You only get one chance to make a great first impression, and potential clients and customers evaluate you based on the professionalism, character and competence you show at your first meeting.
You better make a great first impression. Here are six tips to make that first impression a positive one at your next business meeting:
1. Do some homework. To prepare for an important meeting, learn everything you can about your potential client and their business. If you’re not familiar with the industry, brush up on important news and current events. Visit the company website to learn more about the company’s history and staff. If you’re prepared, you’ll appear calm, interesting and knowledgeable — two characteristics that help make a good impression.
2. Memorize names. Contact the meeting organizer to find out which stakeholders will be in attendance. Log onto LinkedIn so you can easily connect names to faces. Memorize each person’s name so you can directly address each attendee. Identify the key decision-makers and learn everything you can about their backgrounds, hobbies and interests. If you find you have something in common, use it as a way to break the ice with a little small talk before you move on to business.
3. Be punctual. You should always arrive on time for meetings. It sends a clear message that you are responsible, capable and respectful of others’ time. To ensure you’re prompt, schedule extra travel time for traffic delays and inclement weather. If possible, arrive a few minutes early. It will allow you time to find a parking spot, go to the restroom and gain your composure.
4. Dress to impress. A professional appearance enhances your personal brand. The more “put together” you appear, the more likely you will leave a positive impression. A professional wardrobe doesn’t require expensive designer suits. You’ll look your best if you create a foundation for your wardrobe with timeless classic pieces. Dress for the comfort of your client. If he is in a creative industry, it’s acceptable to show more of your personal style.
5. Perfect your handshake. A firm handshake carries a lot of weight in business. Your handshake should be firm and sincere. If you give the bone crusher or limp fish handshake, you may convey a negative impression. Remember to smile and make eye contact. Stand whenever you shake someone’s hand and when you’re introduced. It shows respect for yourself and the person you’re meeting.
6. Listen attentively. Effective listening builds trust. When someone in your meeting speaks, make eye contact to show you’re engaged in what he or she is saying. An occasional smile or nod will help your potential client feel understood. When it’s appropriate, ask pertinent questions. Never interrupt or attempt to finish someone’s sentences. Your potential client may presume you’re impatient or don’t respect his perspective. Instead, try to allow others to fully express themselves. Attentive listening will build rapport with your new clients and guarantee a great first impression.