is your preferred method of communication? How can I best follow-up? And then paying attention to the answers you receive.
Our companies need to manage First Impressions too. While we all inherently understand the disproportionate impact of them, few firms take it to heart in the ways that they could.
How can we improve our Organization’s First Impressions?
1. Update Websites and other Marketing Collateral regularly, including their look, feel and functionality.
2. Align Sales and Marketing Initiatives, to ensure consistent, integrated and relevant messages are conveyed to customers and markets.
3. Readily Adopt New Channels of Communication and Distribution that correspond to changing customer preferences.
4. Establish a Common Selling Process and train Salespeople accordingly.
5. Attune Operations and Service Departments to First Impressions. Inform these departments when they are handling new client work. Develop and implement corresponding systems and processes to acknowledge new customers, welcome them and ensure the organization puts its best foot forward.
The opportunities to improve the First impressions we make professionally, both individually and as an organization are endless. We do well when we make the effort to pay attention to them and respond accordingly. The significance of not doing so are profound and long lasting.
You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Wishing for do-overs doesn’t cut it. Wouldn’t you and your company rather reap the benefits of doing what it takes to get them right the first time?
Robert Hackman is the Founder and Principal of 4C Consulting, a Consulting and Executive Coaching business centered around helping companies, their leaders and associates grow and flourish, so that they can live the lives they want and leave the legacies they intend. He can be reached via the 4C Consulting Website www.4cconsulting.net, email firstname.lastname@example.org and text or voice at 484.800.2203.