|You only have one chance to make a first impression. All the greatest marketing and networking tools in the world will not work if you cannot get to first base with a prospect. This is true whether your first impression is made face-to-face, on the phone or via an email.Today competition is too fierce and resources too short in supply for you to waste your time and money generating response and then striking out. If your conversion rates are not what they should be — consider starting out by putting your best foot forward.
The guidelines are simple, but they are also very important.
The first is voice mail. Many first impressions are garnered through either your voice mail message or via leaving a message on the voice mail of your prospect. Is your message compelling? Is it unique? Do you sound enthusiastic, yet professional? Is it appropriate for your target audience?
If your voice mail message is uninspiring, you are inviting your prospect to call someone else. Or perhaps you are making them less enthusiastic about returning your call. Either way, you lose.
Next is email. Make sure your first email to a prospect is professionally worded (and spell-checked), not too verbose and not laden with promises that cannot be delivered. You must strike a balance between garnering response (making a compelling offer) and sending a message that is seen as too grandiose or a cheap marketing gimmick.
Remember, your prospects are receiving tens of emails every day. Your goal is for your message to stand out — in a good and professional way!
The next interaction guideline deals with the phone. Be polite and non-obtrusive, especially if you do not have a phone appointment. Ask if this is a good time to talk and offer to reschedule if it is not. Make your voice “up-beat” but not so that it seems not believable.
Above all, ask questions and try to engage the prospect to talk about what is important to them. There is nothing that turns a prospect off faster than someone “spilling out” a sales pitch before they have even found out if the prospect is interested or qualifies.
Your goal is to develop a relationship and you do that by listening and asking questions. You cannot accomplish this goal by asking personal questions too early in the process.
The last is in person. Face-to-face interaction brings other aspects of making a first impression into play — including dress, body language and even your handshake. It is important to mirror the prospect as much as possible — though in the case of dress it is probably better to be dressed slightly “above” the prospect than “below.” In these days of business casual offices, it is not unreasonable to call ahead to uncover the dress code of the office and how the prospect prefers you to dress.
If the prospect strikes a formal pose — leaning forward with their hands clasped — it is not a good idea to sit back in your chair with your hands behind your head. If the prospect keeps the meeting formal and acts as though there is little time, start with a statement as to the fact that you recognize how valuable their time is and that you will take as little time as possible. Continue to stick to business as much as possible in this case.
Creating a first impression is an art more than a science. Each situation is different. But just because it is not an exact science, doesn’t make it unimportant. It can very well mean the difference between success and failure…?
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