This hackneyed phrase cannot be more apt when building new business relationships.
Firstly I have asked a number of human resource managers what is the average time it takes interviewers to make their decision when assessing the interviewee. The answer unfortunately is approximately 45 seconds. Unfair? Yes, but human nature dictates that “perception is reality” and I am told by these managers that the other 59 minutes of the interview is usually to confirm those first impressions.
You enter a room, be it social or business, where there is a group of strangers and your role is to make a fantastic first impression to start building relationships.
How do you want people to perceive you?
We all know ‘you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression’.
You can often come in contact with many people every day -- in meetings, at lunch, or any business-related or social events. People buy people before they buy the product or service. You may be part of or own a great business but if you don't project the appropriate image to go with it, people may not respond the way you want them to.
Your overall appearance represents who you are and what you do. It can be a reflection of your self-esteem. If your self-esteem needs an occasional boost, you can start by changing your whole demeanour and behaviour. When you show yourself to the world as confident and capable, you actually increase your self-confidence and standing. You are more likely to achieve greater results because people respond more positively.
The way you look outside and the way you feel inside should be appropriate with what you're saying. That way people will take what you say more readily. We have all met people whose appearance and behaviours are so off-putting that we can't really take what they’re saying too seriously. Consider a man with a badly fitting suit or stains on his tie. Or a woman in a low-neck top or very short skirt. Will she be able to portray the professional image she’s aiming for? We can’t help it , we make up our mind immediately and think, ‘Can this person really be serious?
Which impression are you aiming for?
Today, you have choices. We can wear smart or casual; both are more often than not acceptable. It really does make a difference to the start of the building of relationships particularly in a business setting.
Clean shoes? Good collar and tie? Jewellery or not - for both genders? Do your colours match? Accessories? Facial hair?
Saving the Situation
What if you've done your homework, but find yourself in a room full of people dressed very differently than you are? If they very casual and you're in a suit, you can still save the day. Take off your jacket, or at least unbutton it and push up the sleeves. As surreptitiously as possible, loosen your tie, open a shirt button or two, remove accessories, roll up shirt sleeves. Always overdress, you can always take things off!
In summary – S.H.I.N.E.
S mile. From the famous song in the Broadway show, Annie, “You can’t be fully dressed without a smile.” The smile is the greatest tool in your networking toolkit. You can’t fail when you greet someone with a happy open disposition.
H andshake. That first touch and feel can also make a massive difference to the way people perceive you in those early moments. The limp handshake or even the bone crushing variety will not create the impression you’re looking for.
I – contact. A bit of a cheat here with the letter ‘I’ but it fitted the acronym perfectly! When I meet people and they don’t look me in the eye I am immediately on my guard. Am I being unfair, even unreasonable? I don’t think so. From many years experience I find at the end of the day the relationship I have with these people generally tends not to be as strong as with those who smile, give me a good handshake and look me in the eye at the same moment.
N ame. Most people admit they forget the other person’s name within 5 seconds of the introduction. I disagree; they don’t forget. They simply haven’t been listening because they are so concerned about what they’re going to say next. One of the greatest ways to build early rapport and affinity is to treat peoples’ names with the same respect you treat the owner of that name. When you shake hands use your first name only; most of th time the other person will do the same. Repeat their name as you are still shaking hands and if you don’t hear it ask them to repeat it. They will never say ‘No I’ve told you once’! Concentrate for just 1 second and you will remember their name.
E nthusiasm. Show some enthusiasm when you greet people to complete the whole picture. Enthusiasm is contagious; a double whammy at the start of a relationship can only be a great indicator for the future.
Now go networking; meet new people and by shining you can’t fail to create the sort of positive impression I’m sure you are looking to make.