Most everyone understands the importance of making a good first impression during a sales call. However, fewer people are aware that what you say is a lot less important than how you look. Research indicates that when it comes to first impressions, nonverbal cues carry up to four times more weight than what is actually spoken. Your words will let your prospect know about your future actions, but your non-verbal cues will offer insight into who you are as a person.
When prospects meet us in person for the very first time, they notice our facial expressions, our ability to maintain eye contact, how we sit, the tone of our voice, and, of course, the way we are dressed. Some research indicates those first impressions are formed in less than 30 seconds, and what’s more, the impressions people get from nonverbal cues are extremely accurate. Furthermore, the self-fulfilling prophecy says if you like the other person initially, you will look for additional reasons to like them. And unfortunately, the opposite is true. If you don’t have a positive first impression, you will tend to focus on things that will make you dislike the other person. The gut-level first impression your prospects get about you will impact your relationship immediately and last for a very long time. One study says it can take up to six months to overcome a bad first impression. In the world of professional selling, can you afford to work six months just to overcome a bad beginning?
So what are you to do? The next time you go on a sales call, before you meet your prospect, find a mirror. Check your appearance – your prospect certainly will. And don’t forget to smile – a sincere smile sends a message that you are a friendly person and not a threat. Offer to shake hands, but don’t make it a ‘bone-crusher’ or ‘dead-fish’ shake. Pump your hands 3 to 5 times and let go, making sure you look the prospect in one eye (preferably the right eye). If invited to sit down, sit up straight and lean forward – it shows enthusiasm and interest in what the other person is saying.
Years of research also indicate it’s more important how you open the sale than how you close it, so make your first impression – the nonverbal one – a good one.