Oooh, I thought, for an old broad I've still got it. Our eyes locked again. I smiled. He looked away.
I looked down.
I had spilled coffee down the front of my blouse while driving to the store. The first impression that I thought was positive was really a moment in time where I wished the floor would open and swallow me whole.
First impressions are so important in business, in life and even at the grocery store. We only get one shot. How do you make sure that your first impression is memorable . . . in a good way?
I recently competed at the International Sweet Adeline's competition in Hawaii. One of our professional coaches told us that the minute we take the stage before we open our mouths to sing we are being judged. How confident do we appear? How is our posture? Are we making eye contact? Are we smiling?
As much as we like to think otherwise, we judge a book by its cover. People make assumptions about our ability to provide a quality product, service or experience based on the way we enter the room, shake hands or make eye contact.
As retailers, potential customers make assumptions about our business starting from the minute they park in our lot and enter the store. Is the parking lot clean, are the front doors and window clean, and is the landscaping neat and tidy.
Many years ago when I worked for Pearle Vision as a store manager a trainer told the story of a staff that ran a very successful store. Each morning they'd arrive through the back door, turn on the lights and get ready to greet customers. On this particular morning they watched as the first customer got out of their car and approached the front door only to quickly turn and leave. This happened two more times. The manager and her employee were puzzled but continued about their daily activities. Finally a brave soul entered the store and said, "You know you might want to take care of the dead cat that is lying in front of your door."
We need to look at our business through the eyes of our customer, including entering through the same entrance, so we can be aware of any issues that might mare the first impression we make.
So how can you insure the first impression is a good one?
In the article "Interviews: How to Impress," the author sites that impressions are based on:
- 55% visual impact, i.e. dress, facial expressions and body language
- 38% tone of voice
- 7% from what you actually say
So just like the Sweet Adeline's coach instructed; impressions are based more on how we attack the stage (or enter a room) rather than the words or music that we say.
Our non-verbal impressions are important. This isn't to say we have to be model-beautiful as much as it means we should be neat, presentable and offer a firm handshake and a warm smile.
As in the Pearle Vision story, we also need to view our business for first impression opportunities. If you own a brick and mortar location, go outside and view your building through the eyes of a first time visitor. Enter the front door and look around. What is the first thing you see? Is it an employee's discarded lunch on the counter? Overflowing trash cans? What impressions are you making before you even say hello?
People do make judgments about our abilities based on how we look and act. How will you fair?
Before you enter a meeting or the grocery store, take a moment to give yourself a once over in the car mirror. It could mean the difference between making a great connection with the cute guy in the canned foods aisle or going home to split left over chili with your cat.
About the Author: Deborah Chaddock Brown opened her freelance writing business AllWrite Ink in 2004 after almost 17 years with the International retail optical corporation, Pearle Vision. Deborah's background is in franchising, operations, marketing and communication, however, her passion is helping businesses connect with their target audience using the Internet. Deborah blogs at Websites People Read.
Deborah is a member of the Small Business Trends Expert Network.